Matt Shirley

Matt Shirley - Media Asset Manager

An accomplished Enterprise DAM Manager, Shirley has the ability and understanding to recognize what is required for DAM system success.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

  • Yale University – Digital Studio Manager
  • Disney Interactive Media Group – Senior Manager, Digital Media Management
  • Nordstrom – Manager, Digital Assets

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

Because it’s inherently esoteric I have two responses based on the audience.

For the non-technical:

DAM manages all of the photographs on the computers at our company – kind of like a library.

For the technical:

DAM supports the business through the management of all content, tools and processes for all digital media creators and consumers at all content waypoints – production, delivery and archive.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I began working at Cornell University in 1998 on one of the first digitization projects in the country. We were creating an online presence for the H.F. Johnson Museum there. I was responsible for the digital capture of all artwork, CD backup and the management of the system designed to keep track of it all. It was DAM before we knew it was DAM.


The Journal of Digital Media Management

DAM Coalition, Dam Guru, DAM Learning Center, The Accidental Taxonomist, Another DAM Blog, etc.

While those are great resources it’s easy to put the DAM blinders on and only look exclusively at the industry. It’s important to be able to anticipate where digital in general is headed. This is especially true for DAM programs supporting e-commerce.

Resources like, Wired, CES, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, etc. can really help with strategic thinking to better support your business.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

DAM has three requirements for success – advocacy, neutrality and expertise:

  • Advocacy – access to budget, some autonomy and the authority at establish and enforce governance.
  • Neutrality – DAM operating horizontally as a service to the enterprise with accountability across verticals and not the property of any one vertical, Technology, Marketing, etc.
  • Expertise – DAM strategy and operational support provided by a demonstrated expert in the DAM space.

Without those three requirements met DAM often settles into stasis, providing little to no value for the organization.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

Something analog, tactile, and interactive. I pine for the connectedness with the world around me that technology insulates me from, but ever taunts me with through mimicry.

Maybe organic farming – I did that once and loved it.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Education. I have yet to get involved in a project where there is pre-existing DAM understanding, other than in academia. Bringing an organization up to a current state with DAM is an enormous effort of ongoing sales and tap dancing.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

It would be great for successful DAM implementations to be the rule not the exception. It seems now when an organization is really leveraging DAM in innovative ways we gather around to divine how it happened as if it were some wonderful accident.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

The naïve misunderstanding that a DAM demo is a real product ready to implement.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

I had the privilege to work with truly innovative people at Disney and Pixar on reshaping the DAM landscape for the company. While there I was able to contribute to the engineering of an end-to-end DAM solution. We went from redundant manual spreadsheets, asset storage on external hard drives and CD’s, duplicative content creation across teams to a single point of contact asset hub effectively tracking all asset activity and dependencies.

So from chaotically managing disparate hoards of rich media and losing terabytes of content per year through drive failure and invisibility due to no search capabilities – to a single source of truth for all content at all stages of production.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

DAM seems to be an industry in need of direction – it’s reactive, even passive. I would love to know where it’s really going and what I can do to contribute to a strategic plan to bring it to the fore as a core technology supporting digital.

This interview originally appeared on DAM Guru on Mon, 18 Nov 2013. For more DAM News interviews, see the interviews index page.

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