Nigel Cliffe


With loads of experience helping multiple clients find success in the digital asset management space, Cliffe examines the many aspects of what constitutes a successful DAM implementation.

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

Most of my 17 years experience has come from providing clients with DAM solutions of one sort or another, including system provision or consultancy. These have mainly been from my own company or with partners. In my first company, Leaf Frog Communications, we managed the DAM requirements for many of the UK’s foremost financial services organizations, one of which I still manage to this day.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

It largely depends on who I am talking to! At the bottom end I liken it to sorting your photograph album. At the top end I can describe it as the base they probably don’t know exists for all content media management. One thing we haven’t yet got sorted in our industry is a common definition – I think that has held us back.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I was a very early adopter of the acronym – if I recall, back in ’95. As the world began to move into multi-channel communications (as opposed to ‘just’ print) I realized someone, somewhere, would need to take central control and version control of, as was then, still image assets. I often recall the days when, in an early digital photography studio that dealt heavily in the retail sector, we used to photograph the same items day in day out for press releases, before the concept of storing the image became a reality. It seems completely bonkers looking back, but I guess I came through the roots, so learned it from the ground up. Today I learn most things from webinars, blogs and discussion forums.

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

DAM is only useful when inside a workflow. If it remains a repository alone its commercial benefit will be short-lived. (To add: DAM has to make the grade in the boardroom. Start working out how you will satisfy the FD and you may well have the secret for success).

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

I haven’t concentrated entirely on DAM as a career. I call myself a Marketing Technologist which embraces many more facets of digital technology. DAM for me, however, is at the very root of all content marketing.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

The acronym itself. You can be amongst very bright technically savvy marketers and find that they have never heard of the expression. We still have a long way to go in developing a universal understanding of the role DAM plays in a world exploding with content.

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

The biggest problem for DAM is well structured meta data and a taxonomy to accompany it. As devices become more sophisticated at adding meta data on the fly we will find the value of DAM increasing. Imagine a ‘content scanner’ that can identify content and automatically add meta data on the fly – the device, the location, the content, the mood, the sentiment perhaps? DAM will form its own brain, added to iteratively over time. The brain will pick up new facets about old data based on new information it receives, making any repository more valuable as time passes. Perhaps my old photograph albums will be able to tag themselves?

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Expecting that by the 2005 everyone would know what DAM meant and be adopting it as a core discipline! It’s been along educational role and I see no end in sight.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Holding on to a client for 17 years!

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I find case studies of real implementations of DAM to be the most valuable learning experiences. Especially when they are told with honesty. Unfortunately many horror stories go untold because of the embarrassing fall out. Perhaps a ‘show and tell’ anonymous blog might do the trick?

What tips would you give anyone adopting a strategy for DAM?

Start simple. Move forward from today and don’t look back too far. Find some early wins. Leave no department untouched. DAM impacts everyone, leave no-one out.

This interview originally appeared on DAM Guru on Mon, 28 Apr 2014. For more DAM News interviews, see the interviews index page.

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