5 Ways to Win the Digital Asset Management Super Bowl

Ask any football team - getting to the Super Bowl takes focused teamwork. It isn't simply the result of winning the conference championship, but watching endless hours of film, nurturing talent, managing egos, developing an innovative playbook and lots and lots of practice. It's the grunt work that starts the minute the previous season ends (e.g. Senior Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine, the draft, organized team activities, training camp, preseason), that gets you on that hallowed field.

Same goes with running your ecommerce site. Consider the prep work that goes into developing a great ecommerce site. A huge component of your site is its digital assets, and the quality of digital content pushed out to consumers is crucial. You can't expect to win with your practice squad O-line on the field to protect your QB - you're in the game, but you won't likely be victorious.

Without a strong internal process, or playbook, the content will never reach your website. Here are five tips to optimize how your business manages its digital assets.

1. Map out your plays with a project-centric approach

Digital assets have little intrinsic value except in the context of how they serve as components of a marketing campaign, product launch, catalog or other project. And no project is a single-player effort. Tom Brady can throw the ball down field as well as any quarterback ever has, but he needs Wes Welker to shake off the defender and make the catch. How does Wes know exactly where he needs to be to make the catch? He knows where he fits in the play. Your organization has a creative process, but it requires discipline and teamwork to put up the big numbers.

So how can an organization make sure the key elements of each project are easily located, reducing wasted time chasing content? Look for a project management software tuned to the creative workflow. Creatives need management, but often resent processes with perceived bureaucratic burden. By making the project management component as transparent as possible and focusing on the creative tools that drive it, the team can become more efficient without feeling smothered. The project is the central metaphor of the creative process, and it remains missing in action from most creative production and asset management tools.

Look at that - you've already converted a first down. 

2. Make metadata work by making time to manage it

Metadata is the key to successful asset management, yet it's the bane of asset managers and the whole creative team. Similar to conditioning and stretching for football players - no one likes the back-end processes, but they are necessary so you're ready for the big play.

Get organized enough so you actually have more time available for strategic imperatives - like metadata management - that are most susceptible to landing on the back burner. Condition your team and practice the hand-off so many times that it becomes automatic. This, in turn, enables the team to develop more creative plays that keep the other team back on their heels. So you complete the drill the right way and, in the end, have more time available for strategic imperatives.

Another first down.

3. Differentiate strategic assets from tactical assets

Not all assets are created equal in terms of long-term value to the organization. You'll have your starters and your second and third string assets. A "one-size-fits-all" approach to managing your team is like marking all your players as starters. How do you sift through your lengthy roster and determine who really should be on the field at first whistle?

Again, we see the critical importance of a true workflow process within the creative team to stop what increasingly has become organizational madness.

Now you're across mid-field and into field-goal range.

4. Keep creatives focused on creativity

Turning your most creative resources into file managers and 'process cops,' tasked with policing how the rest of the organization uses assets, is not only poor resource allocation, but it also reduces the quality of creative initiatives by interrupting creative focus. That's like having the special teams coach also be the physical trainer on the sidelines. How can he do both jobs? Alternately, that's like developing a game plan where Colin Kaepernick is not allowed to ever leave the pocket. Set him free to do his thing!

This down-field pass strategy gives you another first down and into the red zone. 

5. Data-driven insight via usage tracking

A favorite image asset can easily become overused by the organization, resulting in reduced impact and a stale market perception. Anyone remember the Chad Ochocinco craze?

No one wants to see the same picture of your product in the Sunday newspaper ad every week. Although, we will keep watching Ray Lewis' intro dance because that will never get old.

Look at that! You've scored a touchdown.

It takes discipline, planning and practice to win in football. Applying the same principles to your digital asset management strategy will get you the same winning results. 

About Eric Fulmer

Eric Fulmer has been a pioneer in digital asset workflow since the early 1990s when he joined the U.S. distributor of Fujifilm's DS-100, one of the first professional digital camera systems on the market. He then joined Fuji's fledgling Electronic & Applied Imaging Division where he worked with clients including Smithsonian Institution, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and major corporations as they began to implement digital imaging. Later Eric worked at both Leaf and Phase One, leaders in high-resolution digital capture systems and image processing workflow. He also piloted DAM integrations at major government institutions including the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy Visual News Service and Defense Intelligence Agency.

Currently Eric is with RealTime Process LLC, a new player in creative workflow software offering an integrated modular suite of tools that takes a holistic approach to accelerating the entire creative process. Eric can be reached at eric.fulmer@realtimeprocess.net.