As more and more digital files are created, an increasing number of organisations are reaching a critical pain threshold in needing to control and manage their vast amount of digital assets.
Digital assets include everything from photos, PowerPoint presentations, text documents, graphic designs, PDF to audio and video. These are proving to be valuable assets in terms of both productivity and organisation valuation. However, an asset is only an asset if you could utilise it optimally. That means you need to be able to find it, or for that matter, you need to know that you have it in the first place.
As such, many organisations have started to look at Digital Asset Management (DAM) software for their projects.
From DIW’s experience, contrary to what most people think, the project is likely to be far more about ‘workflow’ than ‘software’.
The real challenge for this kind of project is not in choosing the right software, but more in establishing the workflow and protocols to get these digital assets into some form of system that encompasses all the relevant people and departments.
When you are dealing with such a wide selection of different digital assets from different sources, all made to different standards for different reasons, you have to start with some very fundamental questions. Take managing digital images as example,
- What image standards can be introduced that would be acceptable to all and usable to all?
- What metadata is common to all images and useful to all (tech data, date, reference no…?)
But in the end, the most important question is simply…
- What functionality could be provided that would persuade all users across the whole organisation that it is ‘better’ and ‘easier’ for them to store their images within the central system rather than in their own private system?
This of course may be approached in a number of ways from forcing people to use a central system to providing them with a system that is so good that they cannot imagine how it would have been without it. Whatever system you use, it will still require a large amount of PR work to persuade people to support the central system rather than keeping the digital assets in their own computers, or making into physical copies (prints, CDs) and storing in their own drawers.
In fact, one of the most important decision points in implementing Digital Asset Management is also one which is most often overlooked:
Who are your users and how do they work? Their technical level, their comfort level with existing platforms and networks, as well as the current workflow will all be major factors determining the success, or failure, of a new system.
In general, it is important to have a workflow that will make it easier for the users to follow through and interact with, rather than having them view it as just another ‘task’ or a deterrent due to their fear to learn ‘high tech’ stuff.
The following is a simplified flow chart of a workflow we have created for a project. It has been created with the ease of use of end user in mind, so that staff, with basic computer literacy is able to carry out the work with comfort.
- The numbers of executable steps are kept as minimal as possible
- The camera, scanner and their software have been configured such that no special technical knowledge is required and yet not compromising on the quality of images
- Drag & drop process is implemented as much as possible throughout the workflow
- It is important not to let user make too many conditional decisions. That is, avoid too many if….. then….. in the workflow. However, if a conditional decision is to be made by the user, a measurable guideline is provided. E.g., if the item is less than A4 size, scan the item with the longest side set to 300mm
- The workflow is automated as much as possible and the automation is transparent to the user. E.g. auto backup of images and data, conversion of file formats
- To reduce typo error and speed up the data entry workflow, many data are extracted automatically from the files, selected from a pull-down menu, or drag & drop from a pre-defined list
- Learning of technical details is avoided in the workflow. E.g. the system is configured such that the images will be converted and resized automatically when the user wants small images for PowerPoint presentation. That is, the user will not be asked to decide on the ever confusing format, colour mode, resolution, dpi, pixel dimension, etc