The last thing creative staff want to do is add metadata to their assets and upload them into an asset management system. They want to create, not spend any amount of time performing administrative tasks. And I don't think it's a good use of their time either.

But these tasks are essential. It doesn’t matter how great the content is if you can’t find it, and if you can’t find it, you can’t use it.

I have first hand experience editing assets with almost unusable metadata, poorly constructed captions with little or no usable supporting information. Poor quality metadata unnecessarily burdens content editors with additional work. And then outtakes get minimal attention and may get lost in the DAM abyss.

IT Governance must be used to define allowable digital asset usage. You may want to incorporate IT governance policies, procedures and automation for leveraging standardized taxonomy based on well-established metadata standards, such as the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) or Picture Licensing Universal System (PLUS) Coalition.

Digital Asset Management vendors have created amazing technologies to solve a wide range of workflow challenges faced by organizations. Many of these vendors have developed niche solutions that address specific needs. Yet most organizations only use a small percentage of their DAM’s full capabilities.

Is your organization fully utilizing the capabilities of your DAM solution? How efficient is your DAM workflow? Are there opportunities for improving your existing DAM? How do you find opportunities to improve efficiency?

There are many ways to evaluate the efficiency of your DAM workflow and look for opportunities to streamline the process and build consistency.

Finding Opportunities to Improve Efficiency

Too often people only look at the capabilities of the DAM system and forget that the creation of assets is the first step of the DAM lifecycle.

In the simplest form, a DAM lifecycle consists of five major processes: Create, Ingest, Manage, Distribute and Archive. We're only going to discuss the first two processes in this post: create and ingest. Each has complex workflows that offer opportunities to improve efficiency.

Start by gathering requirements from stakeholders, content creators, curators, editors and end users to fully understand how people create and use digital assets. You also will require a deep understanding of the organization's agreed upon business needs and goals.

There are some commonly used methodologies for gathering this information. Conduct stakeholder interviews to capture user stories (agile methodology approach). For example:

Story ID Story Title As a I would like to So that (benefit)
1 Model Releases Photo Editor Have a place to record and store model releases I will know if a person in the photo has a model release

User stories offer a quick and easy way to understand how people create and use digital assets and will define the business needs based on roles and responsibilities.

The stakeholder interviews can also be used to develop detailed use cases by walking through each step of the current process and identifying the desired state. Developing use cases require interviewing every stakeholder in the entire DAM lifecycle to build a full understanding of how assets flow into and through the DAM from creation to archives.

User stories and use cases are good approaches for identifying where the pain points are and the desired state.

Armed with this information, look for ways to eliminate manual processes / tasks and opportunities for automation.

Create Workflow

The DAM lifecycle starts with the people who create the assets. These people usually work outside of the DAM system -- at least initially -- to create the illustrations, photos and videos. There is a need to efficiently and consistently add metadata to these newly created assets.

There are many tools that can help ease the process for adding metadata. Many of these tools are free or inexpensive and can dramatically streamline the workflow, while at the same time reducing errors and standardizing the application of metadata. Adobe Bridge is a free utility that is included with all Adobe CC and CS products, even if you are using an older version of Adobe CS.

Adobe Bridge provides the ability to set up captioning templates that allow content creators a quick and easy way to apply basic standardized metadata to their assets individually or in batches.


Adobe Bridge metadata template

Camera Bits Photo Mechanic is another great desktop tool that can provide some inexpensive workflow tools to auto populate metadata based on templates. It provides a way to easily create drop down pick lists based on your organization's standardized metadata. This makes it easy to load basic metadata and then use the drop down pick lists to choose the appropriate metadata needed to enhance the asset.

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Camera Bits Photo Mechanic

Photo Mechanic offers many other useful tools that can streamline the workflow and improve accuracy of metadata such as Code Replacements. Simply create a txt document of code, such as the Stock Exchange codes and the replacement text.

AAPL Apple Computer, Inc.

Now whenever you type \ AAPL\ it automatically gets replaced with Apple Computer, Inc.
This a great feature when cover sporting events, such as a football game. I typically use the team roster to create a list of code using the jersey numbers as the code. This makes captioning after the event very easy. Once this is set up it can be loaded and reused for every event throughout the season.

Ingest Workflow

Using folder watchers on the content creator’s desktop provides an automated way to upload assets that requires absolutely no technical knowledge. Since this is a script that automatically uploads assets to an ingest engine on the DAM system, there are opportunities to leverage this consistency by building a custom workflow for each content creator or provider.

Many DAM systems have workflow tools that will allow metadata to be automatically applied upon ingest. If the content creator uploads to a specific location, ingest workflows can be built to automatically apply specific metadata rules that are assigned to that workflow. For example, if the contributor is known, the system can automatically apply metadata, such as photographer, title, city, state, organization, etc.

This is also true for DAMs that leverage a web portal for uploading assets. If the contributor is required to login, rules can be created to apply specific metadata based on Access Control List (ACL), Single Sign On (SSO) or Active Directory (AD) / Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).

Benefits of Designing Efficiency

Streamlined, efficient workflow will help standardize processes that can be controlled through system driven business rules while improving the overall oversight of asset management. An efficient workflow will also lead to increased productivity while increasing asset value and findability. It will additionally provide opportunities to reduce product development time, allowing for the creation of more products.

Efficient workflows will improve employee satisfaction by making it easier for them to perform their job. This will in turn provide them time to produce higher quality products.

Finally, an efficient workflow will improve your competitive advantage by providing faster time to market for development of your digital products.

Designing efficiency doesn’t need to cost a lot of money, but it does take a little creative thinking to find ways to help your team bring greater efficiency, collaboration and governance to the DAM lifecycle.