John Horodyski knows digital asset management (DAM) inside and out. As partner with New York City-based Optimity Advisors, Horodyski advises clients on the strategies and foundational elements required to get their "digital houses in order." 

Horodyski brings a breadth of experience in metadata and taxonomy design, information architecture, rights management, brand strategy and more to his consultations with Fortune 100 and 500 clients in industries that range from consumer packed goods to banking, healthcare to education. 

His goal with any consultation is to "help clients in complex industries navigate rapid market and technological changes." 

Additionally, Horodyski teaches a graduate course in DAM as an adjunct faculty member in the San Jose University iSchool program, and also serves as a board member and metadata editor of the Journal of Digital Media Management.

As one of the founding members of the DAM Foundation, Horodyski has participated in its fight to bring standards to the Digital Asset Management field.

Horodyski makes a strong case for the essential role that DAM plays in delivering what every business strives for today — a superior customer experience. As he wrote in one of his monthly CMSWire columns, "DAM joins silos to provide a more meaningful sales, communications and marketing operation process and hence, a better customer experience."

You can hear more of Horodyski's thoughts on digital transformation and metadata strategy at CMSWire's DX Summit this Nov. 14 through 16 at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.

Metadata as a Strategic Imperative

Walter: Can you give a preview of what you plan to discuss at DX Summit?

Horodyski: Metadata … it matters. The business case: Metadata development is a strategic imperative in the endeavor to effectively manage and exploit a company’s knowledge. The successful implementation of any content — related strategy for data, digital assets or text — requires implementation of a holistic metadata schema that is supported by technology, people and process. 

Building a DAM or CMS without a metadata plan is akin to trying to focus deeply with an undisciplined mind. Metadata increases the return on investment of a content system by unlocking the potential to ingest, discover, share and distribute assets. It is the “backbone” of any content strategy.

Walter: What have you learned from the last 12 years of digital asset management?

Horodyski: That despite all the “trends” and changes over the years with the cloud, social media plugins, CMS plugins, every other kind of plugin and APIs, without having a solid foundation for what the DAM is, who it is for, how it will be used, when the assets are to be used, and why it exists, then no technology will solve this. You need to figure out the people and process first, then focus on technology. And, if there is no governance for this, then your DAM is doomed for failure. 

Walter: Why is there so much focus on “MarTech” as of late?

Horodyski: There has always been a focus on MarTech. What has changed is the realization that everything is connected in the ecosystems and that nothing can live in singularity anymore; each component of the “marketing technology stack” must be considered. This is everything from analytics and reporting, to content publishing, marketing automation, social and mobile, search and collaboration, and your data repository. 

Simply stated, content drives brand. You need to get your digital house in order, know what your internal business units and external partners need, and understand how you will need to deliver assets today — and tomorrow — across multiple channels and devices.

Walter: What are the essentials for good DAM?

Horodyski: DAM needs to focus on the essential foundational elements: metadata, taxonomy, workflow, rights, UX, governance, technology and ultimately, building the business case for DAM. The decision to implement a DAM strategy with a content system is a step in the right direction for gaining operational and intellectual control of your digital assets and is to be taken very seriously. 

DAM brings with it great responsibility for how the organization’s assets will be efficiently and effectively managed in its daily operations and is essential to growth. Any successful DAM strategy and system requires more than just new technology: it requires a foundation for digital strategy. Creating the whole solution — and connecting it throughout your ecosystem — means that your assets can generate revenue, increase efficiencies, and enhance your ability to meet new and emerging market opportunities. The demand for digital assets used for the design, production and distribution of content is not only quantifiably high but also qualitatively so, due to its necessity and criticality in current business operations.

Walter: What is really crucial when it comes to creating a good digital experience for customers?

Horodyski: Without question, sit-down and talk to your users and observe user behavior first hand. Content may well be king, but the users are most worthy of attention in that kingdom. And, then gather both real and imagined information from search logs as well as user interviews and the creations of personas. Take the time to listen and watch them as they search and retrieve content and learn first-hand from them. 

Also, ask the right questions such as, “Who are your audiences and what do they need?” and “What are they thinking and how do they approach problem-solving?” Then try to deconstruct their thinking process and try to understand their line of thought.

Walter: What have you been doing lately to recharge?

Horodyski: Reading more and more about the Internet of Things (IoT) and Blockchain technology. The emergence of the Internet of Things and other platforms will produce more information and data across locations, both within and external to an organization. Data will only continue to grow. There has never been a more important time to make data a priority and to have a road map for delivering value from it. New platforms provide great opportunities for communication, engagement and risk management. 

Data sharing and collaboration will play an important part in growth as business rules and policies will govern the ability to collect and analyze internal and external data. More importantly, business rules will govern an organization’s ability to generate knowledge, and ultimately value. In order to deliver on the promise, data must be delivered consistently, with standard definitions, and organizations must have the ability to reconcile data models from different systems.