Meghan Walsh, senior director of content strategy at Hilton Worldwide PHOTO: Robert Levy

CHICAGO — When Meghan Walsh took on her new role as senior director of content strategy for Hilton Worldwide 18 months ago, she was tasked with building a business case for the company's web digital asset management (DAM) technology.

Could the company leverage it better? Upgrade it? Extend its use? That was a Monday. By Friday, Walsh told her new boss she couldn't complete the task. She didn't know what the company wanted to gain. 

Know Your Content

"I didn't know if it was the right product for Hilton," Walsh told the audience in her keynote address at CMSWire's DX Summit 2016 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel here this morning. "We hadn't discussed our needs or the problems we needed to solve. It's painful when you don't go over business requirements and just select technology."

Walsh understands that organizations trying to manage technology, content and assets to deliver better digital customer experiences must have keen insight into their own needs first. They need to understand their content and assets, know where they live and decide how they will leverage them together. They also need to distinguish how technology enables their organization to manage digital assets and manage digital content — and how those efforts integrate.

"This is not revolutionary," Walsh warned the crowd of her case study. "This is practical. We had so much content and had been telling an amazing story for years, but the problem is we didn't know what we had. You have to know what content you have."

When Walsh and the Hilton team went back to the drawing board, they discovered this would not be an overnight job. To get a firm grip on their digital assets and understand how that improved content distribution, they needed to answer three questions:

  • Are DAM and CMS the same thing?
  • Are these marketing or enterprise assets?
  • Does Hilton need to be DAM subject matter experts?

Hilton was "willing to hear me out," Walsh said. "We needed to step back and needed to start at the beginning. Understand our need so we can move forward."

CMS vs. DAM

Walsh said she had to determine if managing Hilton's digital assets was the same act as managing its content. It wasn't, she said. The company had different needs from the two pieces of technology.

The raw assets of a DAM — sourced photography, uncut video, working files, font files that needed to install on computers — require different layers of knowledge, metadata and management and a different set of skills and technology.

"It influences the CMS," Walsh said, "but it's not the same thing."

Marketing or Enterprise Assets?

Hilton ultimately decided that its massive amount of assets — it discovered it had 46 terabytes of digitized archived content, for instance — should be owned by the entire enterprise and not just a marketing mission.

In this process, it learned 19 of 20 teams used Dropbox to manage digital assets. 

"Imagine how well that went over with the CIO," Walsh said. "It didn't go over well with the CMO either. We needed to solve this problem as an enterprise."

Hilton needed, she said, to determine where those assets live, and govern them better.

Assets like Hilton's digitized archives need to be searchable and scalable. It can't be an "iron mountain" that no one can access.

"It's easier said than done," said Walsh, who is also a member of the CMSWire Reader Advisory Board. "But it's real critical for our story. Understanding what we have and calling it our enterprise library."

Meghan Walsh slide from DX Summit
Meghan Walsh discussed Hilton Worldwide's goals for digital asset management.

Are We the Experts?

Hilton is a in McLean, Va.-global hotel chain of 164,000 employees and 4,820 locations. For its DAM project, it partnered with subject matter experts to help them manage their DAM shift. These partners "live it, breathe it, dream it and build it."

"That meant that we were going to SaaS (Software-as-a-Service)," Walsh said. "We took a core capability with DAM and said we're not going to put it on premise, but would find an expert and count on that partner, build a relationship with it, and trust it to take care of it and grow it. That was a major change for Hilton. Pulling the trigger can be hard, but I'm really excited that's the way we're going."

Walsh advised the audience this morning to not be afraid to make tough decisions during a digital transformation.

"Make decisions, document them and use them to inform your next decisions," Walsh said. "If you're willing to disrupt yourselves a bit, you'll find real moments of professional joy."