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Users vs. IT Departments: Working Together for Digital Asset Management Success

What Happens When Users and IT Don't Collaborate on DAM

By Edward Smith | November 26, 2012

Day 1: DAM Client Consultation

7:48 AM Coffee from receptionist - lukewarm but decent.

7:55 AM Marketing Manager (DAM end-user) greets me in the lobby. Exhibits obvious excitement - she's finally getting what she has been waiting for, a system that can untangle the massive collection of files the marketing department has been building up over the years.

8:00 AM Meet the IT Manager in conference room. Lack of excitement is evident - he found out the day before about Marketing's plan to install a DAM they purchased with their own budget. (The IT Manager only found out because the Marketing manager casually asked for the administrator password to the intranet server while they were talking at the water cooler). Although reluctant, the IT Manager agrees to help. However, we soon discover that the hardware does not meet the system requirements and that the implementation will not be able to proceed until next quarter when hardware budget becomes available.

8:30 AM I split the rest of the day between working on email from my hotel room and calling United to reschedule an earlier flight home.

While the project was eventually a success, it was late and over budget due to lack of collaboration between the departments. I've seen variations of this scenario play out many times before and witnessed problems that often boiled down to either a lack of support and communication on either side. After seeing what can go wrong, I've learned some ways to avoid these types of issues between the IT department and a department implementing DAM. If you're a DAM end-user or someone in IT (or maybe a little bit of both) read on for tips on combining the powers of end-users and IT for digital asset management success.

1. Work Together Early On

Whichever department - IT or the end-user group - decides to begin a DAM implementation project should involve the other. In the scenario above, the Marketing department decided to purchase a DAM using their budget. Marketing didn't involve IT until the last moment only to find they needed new hardware. For end-user groups it may seem easier to skip the IT department and implement your own solution with your own budget. However, you will eventually need the support and expertise of IT because they specialize in technology - so involve them early on before you run into problems! Trust them. They are your experts.

I've also seen situations where IT decides to implement a DAM without involving end-users. As an expert in information systems, you might be tempted to exclude end-users from the planning and selection stages of a DAM project and just roll out a "finished" system to end-users to save time. Often this leads to a solution that is abandoned by users because it is difficult to use or does not efficiently solve workflow problems.

2. Know That Change Can Be Awesome, but Sometimes Sucks at First

A good DAM won't make you dramatically change the way you work, but making things better might take a little bit of effort at first - but the payoff is worth it. For example, you might need to use a new piece of software instead of just asking someone for a graphic. Learning to use a new application can be difficult, and yes it might be easier to just keep asking someone else for a file you need instead learning the new way. However, once you learn how to find things yourself you'll be saving time for yourself as well as the person who (formerly) had to provide the images to you. DAM might take some extra time and work up front, but in the end, everyone saves time (and sanity!)

3. Focus on the Need to Haves

I'm talking about needs versus wants, solving problems versus "cool features", simplicity versus complexity, and not spending too much money. You don't need the perfect system; you just need a successful system. Focus your efforts on the need to haves with DAM. You can focus on the want to haves later. Start small and then scale as needed. Anytime someone starts a sentence with "wouldn't it be a cool if..." make sure that what follows those words is something that's actually needed. Ask, "Is that important?" Focus on solving problems and not checking off a list of cool features. Keep in mind that a system that has all the bells and whistles is probably going to be more complex and more difficult to configure, use, and support. When you focus on what you really need you can save money by implementing a successful system on time and within budget.

4. Delegate (AKA Letting Someone Else Do the Work)

For IT, this may mean giving up some control by giving departmental users permission to manage certain tasks themselves in the DAM. DAM is a chance to for you to save time and headache by allowing users to take more responsibility for file management. Within the end-user department, users could have authority to use certain approved files via a self-service web portal that only provides access to pre-approved files.

5. You Are the Champions, My Friends

Is there something about DAM that will make your work life less painful? Congratulations! You're already a champion! Now just make sure to act like one. Attend meetings about DAM, or reply to email messages, ask questions, give answers, and let others know how DAM will help you. Not only can you help ensure success of a DAM that works for you, you can also make your mark on the organization by being a part of the effort that improved efficiency. Ideally, you want both an end-user champion and an IT champion, so try to find your counterpart in the other department.

6. Focus on Solving Problems, Not Features

IT and end-users don't always speak in the same language. IT often uses tech jargon while users talk about business process or workflow (for example marketing, photography or graphic design terms). Sometimes both departments don't know the other's terms. It helps at the beginning to talk about solving problems instead technical features. This will also help ensure that system actually does what it needs to and not just check all the boxes on a features requirement list.

7. Split the Tab

Team up by pooling budgets to pay for DAM. The project is going to help both departments, so you could both chip in together to ensure success. In the example at the beginning, the Marketing department had money for the software, but did not have money for hardware. If IT was involved early on, they might have been able to provide hardware from their budget. Another common way of splitting the tab is for one group to put up money for software and hardware while the other department put up money for training.

Summary

It's inevitable that end-user groups need support and expertise to be successful with DAM, and that IT will eventually get involved when the end user group needs help or no longer wants to run the system. By communicating early on and collaborating on DAM, you are more likely to be successful.

What battle stories do you have - DAM implementation or otherwise? Do you have any tips to share about IT and end-user groups working together?

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