Transforming DAM Into a True End-to-End Solution

An interview with Jill Talvensaari, from IO Integration

Jill Talvensaari’s 20-year career in integrated technology marketing and product management spans startups and industry leaders alike, including Adobe, Microsoft, and Equifax. She’s created and directed worldwide marketing strategies and campaigns, and she’s led teams in producing more than 20 releases of software solutions that have won awards and have been beneficial to millions of users.

That experience was something we wanted to tap into as we continue our series of interviews with professionals in these fields to examine how they’ve seen digital asset management evolve. We talked with Jill about her career, what sort of “surprises” people on both sides of the industry are seeing and how she sees the evolution of DAM already taking place.


Tell us about your history with digital asset management. How did you get involved with DAM?

I first got started with DAM in 2000 when I was working with Adobe’s Creative Products teams. We were defining SaaS based solutions for design teams that integrated with Acrobat and the creative production approval and distribution workflows. We knew Acrobat needed a DAM behind it in order for teams to get the most from the rich PDF workflows that had already been defined. We were also pushing XML and metadata as the way information would flow between different file types and enable creative files to be edited more on the fly without the need for the native app.


How have you seen things change in the industry since your career started?

DAM has gone from “nice-to-have” to being a “must-have”. Simple server file structures just aren’t smart enough to scale beyond 2-4 users. World content has literally doubled in the last two years. We have broadband availability on every device in the home and office, so sending and accessing very large files is not a challenge. FTP servers and physically shipping external hard drives are largely a thing of the past. All of that means our approach to both big and small-picture items has changed and continues to change.  

DAM is required for any medium and large sized team and is the essential backbone of any digital strategy or communications system. With the advent of “content marketing”, the creative process is front and center as companies try to reach their customers with timely, relevant, educational and entertaining content. DAM is the start of how you do that. Add CMS, and a smart, innovative team can do the rest. And these are all developments that have happened in the last five years.


Do you think industry veterans and even newcomers have a realistic expectation of what the right DAM system can do for an organization? Or are people still seeing “surprises” on both sides?

I think the difference between Work in Progress versus Enterprise DAMs is largely misunderstood. Different DAM systems have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to features, file types and workflows that are supported. It really depends on the industry, and those are big factors that need to be considered when you’re trying to keep “surprises” to a minimum. Realistically, most people know that a DAM will help them gain incredible efficiencies, automate processes, easily find, share and manage files.

The pleasant “surprises” you can get in a DAM that many newcomers might not think about initially are automatic archival and metadata tagging, folder placement and digital rights management. The deeper challenges come in having the right team so that they can define how the DAM will work, identifying workflows for automation, migration of existing data and assets and setting up the users.

Starting with a pilot program in the functional area that needs it the most is usually a huge win for the client and the provider, as that internal team becomes a wonderful group of evangelists and trainers for the rest of the organization. The use of the DAM spreads from team to team across functions and sites, breaking down silos and ultimately changing the way we work together and deliver creative content.


How have technological developments affected DAM systems and people’s expectations of their DAM system? 

DAM has become a must have solution. Everyone knows they need a DAM. They understand it’s ineffective and a bad idea to keep files on their desktop or in email.

What’s changed a lot is the availability of DAM both in the cloud as well as on-premise.  We’re seeing a lot of hybrid solutions to optimize file sizes because the creative workflow has such huge workflows associated with it that it allows the new compression technologies, or the ability to show you the exact part of the document you’re looking at, by zooming in. That’s called “tiling”, so you can zoom in and just focus on a certain “tile” for a specific detail. They’re using a lot of that for the approval workflows to go between brands and their agencies and the whole ecosystem of the creative supply chain. There are a lot of technological advances that are making it so people can work from anywhere on any device.

The big thing I’m seeing in terms of what people are looking for in a DAM is that the products that used to all be separate are no longer being treated or thought of that way. Traditionally, you’d have a marketing and resource management system, an enterprise content system, a CMS that runs your website, a separate product information management system in addition to your separate DAM.  What we’re starting to see with these new graph databases and other types of technologies is that they enable you to basically have one place for all of your data, metadata, taxonomy to follow, and then that enables all of those systems to seamlessly create the ultimate customer experience where you can actually act on the data and deliver personalized customer experiences to your prospects and customers right when they’re looking for it, whether it be walking past the front door of a store who are using iBeacon technology, to offering someone a personalized coupon when they’re walking down the grocery aisle.

So we’re seeing companies that were originally looking for DAM might instead decide to handle this huge amount of content with an MRM or WCM, so they can keep people focused and projects on time, as well as companies that want an enterprise content management system that can run their website as well as their internal and external co-brand communications. All of those have a DAM behind them, but now people are articulating their needs in a better way. 


It wasn’t so long ago that job titles like “Digital Asset Strategist” were unheard of in an organization. Do you think we’ll see more positions and titles created for the people who are dealing with DAM, or is it going to be more about refining and redefining jobs and roles that currently exist? 

We’re seeing trends like the rise of a VP of Digital Marketing, “CCO”, or Chief Content Officer, or the “CMT”, which is the Chief Marketing Technologist. The fact that a lot of companies already have a Content Marketing VP is very telling. These positions aren’t always C level but they’re in a high position within an organization.

I’m sure you’ve seen the Chief Martec slide that shows all the different players in marketing technology, and how it’s gotten bigger and bigger, and jobs and job titles play into both sides of this conversation. We’re seeing companies like Adobe, Open Text and Oracle buy up a lot of the players that do different pieces of the creative content supply chain. But instead of that being a best of breed solution, it’s more of a Frankenstein solution. They’re putting everything together and intergrating it, but the customer experience might not be optimal across the board.  That’s why you’ve got other players and system integrators like IO that try to pick best of breed and look for those interoperability plays or pain points for specific customers, and we optimize it, but that’s only a piece of the solution. But some people only need a piece of the solution and not the whole thing. In fact, most companies don’t. Only the very, very biggest need all of it, but then you can find different parts of the organization are on different platforms.

Regardless, you have to have people who can make these integrations happen, and that’s the reality whether you have “executive” or “coordinator” in your title.  


What’s the most important thing for people to understand about DAM?

Most people realize that you need a DAM system if you don’t have one, so now it’s more about helping people understand that they need to take the time up front to find out what their marketing requirements are around their DAM. They also need to make sure they understand how the person who is signing off on or paying for the system thinks. You need to make sure you’re selling the system internally in a way that makes sense to the CFO or VP or whoever is going to be asking the questions about how the system is working and being utilized once it’s up and running. There are lots of ways to get ROI on a digital asset management system, but the important way to talk about it is in whatever way is most near and dear to the heart of the person signing off on it. You can talk about it in terms of time, people, resources, money, etc. but it really comes down to what’s going to work for your organization.

It’s also ideal to start with a pilot project that works as a proof of concept for the system and for what you’re trying to accomplish with it. Once you’ve done that you can get some internal evangelists on your side and insert it into an area where you’re going to see the most traction, and then you can roll it across the entire organization. 


What’s one thing people don’t realize about their digital asset management system?

We’re seeing a lot of creative come back in-house for a lot of brands, but many of those organizations don’t understand the efficiencies in automation that you can gain with a digital asset management system. They might have an in-house team but because they have only been dealing with smaller or specific projects up until now, they have been doing a lot of it manually, and that’s working for them because they have a small group and they’re doing very specific things. As they bring more in they’re going to have a ton of content to deal with and it starts to become a struggle around staying on time, using the right resources, keeping on budget etc. and that’s where a lot of the benefits that you can get from a digital asset management system come in, because you can automate file creation, translation, approvals even.


What does the next generation of DAM look like?

I think the next generation of DAM is a more refined combination of these various systems that we discussed earlier. The “frankensteining” of that system will become more refined and organizations will be able to customize them in a more efficient way. In some ways you can think of it as


That’s something we’re already seeing. One of the products we resell is recently incorporating some MRM pieces into the software. Another product is purely a MRM play, but they’ve integrated beautifully with an online approval system. In fact, I’m seeing a lot of that happen too. It’s a lot of really tight integrations, where you can subscribe to one but then get the features and benefits of another one that’s basically white-labeled and sold under that single name.

Going back to the Chief Martec slide, besides seeing the big companies gobble up some key smaller ones and integrate them into a true end-to-end solution, we’re also seeing a lot of these tight partnerships that streamline the customer experience. And I think those sorts of things will become even more pronounced.

The technology is really changing marketing, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out over the next ten years. The KPI’s around these things will also become much easier to define, and people will have a better way to define a successful endeavor or campaign. Right now there’s a lot of experimentation, and that will give way to defined, measurable success across the board.


You just wrapped up your Tech strategies for content marketing success in New York. What are some take-aways for you coming out of that event?

Brands and agencies are changing the way they work together. The content is forcing the change, but the technology is a key factor in this because the technology is what enables us to put out this much content.  We saw that people are very interested in finding technologies that help make them more effective and to create more customized customer experiences in the moment and on the right device.

We’ve done this for a few years now, but what was really interesting this year was that I actually had people come up to me and express a desire to find out how they can keep up with industry changes and developments, because they feel things are shifting so rapidly.  They certainly appreciate being able to come together with these great thinkers, and in some cases it’s just a matter of comparing notes.  Because nobody really has the right answer so it’s all about experimenting with different things to try and figure out what fits. Being able to be thought leaders to their customers and bring them best of breed technology and explain what is available is top of mind for so many people.


Any exciting projects that you’re working on or have upcoming that you can tell us about?

We’re just putting the finishing touches on our fall roadshow. It’s going to include Germany, the UK, New York, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles. So that’s going to keep us busy. We’re going to be doing similar things around what we did at the last New York event, but really taking it to the next level. We’ll be talking about how you can build out a whole execution strategy for managing this content with technology.

I just got finished up with an event in San Francisco that was put on by the Content Marketing Institute, and they’re the ones that run the Content Marketing World in Cleveland, so we’re excited to unveil the next version of censhare in Cleveland in September.