Digital asset management: diverse and expanding
Companies that need to manage assets for marketing or other purposes and those whose primary products are digital assets have been using digital asset management (DAM) systems consistently and beneficially. The current DAM technology is mature and effective, but interesting advances are also being made that incorporate geolocation, artificial intelligence (AI) and other capabilities.
CNH Industrial is a manufacturer of agricultural and construction equipment, trucks, commercial vehicles, buses and specialty vehicles. The North American division focuses on agricultural and construction equipment as well as engines and power train for on-road, off-road, marine and power generation applications. “We were using a digital asset management system to manage our images and collateral for our marketing efforts, but it required a lot of manual work and provided limited accessibility to both internal and external users,” says Tim Goodman, marketing communications manager for CNH Industrial Parts & Service.
To better meet the growing demand for digital assets, CNH Industrial switched to the Widen Collective, a DAM system that offered a better range of functionality. One of its more pressing needs recently was to grow its e-commerce business. “By using the Widen Collective, we have been able to consolidate stored images instead of having them distributed throughout different systems,” Goodman explains. “This has allowed us to reduce administrative time and also ensures the accuracy and integrity of the images.”
Users include individuals throughout the organization who need access to images. “Although our use of the Widen Collective started in marketing, it has expanded considerably,” Goodman says. “We are gradually getting more utilization, including many brochures, videos for corporate communication and training, and marketing point of purchase materials.”
Another user base consists of external partners such as suppliers who either make some of the components used by CNH Industrial or work with agencies that support CNH Industrial. Those groups need logos, photos and videos that are consistent with the images CNH Industrial uses. Other users include wholesale dealers in the United States and Canada. “They can use it to build their own marketing materials, access documents and provide product information,” Goodman explains.
The Widen Collective converts images to the required formatting for each use. “We have greatly reduced our manual resizing,” Goodman says. “For many of our channels, we have predetermined custom settings that we have built out for speed and to reduce the workload. Users can quickly download the versions they need and no longer have to save them in their ‘go to’ folders for presentations, sharing and other uses.”
CNH Industrial strives to use a corporate taxonomy for tagging its images, but some variations are inevitable depending on the brand and product line. “Sometimes the product is an entire piece of equipment such as a tractor, skidsteer or hay baler,” Goodman says. “Other times it is a part for a piece of equipment, so the same tags may not apply. We try to align the taxonomy with all the products as much as possible.”
Over time, the number of products and related parts that CNH Industrial supports has increased. “We continue to produce new equipment and offer new products while also supporting our former products,” Goodman explains. “Taxonomy and governance have been crucial to ensure that only the relevant individuals had access to any given piece of content.”
Having a good governance program in place has also paid off by making the company more agile. “A year ago, we acquired a new equipment line and had to onboard a new dealer network and new users, and the process went very well,” Goodman says. “We could easily parse the content so that only those individuals who should be seeing it had access.” Maintenance is imperative. “We have 10,000 users so it is an ongoing process to keep both the content and the user profiles up to date,” he adds.
One important strategy has been to shift the tagging process upstream to the planning stage. “At the point where we are planning and preparing to do a photo or video shoot, we already have the data,” Goodman says. “That helps when we are rushing to complete the process rather than having to do it in the heat of the moment.”
The tagging process takes place in two stages. “The product management team has the experts who know all about the product, what machine it is used in and so on,” he continues, “so they set up the initial categories. The administrators make sure the terminology is consistent across different products.” The result is a robust system in which assets can be easily found.
Another way that Widen Collective helps is in calculating ROI. “We are able to track views and usage, so we can get a better idea of ROI for our photo shoots,” Goodman explains. That enables CNH Industrial to identify which investments are paying off to better guide future actions.
Widen has made a conscious commitment to add value by emphasizing services and training. “We are helping non-information experts and non-librarians manage information,” says Jake Athey, VP of marketing at Widen. “Our goal is to help them become better content managers.” Demand for such individuals is strong. He notes, “We are also helping our customers find information management pros whose skills are aligned with the ones the customers need.”
Although Widen plans to add more advanced features such as image recognition, machine learning and AI capability to the Widen Collective, Athey does not feel the time is right to move forward in an aggressive way with AI technology. “Putting the right people and processes in place is the best action to take at this point,” Athey says. “We are setting up structures for governance, metadata schemas and taxonomies. Many of our customers are going through digital transformation but if they want the central source of truth, the assets need to be described and cataloged correctly.”
Widen wants to enable its customers to describe content and apply metadata so that the information is searchable and findable, whether that content is curated by the user or a machine. “When the company is ready for more advanced techniques such as natural language searching or machine learning, the content will be ready too,” Athey explains. “When this preparation is done properly, advanced technology can add value by automating basic processes. This unlocks the potential for humans to do what they do best: focus on creativity, develop strategy and make connections with other humans.”
Extending DAM capabilities
Marketing departments have been early adopters of DAM, but in recent years, others such as sales, finance, facilities management and planning have made effective use of it, according to Toby Martin, VP of development and strategy at Extensis. A division of Celartem, Extensis recently launched a new version of its Portfolio product with an expanded ecosystem that allows users to integrate many other applications into the creative workflow. “We wanted to allow departments that had invested in Portfolio to leverage their assets further,” says Martin, “but also to allow a system originally deployed by one department to be used by others.”
Businesses that were quick to see applications for DAM systems included heritage and culture, fashion and retail. Additional industries such as agriculture and infrastructure are entering the mix now. Government, which has lagged, is expected to participate more actively soon. Martin says, “Government organizations are taking more of a consumer and e-commerce approach, with marketing and user experience becoming more important.”
Another relatively new use of DAM is for managing rich media assets associated with infrastructure, such as pictures of bridges for highway safety departments. “These are not typically part of the DAM workflow,” Martin notes. “Construction, engineering and images associated with the electric grid are all extensions of DAM usage.”