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Make the most of your digital assets

This month, our panel of experts draws on their specialist knowledge to explain how best to approach a digital asset management project

Q. We are contemplating a digital asset management project, which we hope will make big improvements in productivity. However, I am aware that this could have a far-reaching effect on the working lives of many people. What are the biggest changes we should expect, and how can we manage them to ensure that the move to the new, hopefully more efficient, way of working is as smooth as possible?

Roland Hanbury, Rubus
Today, anyone responsible for producing something in an organisation probably stores the relevant media assets in a way that has meaning to them. For example, the person responsible for producing the annual catalogue may keep an electronic file of images and product descriptions organised by date and page number.

Reusing these images for online channels will be extremely difficult unless a lot more cataloguing information, or metadata, is added to each item. Problem is, if this means more work for the individual, with no direct benefit, they are unlikely to be keen to change the way they do things.

A second problem is that rights information (what the item can legally be used for) pertaining to digital assets is rarely stored in enough detail. Opening up assets to the entire organisation can result in rights abuse, which will be at best embarrassing and at worst expensive.

For example, if a short video clip has been licensed for distribution in the UK, but unwittingly placed on a globally available website, a large legal bill could be the result. So there may be reluctance for groups to share material for fear of making a costly mistake.

The solution to both these problems is to develop a set of cross-departmental work processes and protocols, which will need careful design and selling, plus some time to evolve. All the classic tools of change management are appropriate: start by forming a cross-departmental task-force to tackle the problem.

Communicate the benefits through all available channels, and try to answer the 'What's in it for me?' question for each individual. Finally, digital asset management is sufficiently complex, and the technology is sufficiently immature, that it is always worth conducting a 'proof of concept' with a limited content area first.

Hopefully those involved in this will see the benefits and help to sell it to others in the organisation. If they don't, you will certainly be glad you didn't go straight for a full-scale roll-out!

Peter Boggis, Concours Group
Leveraging your assets digitally is a non-trivial issue! First of all, make sure you focus on the 'outside-in' value proposition to the customer: what constitutes value to the customer may be different from what you think constitutes value from an internal perspective.

Use innovative techniques, such as laboratory simulation and fast-cycle learning, to discover what assets you can leverage digitally for customer value. For example, GE Aircraft Engines discovered that it knew more about engine aircraft performance than any of its individual customers - consequently it could create a valuable product service offering by leveraging this information and turning it into valuable knowledge. What could you do?

At the same time as you focus on driving down unit costs of production consider how you can leverage customer, market and product information to create new customer value propositions. Electronic marketplaces, diverse as they are, represent new opportunities to create new value propositions for customers.

As the dotcom fall-out bites, established companies have to learn the best lessons from the pioneers without suffering the arrows in the back!

Kevin Malone, IBM
As e-business becomes business as usual, it is no surprise that companies understand that digital asset management is fundamental to securing new revenue streams and realising cost savings.

In fact, for most companies, the question is not whether to make the move to digital asset management, but when. The transition to a digital asset management system can seem a daunting prospect as it calls on companies to have the required 'will to change'.

Several issues face companies implementing digital asset management solutions. These include quantifying cost and time savings, exploiting data for unmined revenue potential, reacting to changing customer demand and competitive environment, skill-building and training.

To provide successful asset management solutions that address these areas, technology partners need to develop an in-depth understanding of each company's business needs and IT environment. By getting to know the business, technology partners can deliver the right custom solutions that leverage existing data and IT investment.

Solutions must be able to integrate time and money-saving processes into everyday business practices and above all, deliver e-business models that realise new revenue sources.

The key is integration. All solutions need to include integrated services and strategies that meet a customer's business requirements, will improve workflow and hopefully increase top-line revenue.

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