8 Ways to Use Design Thinking to get Started with Digital Asset Management
By Mindy Carner
Getting into the digital asset management game is becoming a cross-sector enterprise imperative. Digital assets make up a staggering amount of the content that companies use to design, package, market, and distribute their products. These digital assets represent a major investment that must be protected to ensure the most can be made from them.
This is the first in a series of guest contributions for Trams | Econocom by Mindy who will be sharing her experiences on setting up, selecting and evolving fit for purpose Digital Asset Management solutions (DAM’s). Mindy Carner is an independent consultant who offers services building metadata schemas, taxonomies, ontologies and data flows.
The need to manage, protect and easily share media with the right people has companies across industries investing in DAM’s. And words like taxonomy, metadata, and even artificial intelligence are becoming more and more widely used as they are central factors in improving the processes associated with said management practices.
With a plethora of solutions, vendors and consultancies available, how do you get from zero to an effective (DAM), with supporting business processes and technology? Or, better yet, how do you move from bad practice to best practice? There is an excellent set of ideologies, frameworks and tools that have grown out of web development practice known as Design Thinking that offers an effective path forward for both gathering the business requirements and designing the configurations for the system. They’re relatively inexpensive and fast, and they offer a plethora of insight into your users’ expectations and needs well before you commit to the purchase, development or – especially – customisation of any new system.
Before you start investing money, take the time to understand the true underlying issues that needs solving, the various options available to choose from and how ready is your business processes to adapt to change? The important concept within the designer’s toolkit to focus on is the underlying philosophy that all business needs are based on human needs. Whilst not revolutionary, it allows us to concentrate our approach with a focus on what’s important from the perspective of the challenges, frustrations of the end user.
The below activities are designed to help you empathise with your end users, getting them to tell you exactly what they want out of their DAM experience, and helping you to uncover some of those unknown unknowns about how DAM will work best for your particular group of stakeholders.
How to Effectively Gather Business Requirements
Five Whys I love this activity! It is a great first step you can use to uncover what the real problem is. In fact, this activity will help you to definitely understand what your business need really is by digging much deeper into the original claim and getting at the root of the problem. The premise here is simple, start by asking a basic question like “Why do we need Digital Asset Management?” Or “What is the business problem driving us to search for a new tool?” Now when you get back an answer, you ask “why is it that is happening?” And that is your first why. What we are ultimately seeking to do is to dig deeper into the issue. By repeatedly challenging the user to express “and why is that happening?” this narrows down focus to the key issues and/or problems. This typically takes about five rounds to get to a level of detailed comprehension of the issue hence the name! You may find what is ultimately required is more than just a DAM tool, and these can cover things such as Media Asset Management (MAM) solutions, business process alignment, or even project management tools.
Discussion Stations Discussion Stations bring a lot of innovation to the early stages of the DAM (or DAM reinvention) journey. Essentially you take a crowd of diverse stakeholders, allow them to suggest topic areas that are of importance to them, and then allow the whole crowd to self-select into groups around the variously suggested topic areas. Then you give them the imperative to discuss the topic that they have chosen and to come up with ideas for how to, for example, improve upon the issue, or bring about the desire outcome, depending on what the topics end up being. After giving them ample time to discuss within their self-selected groups, each collective presents their outcomes to the larger audience. This is a great way to get your stakeholders to come up with, meet about, discuss, and ideate about the topics that mean the most to them – ones that are likely to have been overlooked if you were on your own. Dot Voting Dot Voting is such a great tool. It brings the democracy back to any meeting. It is very simple and easy to use. I recommend it for any time a decision needs to be made by a large group. The idea here is that you’ve got a group of people that you need to make a decision about a list of things. Perhaps the list is small and they need to select one or two from it, or perhaps they need to select a large set of items (to prioritise, for example) out of a larger set. Either way, you provide each person a number of stickers, maybe two per person, maybe six. It depends on how big of a set you’re selecting. Everyone gets the same number of stickers so there is a level playing field. In any group you will typically have loud people and quiet people, new people and those who have been around for ages, as well as varying degrees of seniority – any of these can affect who speaks up more in a typical meeting. With the dot voting approach all get an equal voice/vote. Each person can use their votes as they see fit, giving all votes to one idea or distributing them across several. The choice is theirs and they are the ones who make the decisions about how to go forward with this system.
Drawing Screens With this approach we allow the end users to draw screens for how they envisage the critical aspects of their DAM experience to be. It is another quick, easy and very cheap way for you to gain a greater understanding on what they actually want before you ever commit. This activity is too often saved for later in the design process, but I would argue that it is worth doing even as you are gathering your business requirements. It allows you to get direct feedback on what users want. Note, we are not asking them to create the solution, just seeking to identify what’s important, what is used commonly, what they expect in a DAM UI, etc. And what better way is there to go into your vendor selection process than having an idea of the most desirable user interface even before you see what the vendors have to offer?
How to Effectively Design Configurations
User Personas User Personas are archetypes of different groups of stakeholders who may all have a similar – or only slightly varying – paths through your system. You may have a persona for the marketing designers, and one for the product team, anyone using the DAM with a specific purpose and set of activities, goals, and pain points. The goal is to capture the full range of people that will use the system – none should not be left out. They are SO useful in designing use cases that you will use to select the right tool for your needs. And then they will come in exceedingly handy again and again when you design the configurations for the system (think user profiles and security, for one) and then when you’re writing up the standard operating procedures for use of the system.
User Journey Maps Journey Maps take your User Personas to the next level. The Journey Map does exactly what it says. It maps your users’ journey through your DAM system. You may want to map their current state of how they do things now (it’s always good to know), or if you have a DAM-savvy team, they can imagine the hypothetical future state, but that does risk a lot of missed connections of what you don’t know or didn’t think of. Mapping the current state, even if it is the opposite of ideal, helps you understand where your bottlenecks are, where you need specific data to flow that it isn’t presently, and who should be talking to whom in the process. These will again be exceedingly valuable in helping you envision the future state business processes, decide on a system that will resolve current issues, and understand where for instance metadata should be applied, and by whom, in the asset lifecycle. Having the “As-Is” and “To-Be” states allows you to develop an approach on how you transition between the two. Here you can take decisions around how much you can do in-house versus how much you might want a vendor to take on.
Rapid Ideation I love this trick! I use it almost every time I do a project. It works for anything and it is so simple. You gather all of your stakeholders into a room and give everyone a pile of sticky notes. You give them a prompt, for example – what assets do you work with that you need managed, or what metadata do you need on your assets in order to find, manage, or protect them? – and then direct them to apply one idea per sticky note and then have them go to town. The instruction here is quantity over quality – you want them to come up with as many ideas as possible, no matter how outlandish, and then you can use the team’s collective intelligence to whittle down the list (think dot voting!). There are so many ways that this can be applied.
Card Sorts Card sorts are another fabulous way to get your stakeholders to help you understand the information architecture requirements better. Imagine that you’ve had them rapidly ideate on the fields and values that they expect to have applied to the digital assets so that they can search for, manage and protect those assets. And then you’ve had them dot vote to prioritise the set of metadata fields to a realistic and achievable set of fields. The card sort will be your opportunity to then have them organise those fields into a hierarchy, or set of hierarchies, that make the most sense to them, so that you can design the architecture of the site based on how your end users organise their information. My only caveat to card sorts is just to remember that they are an activity to gain empathy for your end users, to understand how they think about the information that they work with day to day and how to find it. But ultimately, your end users are not information professionals and don’t always understand the tenets of taxonomic organisation so you should still plan to make some judgement calls after the results come back.
If you are interested in hearingmore about how Design Thinking can be applied to DAM, then please join Mindy at the Henry Stewart Digital Asset Management Conference in San Diego on Tuesday, November 05 from 9:30-12:30 for a tutorial and hands on mini-workshop on design thinking for DAM.
Mindy Carner is an independent consultant offering services building metadata schemas, taxonomies, ontologies and data flows for a variety of information systems.
She has a master’s degree in Library and Information Science, and nearly ten years of experience creating, deploying, managing and governing metadata and taxonomy strategies for national and international organisations across numerous industries.
Mindy supports her clients on information system deployments by leading discovery, performing content assessments, and developing a metadata and taxonomy strategy, as well as supporting vendor selection, implementation management and deployment, change management strategy and governance planning. Mindy is a thought leader in the field of information management, providing in-depth introductory and advanced workshops, webinars, papers and talks on various matters relating to metadata, taxonomy, information governance, and search. She recently launched a podcast all about metadata called “I Never Metadata” and it can be found on all major podcast channels. Contact: Mindy@metashop.biz