Breaking the Bad News of Digital Asset Management

Toby Martin
August 14, 2019
2 min read

For far too long, practitioners and participants in the digital asset arena (including imagery, fonts, and all things this encompasses) have been trying to bend the actual practice around what they’ve always determined to be “best practices.” Let’s be honest about some challenges there.

First, there is no “one size fits all” process, practice, or tool. Beware those who suggest otherwise because what you may be hearing is justification for jobs, budgets, or simple snake oil. You can suggest a place to begin, but if the process is not flexible – it’s recommended that you adjust how you manage things as a first point in the plan – run for the hills.

From the start, you must accept that anytime change is thrust upon the unwilling there will be push back. Proceed with caution and start with managing the processes in place first before changing everything in a system.

Another common mistake is the assumption that digital assets can be managed in a rational, linear manner. When you began gathering fonts, files, logos or other brand assets, you already had many of them in your purview, right? If this was a completely rational process, you would always begin with onboarding or procurement assets – and assets would not be present without this crucial, first step.

For the next revelation – and this is a big one ­– we must start thinking in non-linear terms. Let’s say you have a five-phase approach to managing your digital assets, hardware, software, fonts, imagery, etcetera. What you must expect is that few management efforts will conveniently follow your paradigm. Assets and their use are like irrational actors in the IT space, which is part of what is so confounding and difficult for practitioners and tools alike to manage.

You must allow for an honest assessment of the current state (AS IS) before you can even start to think about the ideal (TO BE) state of practice – asset nirvana. A major shift in mindset needs to occur to allow for these unanticipated and unfortunate, yet all too common situations to occur without rendering the schema inadequate before the process begins.

As a preview to the solution, Extensis will be working on in the very near future, let’s look at expanding the phases of digital asset lifecycle beyond the rational. As a marketplace, we all must recognize that we’ve managed what we could. When we know certain aspects of assets, like how to store, add metadata, and consume / report on them, in order to expand their value, we must expand our mindset to get into those tougher areas.

If we’re not helping with early phase cataloging, that’s a miss; if we’re not factoring in production uses and time spent working on assets as part of TCO, that’s a miss; if all we do is let them sit in some system – a graveyard of fonts and assets – without considering hard costs (storage) or soft costs (time wasted in searching through old assets) as part of ROI, that’s a miss.

This will be a consistent theme you’ll be hearing from Extensis – and hopefully the other players – as we increase the number of phases of an asset’s lifecycle under management by our systems, all of which should provide increased value from investments already made. This should lead to greater visibility of the cost / benefits of assets, making future investments more rational by using data to support them.

TobyMartinToby Martin  – Chief Executive Officer

In his role as CEO, Toby Martin drives the company’s global strategy and operations. He brings to Extensis more than 20 years in technology, with track record of leading diverse teams to achievement of strategic goals through product innovation, improved agility in practices, and delivering unparalleled customer outcomes. Toby provides thought leadership in many technical topics and has traveled the world working with customers, his teams and colleagues, and industry communities. When he’s not at the beach with his wife, son, and a good book of non-fiction, Toby has been instrumental in implementing transformational change at Extensis, including agile development, new and innovative solutions, and expanding 3rd party partnerships to improve workflows for our customers. Toby draws inspiration from the passion of our customers, our employees, and Extensis’ Portland headquarters, one of the most beautiful places in the world.

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