How San Francisco International Airport overhauled its digital asset management platform

When the Harvey Milk Terminal 1 opened last year, the aiport was, for the first time, "fully prepared to share assets with the media and marketing firms".

San Francisco International Airport

The client:

The San Francisco International Airport (SFO), the second busiest airport in California, transformed its use of digital assets through the use of a digital asset management (DAM) platform. The system is playing an important role in the ongoing $2.4bn development the airport’s Harvey Milk Terminal.

The challenge:

The SFO implemented its first DAM platform, the Widen Collective, to store and organise all of its marketing assets — from creative files to employee photos. 

When they were ready to start, SFO created a metadata structure and assembled a team of interns to upload assets. However, many of these uploaders lacked the institutional knowledge needed to create meaningful metadata, and as a result the values entered were incomplete or inconsistent. Furthermore, SFO didn’t have a governance policy, archival strategy, or a designated site administrator. Its DAM system became so ineffective it was barely used. 

The strategy:

SFO decided to overhaul the entire DAM site, with brand manager, Robin Brown, asked to lead the effort. Brown knew that overhauling their Widen Collective site was going to be a monumental effort. As a graphic designer and brand manager she had no experience managing a digital library.

“At that time, our digital media was all over the DAM place,” Brown explained. Some assets were in the Collective with erratic metadata, others were scattered across shared drives, private drives, and camera memory drives. “We assembled a team to excavate and rebuild,” she said.

Here is how Brown and her team executed their overhaul plan — one step at a time:

Leverage your resources

Often, it can be hard to know where to start but fortunately, there are some helpful resources if you just know where to look. Blogstraining videos, and support resources are all great — and free — tools that can help you find your way. Understanding your options for learning and training will give you the support you need to reach your goals. 

Tip: It’s likely others have had the same, or similar, questions as you and your team. Support articles often answer frequently asked questions, so this is a great place to start your knowledge search. 

Solicit internal feedback 

Brown’s team needed user feedback to ensure the DAM system was designed to support various workflows. “We had meetings and focus groups, and after surveying users and stakeholders we came up with a strategy,” Brown shared.

Tip: These sample questions are a good place to start in creating a DAM interview or survey.

Create a governance plan

A governance document outlines why the DAM system exists, and controls how it is managed and used. This guiding information creates consistency across DAM processes now and into the future. It is no wonder Brown’s team calls their governance document “the DAM Bible.” 

Tip: This template can help map out topics to include in an effective governance plan.

Update the metadata schema

Brown’s team evaluated the existing metadata structure and updated it to include new fields and terminology. User feedback helped Brown identify preferred search terms, which informed their metadata fields and controlled vocabulary. 

Tip: Brainstorming exercises like this can solicit valuable user feedback.

Conduct a content audit

A systematic review of the content in their existing DAM system helped Brown identify the content that was outdated, off-brand, or simply no longer needed. “We moved 20,000 untagged assets to an archival asset group to give us a clean slate,” she shared. “Then, we began the process of retagging the assets we wanted to keep, and trashing the assets we no longer needed.” 

Tip: This article offers a step-by-step guide to conducting a content audit.

Apply your brand

Branding a Collective site helps users connect to, engage with, and keep using the system. Brown applied the SFO visual identity to its login page and dashboard. “We now have a new login page with SFO iconic images and SFO branding,” she shared. “And I created a DAM good dashboard with a new message and custom graphics that highlight spotlight collections and brand assets. The new look completely changed the impression you get when you log in. This one change had the biggest impact in how we were perceived.” 

Tip: If you’re running short on time or resources, design services can be a great way to get your Collective site on brand quickly.

Enhance the user experience

Brown updated two functional components of their site to streamline their user experience. The first was adding single sign-on (SSO). “We added SSO through our company site to make it an easier process for employees to get to our DAM,” she shared. “Team members who previously could not find us, can now access images and video quickly and painlessly.” 

The second was updating conversion formats — which are options for changing the file type when assets are downloaded or shared. “We revamped conversion formats,” Brown said. “Less, and easier to understand.” These changes made it easier to use the SFO’s site.

Train your users

Brown created training materials that are now part of SFO’s onboarding process for all new employees, so everyone knows where to go for visual assets. These resources are housed in its DAM system and are available to anyone that has questions or needs a refresher on using the system.  

Bolster user engagement

Ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the DAM system will help users understand the value of DAM, and use it! Brown’s team found several creative ways to keep their site top of mind with their users. She shared, “We have instituted ‘upload Fridays’ as the day when new assets are uploaded, so our powerusers know when to look for new assets.” Furthermore, SFO promotes the Collective on its intranet with success stories, scavenger hunts, and contests. As a result, the internal login and download activity is on a steady upward trajectory.

Create a roadmap

Any effective site overhaul strategy includes a plan for ongoing improvements. “With the help of my new team, we created a roadmap to steer us in the right direction, and keep us focused,” Brown said. “The admin team now meets on a regular basis, to brainstorm how we can keep SFO’s media library the only place to find and access SFO digital material.” 

As they look to the future, Brown and the team will continue to prioritise metadata application as a big part of their strategy.

Tip: Get tips and ideas from your customer success manager when creating your roadmap.

The result:

After several months of thoughtful and focused effort, Brown’s hard work paid off:

“We recently (July 2019) opened a new terminal — Harvey Milk Terminal 1. For the first time we were fully prepared to share assets with the media and marketing firms ahead of the opening.

“We created a curated collection of photos and videos for media and international marketing partners. Instead of playing catchup and scrambling, we delivered a well-thought-out collection in front of the opening. Team members, stakeholders and media had access to the photos and video they needed to showcase our new terminal.”

They also measured success in terms of asset activity. The top ten most downloaded assets came from this new collection, Brown explained. 

Furthermore, SFO’s current general user activity is astronomically higher than before the site overhaul. Brown added: “We had a 498% increase in downloads from July 2018 to 2019, and we increased users by 12%.” 

Brown constantly receives positive feedback about the new DAM site, and her stakeholders are getting what they need. So, although the overhaul was a lot of hard work, she feels it was worth it! “It’s been a DAM interesting journey,” Brown said. “And the ride’s not over yet!”

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