All posts by Jon Hornstein

Is It Time to Get Rid of Sales Engineers?

 

Sales Engineers help vendors sell their products. But do they help clients get the solutions they need? 

Enterprise systems should be tailored to meet the individual needs of each organization. When shopping for an enterprise system, many technical factors must be considered to make sure these needs are properly addressed. This is where the role of a Sales Engineer comes in. Sales Engineers provide detailed information on features, performance, and other technical considerations while demonstrating how their company’s offering can provide the solution the prospective client needs. But the job of a Sales Engineer is not designed to directly serve the customer’s interests; it’s designed to help close the sale.

This presents a conflict of interest. There can be significant pressure to over-promise in order to help win the sale. Once the sale is won, it’s then up to the professional services staff members of the implementation team to deliver on the promises made by the Sales Engineer. Sometimes this means it falls to them to tell the client that they won’t be getting what they were expecting, at least not within the planned budget and timeframe. This is not a customer-centric model.

For clients, the solution is to insist that members of the implementation team take on the role of the Sales Engineer. In order to reduce the chances the vendor will over-promise and under-deliver, those who describe the solution their company will deliver should be the same people who are directly responsible for implementing it.

Vendors don’t like this approach for a number of reasons. Managing the logistics of a professional services team is already inherently difficult. They need a big enough services team to make sure clients get the service they need in a timely manner, but they don’t want to pay staff to sit around if there’s not enough billable work.

And there’s a different rhythm to the implementation process when compared with sales cycles. Professional services staff might be dedicated to a project for weeks or months at a time. This stands in contrast with the start-and-stop nature of the sales process. When managing a professional services team, one of the main priorities is optimizing the team’s billable time. Involving services staff in the sales process reduces their availability for paying work.

Also, incentives for Sales Engineers are different than for those providing services. Sales Engineers typically have a significant part of their compensation based on the revenue from sales they help win. Services staff generally have a much larger part of their compensation based on a fixed salary, with perhaps some bonuses based on client satisfaction and utilization.

But in the end, the “customer is king.” The sales and delivery process should focus on the best overall experience and outcome for the customer, not the convenience of the vendor. Customers who want to be sure that expectations set during the sales process are met should require that the technical experts involved in the sale are the same people who are directly responsible for the successful implementations of the solution they’re buying.

Should Your DAM be in the Cloud? 3 Reasons Why It Should, 3 Reasons Why It Shouldn’t

Everyone’s looking to the cloud these days, and those interested in getting a DAM (Digital Asset Management) system are no exception. While there are many cloud-based DAM solutions available, and seemingly more each day, many organizations prefer to have their DAM on-premise. There are pros and cons for each approach, with many valid arguments for both sides.

But which one is right for your business? Choosing what will work best for your organization requires that you take a look at how the DAM will be used and whether short or long-term savings are more important to your organization. Some key elements to consider are the capacity your IT team has to take on a new system, where the users are located, and your total cost of ownership (TCO).

3 reasons why your DAM should be in the cloud
There are several reasons why a cloud system might be best for you. The top 3 include:

  1. No IT involvement.
  2. Nothing against the nice folks who work in IT, but with the cloud, you avoid being dependent on them in setting up the infrastructure for the DAM system and maintaining it. Let’s face it: if your IT department is already over-stretched, they might be hesitant to set up new technologies. Yet you need a robust DAM system; you want to be able to do new things with the capability to adapt as your business grows. These differing priorities might work against each other, causing friction. With cloud services you might not need to involve your IT staff at all, creating a smoother path toward implementing a DAM.

  1. A quicker start.
  2. Cloud solutions are the shortest path to joy. They are quicker to set up and cost less to get started. When deploying an on-premise DAM system, a new server usually needs to be ordered and set up; at the very least a new VM (Virtual Machine) needs to be provisioned, which takes longer than gaining access to a cloud account. Getting budget approval for an on-premise DAM can be more time-consuming, since they are typically more expensive than a cloud system, at least initially. Add the time waiting for installation or other services to get started, and it’s easy to see how going with a cloud solution will get you started more quickly.

  1. Flexible, low-obligation subscription pricing.
  2. Almost all cloud-based DAM services use subscription pricing. You don’t have to purchase an upfront software license, as most on-premise systems require. And since you only pay for what you use with a cloud service, these systems are typically less expensive at the start, and they make the cost of “turning on” additional features or capabilities easier to manage.

3 reasons why your DAM shouldn’t be in the cloud
There are several reasons why a cloud system might not be best for you. The top 3 include:

  1. Performance.
  2. If most of your users are in the same location, or they can connect remotely via VPN, then an on-premise system’s performance will be faster. Most popular cloud services (think CRM or accounting systems) just send bits of alphanumeric data up and down from the cloud. This is a tiny amount when compared with the files managed by DAM systems, which can be dozens, or even hundreds of megabytes each. When you have large amounts of data moving through your internet connection, especially when many people are doing it on a constant basis, an on-premise DAM system will work more efficiently. This is particularly true when you’re sharing files with others who work within the same building or corporate LAN as you do. You don’t want to be forced to increase the speed and capacity of your internet bandwidth to accommodate your DAM activity.

  1. Lower long-term cost.
  2. While a cloud-based DAM is less expensive at the start, an on-site DAM is more cost effective in the long term. This is true even after factoring in the hardware, storage, network capacity, staff time, and the other expenses required to maintain an on-premise system. Any organization getting a DAM system should plan on having it for at least five years. Typically an on-site system will be significantly less expensive than a cloud-based subscription service after two to three years. And the longer you keep the system, the greater the savings.

  1. Security.
  2. With cloud services, your level of security is completely dependent on your DAM cloud vendor. And this can vary dramatically. This presents an issue if the assets in your DAM require a high level of protection. While you might not have to be concerned about marketing materials that are ready for release, images and documents relating to unannounced products require tight security. Media companies that store their “crown jewels” in a DAM particularly need to keep them in an extremely secure environment.

There is a huge variety among both cloud-based and on-premise DAM systems. The ones that are right for you depend on your organization’s particular needs. But in the broad choice between cloud and on-premise, there are some very clear distinctions. Choosing the right one will go a long way in determining the overall success of the system.

While it makes sense for many systems to be cloud-based, large files sizes, the location of the users, and the long-term costs make it less of an automatic decision. Knowing the trade-offs between cloud-based DAMs and on-premise systems will make it easier for you to find the right match for your organization.

How to Get The Most Out Of Tech Support

At Modula4 we provide technical support to over 100 clients and partners. Many of these organizations have several people contacting us, so we directly provide support to hundreds of people. In doing this for the past 11 years, we’ve learned a lot about the most effective ways to resolve the issues that pop up.

Based on our experience, doing these 5 things before you contact support are the best ways to get the quickest resolution to your tech support issues:

 

1. Eliminate internal factors
Check first with your local IT staff or help desk to eliminate internal issues that might be causing the problem. When a system isn’t working, the tendency is to go straight to the vendor to report a problem. However, often times the problem is caused by internal issues such as network slowdowns, storage reaching capacity or operating system bugs.

For example, if the system is suddenly slower when transferring files, try to instead copy a file directly between the two locations using the operating system (OS) exclusively. If that is also slow, then it’s likely a problem with the network. It’s much more efficient for your own staff to trouble-shoot internal issues. Also if a vendor needs to spend a lot of time troubleshooting an issue only to discover the cause is internal, they might charge you for their time since fixing problems caused by internal issues is usually not covered by support agreements.

2. Reproduce it
To resolve a problem you need to identify the cause, and the key to finding the cause is reproducing the problem. Write down the steps you’ve taken that makes the problem reappear so they can be reported to the support agent. If the problem can’t be reproduced then it could have been the result of a one-time set of circumstances and won’t cause further issues in the future.

3. Take screen grabs or videos
If you’re dealing with a complex problem that’s hard to explain in writing, then it’s helpful to provide screen grabs that illustrate the problem. This is especially useful when the user interface isn’t behaving as expected. Doing a video capture of your screen when you encounter the problems can also be helpful, especially if the issue reoccurs but you have trouble reproducing the exact steps that causes the problem to appear.

4. Have basic technical information handy
In addition to screen grabs or videos, in order to solve the problem the support agent needs relevant technical information such as the operating system and version of the server, client machine and the version of the software you’re using. So be prepared to have this information ready before contacting support. It’s also important to report any changes that have been made recently, either to the underlying infrastructure (servers, network, storage, desktop OS) or the version of the software you are using.

5. Use the ticketing system
Like most organizations that provide technical support, Modula4 uses a support ticketing system. While some might prefer to pick up a phone and speak with someone to get help, ticketing systems are by far the most efficient way to provide and receive tech support. With a ticketing system, the issue is routed to the agent who is best able to handle the issues based on availability, priority and most importantly, the nature of the issue itself. In some cases, several agents will collaborate on a solution, and screen grabs or other relevant files might be needed, so the ticket acts as a central repository for all the information relating to the issue, And you can use the ticketing system to quickly check on the status of the activity for resolving your issue. And if a similar problem pops up in the future, the ticket serves as a record of what was done in the past, helping to resolve the new issue more quickly.

 

When technical problems arise, our goal and our clients’ are the same: to resolve them as quickly and completely as possible. By following the steps listed above we’ll be able to better address your technical issues, and this help us to help you.

 

5 Ways to be an Effective DAM Champion

A Digital Asset Management (DAM) system is not just software. It’s a combination of people, processes and tools. To have these elements work together effectively requires a “DAM Champion,” someone who makes sure that all stakeholders are involved and informed, and that the system gets the resources it needs.

The DAM Champion is a combination of advocate, mentor, and manager. They are responsible for making sure the system is adopted by the users and that it adapts to the users’ and organizations’ changing needs. In order to do this, the DAM Champion needs to lead from the front, lead from behind, manage up and manage down.

To be successful, the DAM Champion should:

1. Keep the system current.
Businesses are dynamic and their systems should be as well. The DAM Champion needs to ensure that the features and configuration of the system keeps up with evolving needs. Too often a system is deployed with a fixed set of requirements in mind, but as needs change, the system doesn’t. First users will find work-arounds, then they slowly (or maybe quickly) stop using the system altogether. Doing quarterly reviews (best) or annual reviews (at a minimum) is a great way to make sure that the system is meeting current needs.

2. Support the users.
There are several types of DAM users, each with their own needs. “Power users” who ingest and tag a lot of assets need training and easy access to documentation to accomplish what can sometimes be complex tasks. Read-only users might need tool tips or Read Me files in order to help with some of the more advanced aspects of the interface. And users should be encouraged to give feedback, especially in all aspects of usability, since they are the experts in that area.

3. Advocate for resources.
For a DAM to remain useful it needs a budget and people to ingest and tag assets, technical infrastructure (hardware and networks if on-premise, adequate bandwidth if it’s in the cloud.) The DAM Champion should be the primary advocate to management to ensure that the system receives the resources required to meet current and future needs as they evolve.

4. Be the “referee.”
The DAM Champion is the arbiter as questions arise about metadata, permissions, etc. Rules need to be drawn-up regarding how the metadata structure is created and how it should grow, the level of permissions available and whom they should be assigned to. The DAM Champion should help establish these rules, make sure they’re followed and be the referee when issues arise that fall into a grey area.

5. Serve as the primary point of contact with the vendor.
Communication with the vendor flows both ways. The vendor will have information about product updates, new offerings, bug fixes, and other product and service information that is important for your organization. And your organization will have support requests, questions and possibly inquiries about products and services. The DAM Champion doesn’t need to be the sole point of contact with the vendor, but he or she should monitor communication with the vendor so they can keep tabs on all the information activity with the vendor.

Having a successful DAM system is an ongoing process that requires the leadership of a DAM Champion. The system needs someone to guide it to ensure it continues to meet the need of their organization. By keeping the users, management and the vendor all in sync, the DAM Champion helps to provide an important tool that lets their organization operate more efficiently.

A Simple Introduction to Metadata

Metadata is a term that’s used a lot when discussing digital asset management (DAM) and content management systems, or any system that that manages assets like images, videos and design documents. It can be a deep and complex topic and those new to these systems can quickly get overwhelmed trying to understand exactly what metadata is and how it’s used. So here’s a simple introduction to get you started.

What is Metadata?
Literally speaking, metadata is data about data. In the world of DAM and content management systems, it’s information about the assets managed by these systems. This information describes the asset regarding the content, where it came from, how it was used, how it’s allowed to be used or technical details of the file.

Types of Metadata
In the broadest terms, there are three type of metadata:

Technical: This includes the kind of information that is automatically detected and takes into account the file type, file size, creation date, camera information and geolocation coordinates.

Business: Information that’s assigned to an asset that supports the proper business usage and might include things like SKU number, product line, campaign, regions, partner/client, copyright, usage rights and usage history.

Descriptive: This is information that describes the content of the asset using keywords and captions as well as tags and category assignments that indicate what is depicted in the asset.

How is Metadata Used?
There are three primary funtions that metadata can perform for you:

  • Help you find what you’re looking for. When you search, you’re using metadata either as keywords, phrases, categories or filters to get and narrow-down your search results.
  • Give you information about what you’ve found: Once you’ve found the asset or assets that you’re looking for, the metadata lets you see the rest of the information associated with them. For example, if you search by a descriptive term then you can also see the usage rights. If you search by a SKU number you can also see where that image might have been previously used.
  • Perform automated tasks: Most DAM systems and other databases can perform automated tasks such as sending out alerts when usage rights for an asset are about to expire, automatically archiving older assets or changing access permissions for an asset based on a “release date.” All of these tasks rely on metadata to determine what happens.

This high-level view of metadata can be a useful introduction for those new to the topic and a reference point even for those who have a basic understanding of the subject but seek more clarity. A DAM or content management system is only as useful as the metadata in it. So, understanding the fundamentals of metadata is the key to having a useful, and therefore successful, system.

5 Things You Need to Know When Managing Video in Your DAM

We live in a world of multichannel marketing, with . Each channel uses different media types, with video playing an increasingly important role for web and mobile devices.

Most digital asset management (DAM) systems used by marketing departments and other departments were designed for “still” assets, such as photos, graphics, design documents and PDFs.  From the DAM’s point of view, these media types have a lot in common. They can be represented by a single thumbnail or preview, and any tags or descriptions used apply to the entire file. And almost no matter how large the file, the bandwidth and processing power don’t become bottlenecks when ingesting or viewing them.

Enter video. To a DAM it’s more than just another media type, it’s a different beast altogether. Now there’s the element of time, so tags are specific to scenes and not necessarily to the entire file. There are a huge variety of file types that potentially need to be transcoded, and many users won’t have the tools to do this on their computer. And file sizes can be enormous, straining storage capacity, bandwidth and processing power.

There are systems dedicated to managing large video files, but these are highly specialized for the needs of broadcast or commercial video production. As a result, they tend to be expensive, difficult to use for most marketing staff and don’t handle non-video media types particularly well.

If you are planning to manage video in your corporate DAM system, keep these things in mind:

  • You can never have enough storage, bandwidth or processing power.
  • Use a system that lets you add tags within a video, so searches can take you straight to the scene that you’re looking for.
  • Unlike still formats, many video formats are proprietary. To properly work with these formats you’ll need to be sure that the transcoding software you use can handle them properly.
  • Make sure your system provides low-res streaming previews of the videos. Otherwise the users will need to download the original file to view the contents of the video. This can painful (and network-clogging) when done over a local network (LAN) and virtually impossible over the Internet.
  • If you want a system that allows users to retrieve the video in something other than the original format, decide whether you want to have the transcoding done before ingest or after. If you choose before, you will use more storage but the file will start to download immediately. If you choose afterwards, you’ll need less storage but users will have to wait while the file is processed before it’s downloaded, which could take a considerable amount of time for longer videos.

Welcome to our new blog!

Welcome to our new blog! With the recent redesign of our site, we are adding a blog to provide you with insights and commentary about managing your digital media content that we hope you’ll find useful and informative.

Here is what you can expect from our upcoming blogposts:

  • Examples of best practices for managing and delivering marketing material, images, graphics, video and more, within your office or around the world
  • Tips on how to ensure a successful deployment of new systems (or expanding existing ones) through proper planning and getting the necessary user buy-in.
  • Insight into how leading marketing departments and creatives are using technology to streamline their work process
  • Commentary on news and trends that affect marketing staff and others who need to manage and distribute design, graphic and media files.

We’re looking forward to providing you with helpful information and observations.

Share this:

Even after using Cumulus for years, you showed me new ways we can use it that should really improves our work flow and save an incredible amount of time.

Adam Hunter, LMN Architects