All Posts in Digital Tools

November 12, 2018 -

Improvising with Digital Tools is not a Strategy

Ad hockery

by Kevin Gepford

Great creative work can’t get produced without a great design team.

But success depends on a lot more than just those endpoints. It also hinges on how the great work gets produced.

I’ve always been interested in the middle part — the work-in-progress and the way the media is managed. A major facet of this is technological — what tech gets deployed, and how it’s managed, and ultimately used, by the creative team.

There are a couple of ways that a fail can happen. It might fail by neglect — by the organization ignoring the problem and doing nothing. But also, the organization might identify the needs but take the wrong action and end up with bad technology.

This post is about the first: Neglect.

(I’m not talking about desktop software tools like Adobe Creative Cloud. That’s standard stuff and in most organizations it’s more or less up to date.)

Getting this right takes a lot of work, and so many organizations just throw a couple of tools (a server and a subscription to DropBox) and call it a wrap.

But neglect won’t stop your creative team.

Your team will improvise. They’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done — reaching for something familiar and free, probably a consumer-grade service or sharing site using their personal account if necessary. For example, I’ve seen a professional team of video animators using Vimeo as a place to store their best work, just to have it all in one place where it can be shared, and later submitted for awards. And that’s just one of many examples I could share.

Ad-hoc tools might include:*

  • Email
  • Local media storage
  • FTP
  • Instant Message
  • DropBox
  • Google Drive
  • Vimeo
  • FaceBook
  • YouTube

Important media and information will end up scattered across a porous universe of disconnected silos — email, instant messaging, posting files to an FTP site, a user’s personal drop box or cloud storage, or a consumer-grade video sharing site.

The risks are plenty. What if records of your marketing campaigns are stored on an employee’s personal Google Drive or Facebook account… and that person leaves? What if nobody can remember where the final version of their project files are from a crucial project done six months ago that is now coming back for a second season?

There are a number of well-supported systems available that serve this problem space. Choosing the right provider and system is complex. If this work was easy, we wouldn’t have such a thriving industry of consultants dedicated to assessing the unique challenges and specific needs of your creative organization, and offering up their advice on what to do, and how to do it. On top of that, there’s another tier of consultants waiting in the wings to help out with the implementation.

One great way forward is to take those consultants to heart. Find a good one and let them come in and poke around your organization to get an idea of what you’re doing, and how you do it. Pay well for their sound counsel.

And consider that there is not and may never be one single digital tool to solve all the challenges facing the organization. But there are usage patterns and need themes that can be identified and met using strategic deployment of core tools.

Bottom Line:
Don’t leave it to chance. Organizations must develop a tech strategy based around the documented needs of their creative teams, supporting workflows with digital tools to optimize their work-in-progress and maintain control of their IP.

*Products/vendors mentioned here do not imply any endorsement.

September 19, 2018 -

The “Tech Stack” Trap

Summary: There are numerous ways that workers in today’s digital world wind up using the wrong tools and systems. But it all adds up to one thing: Their jobs are harder. There’s friction and lost opportunity along every step of the way, distorting not only the process, but also the outcomes.

I’ve been the dismayed observer of workgroups being gifted digital tools that are totally wrong for their jobs… and I’ve watched in amazement at the lengths these same users will go — out of frustration — to create clever hacks and workarounds.

My perspective comes from a career in the creative industry (here, and here) prior to moving over to tech/telecomm — but the problem pervades every industry.

One cause is a lack of structure… actually, no structure at all. Users confront a mess of scattered applications (email, spreadsheets, files on a network drive) that evolved and mutated over the ages. I jokingly call this a grassroots tech stack — cobbled together by people just trying to get through the day. Definitely not the result of any systematic approach.

Another cause might be a tool that simply has the wrong focus. Software systems acquired for some specific original purpose are then deployed across the enterprise in ways that would make even the creators of the system cringe.

Read more

October 22, 2017 -

Me, talking about Digital Asset Management

I'm a DAM Champ

I’m a DAM Champ

I recently had a chance to share my thoughts on digital asset management, digital workflows, and creative operations technology with the great folks at Widen.

Digital Asset Management is where it all began for me. I installed my first DAM system more than 10 years ago, in my early days at Comedy Central. That experience sowed the seeds of a growing interest in technology that enables creative teams to thrive — especially tools that help production and creative workflows.

I’ve seen a steady proliferation of systems designed to meet a growing range of use cases. You don’t have to look any further than DAM and Creative Operations conferences — which are experiencing record-breaking attendance, combined with sponsor boom across many areas of specialization.

But even as these systems grow their capabilities and expand their reach, the glue that holds it all together is the foundational need to manage those digital assets in the first place.

You can find my interview on the Digital Asset Management blog — check it out.

Thanks to Melanie Olsen and Nora Gehin!

December 8, 2015 -

Creative Ops: The Problem With Task Management

Task Management

by Kevin Gepford

Within the last year Comedy Central augmented its digital workspace with two new third-party systems, one for task management system and a sister system for project management. This filled a real need; our workflow tool already let users leave notes and comments about the media, and it retained the chain of conversation around a project or asset. But it just wasn’t enough.

So here we go again — creating two more silos of information and communication. Clearly, this went against my conviction that an integration solution should be our first resort. But, a void was filled… however poorly.

Read more

December 3, 2015 -

Creative Ops: The Sweet Spot for a Digital Hub

Sweet Spot

by Kevin Gepford

When it comes to workflow solutions, my presentations at Henry Stewart have espoused a decidedly contrarian point of view, based on my experience and a sound business case at Comedy Central.

Our creative review and approval system is built in house using Ruby on Rails, hosted by Amazon Web Services. We chose not to outsource the creativity that is so vital to our process.

Read more

December 3, 2015 -

Creative Ops: Digital Workspaces Can Get the Last 20%

20 percent

by Kevin Gepford

It’s a big confusing world out there, with solutions offered for every possible workflow challenge. That’s why conferences like the Henry Stewart one I recently attended are so important.

Operations professionals go to find answers and to learn from case studies like mine from Comedy Central to see how other enterprises are dealing with workflow issues. (Read my other blog post about how I helped Comedy Central find its Sweet Spot.)

Attendees are trying to understand the problem space, trying to find the right answers, and hoping to meet very smart and dedicated solution providers and vendors.

Read more