Four Things Manufacturers Can Learn from How Zebra Built Its Enterprise DAM Platform


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Imagine your company makes a strategic acquisition of a large business. Along with the customers and products come 15,000 digital assets to help sell those products. The only problem is you need to rebrand all of them, which means changing references to the company name, switching out logos and removing them from photographs, and creating new vanity URLs. You’re required to scrub any mention of the acquired company from all existing assets in 180 days, or you’ll be in breach of contract.

When Zebra Technologies Corp. bought Motorola Solutions’ enterprise business in 2014, this was exactly the scenario the company faced. While Zebra — a manufacturer of automatic identification solutions that works with 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies — met its requirement to update assets, the exercise underscored the company’s need for a more robust digital asset management (DAM) system. They needed a DAM that could handle the velocity of content creation and distribution that the new, larger company would need, as well as one that could manage content across the enterprise, not just for the web team.

Many organizations find that having a DAM system that’s the single source of approved content is foundational technology for delivering personalized experiences to customers, distributors, and partners. The need for such an enterprise-level DAM system jumpstarted Zebra’s technology transformation to become an experience business, and they partnered with ICF Olson, a customer experience agency, to expand and customize their DAM. The collaboration ultimately increased Zebra’s ability to manage content for a variety of constituents, and the speed at which it can intelligently deploy new content in any format and across every channel. What Zebra and ICF Olson accomplished is possible for any manufacturer armed with the right tools and knowledge.

Build your DAM strategy with four factors in mind.
To establish themselves as industry leaders, manufacturers must improve efficiency and implement better business processes. During its merger and DAM expansion, Zebra identified four key areas that all manufacturers should consider when building an enterprise DAM platform:

1. Understand your audiences and their use cases.
Before its Motorola acquisition, Zebra’s DAM was merely a repository for assets used by marketers and a few IT people managing the website. Post-acquisition, Zebra quickly realized it needed to account for many more audiences.

“As a first step, we started categorizing the assets from Motorola into different types, and then into the audiences that we thought used them,” says Samantha Rosa, manager of digital strategy at Zebra. “We netted out five different audience groups — customers, partners, salespeople, marketing agencies, and all employees — and bundled them into three different levels of access.”

Customers mainly receive content as it is displayed online, and use the web interface to access product and solution information, technical support content, and to contact the company for help. Because Zebra’s DAM integrates seamlessly with its website, providing for this audience was easy. Internal marketing employees and marketing agencies that are responsible for the creation and lifecycle of assets need the highest level of access. By contrast, other Zebra employees and partners only need to browse and download.

“The first thing that we ask [people accessing the DAM], based on an understanding of our audiences, is ‘who are you? Are you an employee? Are you a channel partner? Or are you from a marketing agency?’” says Samantha. “And the reason we do that is because we are leveraging groups and tags and permissions to serve only the assets that the audience needs, based on our discovery research with them.”

2. Customize your solution to ensure all technical needs are met.
Once you identify your audiences, and how they need to use digital assets, you’ll be ready to build technical solutions to accommodate different levels of access. During development, you’ll likely identify areas of your platform that you need to customize.

For Zebra, the main need was to allow outside partners and vendors access to the assets they needed in order to support the company’s go-to-market model and marketing initiatives. In conjunction with ICF Olson, they developed the Zebra Media Library as a brand asset portal that gave different access to a variety of external audiences, depending on defined needs and levels of authorization.

A brand portal provides a huge benefit from a customer service standpoint. The easier you make it for your customers and your partners to get access to content, the better the experience will be working with you. Plus, customers already expect personalization. When they login, they expect you to know who they are and provide access to what they need, Fred Faulkner, ICF Olson director of marketing, says.

Another, more technical, challenge for its customers was file size. Says Samantha, “Some of the executable files customers need to download to support their enterprise hardware files are 10 GB — that’s definitely larger than the out-of-the-box limit of 2GB.” Zebra had to figure out creative solutions for allowing content authors to upload 10 GB files without bringing down the production environment, and for allowing users to successfully download those files on the other end.

For marketing employees, agencies, and partners, the biggest challenge was real-time syncing. It was imperative that the content author uploading assets to the DAM be able to see the asset appear in the media library once they hit publish.

When creating customizations, Samantha recommends going in with your eyes wide open. “Have a trusted technology partner, and ask the difficult questions of them, including what features are out of the box now, what’s Adobe working on in the next release, and what truly needs to be customized. Know the advantages and disadvantages of customizing to give yourself a clear upgrade path, and future-proof your DAM.”

3. Develop processes to maintain the integrity of your solution.
Maintaining the integrity and value of an enterprise solution requires defined processes, and those processes should be developed with the goal of ensuring a positive customer experience. The primary feedback Zebra received, for example, was that they needed to make the assets easier to find in a search. That information led to developing a rigorous process around uploading content with enhanced metadata to enable better searching for users of the Zebra Media Library.

To save time in the end, Zebra made a conscious decision to invest more time when adding internal content to its DAM. It developed a comprehensive form for capturing all the necessary information about an individual asset. While Samantha estimates the form will take five minutes to complete, having employees provide all the accurate details up front leads to increased efficiency and productivity. Now, anyone can find just the right asset whenever it’s needed.

However, as Bob Reed, director of client engagement at ICF Olson reminds us, once a process is in place, it’s not completely finished. “You’ll implement a process, but then you’ll need to tweak it. As your assets, metadata, and tags change over time, you’ll need to continually tune it.”

4. Train employees on their role within the technology and processes.
Understanding your company’s core needs, and adopting the technology necessary to meet that need can transform your operations, as Zebra demonstrated. However, the investment will be lost if people aren’t properly trained to use the solution.

Zebra has 120 marketing employees who create content globally, in 15 languages. Therefore, the company has created Wiki pages, a JIRA support board, and training videos to teach them how to tag an asset with metadata to ensure that when it’s pushed to the media library, it’s easily searchable and properly tagged for the right audiences. In-depth training was a calculated investment that was crucial to Zebra’s success, because building a world-class DAM platform is counterproductive without people who can properly operate it.

Zebra has identified 85 different asset types. One example of understanding tagging is defining and communicating whether an asset is a fact sheet, a spec sheet, a success story, or a case study. Identifying the languages for translation is another important consideration, and a valuable piece of metadata for each asset.

“We spent a lot of time thinking through all those things up front, and doing our best to document, and then do some change management activities internally to get folks to adopt them,” says Samantha.

Fast track your enterprise DAM success.
Zebra currently has 87,000 assets in its DAM platform, and anticipates that will steadily grow. The company also continues to evolve and centralize its processes to maintain the integrity of asset information and the Zebra Media Library as a single source of truth for all its audiences.

For additional insights on how you can implement your own brand portal with Adobe Experience Manager Assets, and build customer and partner experiences to improve your business, read more from our #manufacturing series, and download our white paper on how digital experiences are reshaping the customer and supply chain ecosystem.

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