GSD&M ‘learns how to fish’ with Nuxeo Platform

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Full-service advertising agency GSD&M has migrated its heavy digital assets from Documentum to Nuxeo Platform. Along the way, the company’s IT team has acquired the skills to develop further applications on the platform itself, and has its sights set on deploying Nuxeo in other areas of the business beyond Digital Asset Management.

Case study key facts

Organisation GSD&M – a full-service advertising agency, headquartered in Austin, Texas and part of the Omnicom Group.
Industry Advertising
Current goals Following increasing frustration with the ability of Documentum technology to meet its needs, GSD&M has worked to migrate all existing Digital Asset Management (DAM) assets from Documentum onto Nuxeo, and look for further ways to utilise Nuxeo Platform across other areas of the business.
Current approach GSD&M is pursuing a phased approach to its DAM project. The goal of the first phase was to set up the platform and port over functionality from current DAM into Nuxeo; the second phase concentrates on migrating all of the existing DAM assets ionto Nuxeo; and the third phase 3 aims to explore Nuxeo Platform’s capabilities beyond DAM (for example, re-implementing the company’s intranet / extranet).
Outcome Phase 1 has been successfully completed, Phase 2 is ongoing, and Phase 3 exploration is currently underway. GSD&M reports that end users are “very happy” with Nuxeo’s capabilities, and its IT team has seen a significant reduction in support calls.
Tools and suppliers used Nuxeo Platform

Organisation background

GSD&M is a full service advertising agency, founded in 1971 and headquartered in Austin, Texas (with a satellite office in Chicago, Illinois). Since 1998 it has been part of the Omnicom Group (alongside agencies BBDO, DDB Worldwide and TBWA Worldwide).

For this report, MWD Advisors spoke to Jerry Rios, GSD&M’s CTO.

Project background

GSD&M’s creative processes consume and product large ‘heavy’ digital assets (photos, videos), which for obvious reasons it doesn’t want to leave “sitting out on file-shares”. In 2006 it embarked upon a journey to manage these assets, settling on Documentum Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system as a platform for its Digital Asset Management (DAM) capabilities. The company describes ongoing development with the solution as “slow”, increasingly relying on plugins and local client-based applications for functionality.

GSD&M decided to replace Documentum at the heart of its DAM capability because it felt the direction the vendor was going in at the time “didn’t match where GSD&M wanted to go”. The company’s needs had evolved; its end-users had begun to want the same ease-of-use as they saw in best-in-class consumer apps, and IT wanted to move away from supporting a system that relied on browser plugins to work effectively.

The project to migrate from Documentum has been driven by the Enterprise Team within GSD&M’s IT function.

Implementation characteristics and status

Although GSD&M initially found Documentum to be a good fit for its DAM needs, six years on (in 2012) it started to take a fresh look at the market for ECM / DAM tools and Rios reports that he “liked where some of the open source vendors seemed to be going”.

At the RFP stage GSD&M looked at two providers with cloud-based offerings: Nuxeo and Alfresco. Nuxeo won the contract, signed in 2013, because it was (as Rios describes) “an open service, robust development platform (not reliant on client plugins)”. Rios also found it “not as complex as other solutions they tried to stand up” and “affordable”.

Rios describes the first phase of GSD&M’s adoption of Nuxeo as the setting-up of the platform, and porting over functionality from its current DAM (Documentum) into Nuxeo. Phase 2 has been defined as completing the migration of all of the existing DAM assets from Documentum into Nuxeo; finally, a third phase aims to explore Nuxeo Platform’s capabilities beyond DAM (for example, porting over the company’s intranet / extranet from its current home). The hope is that it will be possible to create a single management platform to use across GSD&M’s content needs.

Following time spent at a Nuxeo conference that enabled conversations with Nuxeo executives and customers, GSD&M went ‘all-in’ quickly, without a pilot, as it felt Nuxeo was “just what it was looking for”.

The approach

Strategy

Rios describes GSD&M’s adoption of Nuxeo as “a bit tactical, a bit strategic”. The company’s overall strategy in this area has revolved around making information searchable, discoverable and workable: and with this initiative in particular, GSD&M’s aim was to implement a DAM capability that would enable employees to easily move between different client accounts (and have access to appropriate information at each point) and so deliver internal efficiencies. The enabler for this has been the creation of a standardised approach to managing content and repurposing it.

Organisation and people

Adoption

Adoption has been “organic”, with lots of time spent in what Rios describes as “the Documentum replacement era”, but also lots of time spent understanding what people want going forward. He also describes the process as having been “fairly easy” because his team engaged stakeholders to understand what they wanted and needed as they went along (and as they learned more about what Nuxeo could do for them). The team identified top-level stakeholders for each user group, and used formal project management methodologies when engaging with them.

GSD&M’s account leadership team has 20 or more people using Nuxeo on a daily basis. More widely, the overall agency team of 400+ has around 300 people using a Nuxeo-based content format translation application, built by the company, on a weekly-to-monthly basis – to ingest, review or repurpose assets.

After the initial roll-out of Nuxeo Platform, GSD&M’s IT team hasn’t initiated any formal communications with business teams outside IT, other than fielding personnel to attend occasional meetings with production teams and reviewing with them any outstanding issues with the applications it supports. The responsibility for driving adoption primarily rests with the company’s Director of Studio Services (as it’s this Director’s team that uses the product heavily on a day-to-day basis).

Rios reports that “overall, people have been very happy with Nuxeo’s capabilities”. Moreover, Rios has noticed the instances of support calls “dropping off significantly” since end-users’ applications no longer have dependencies on Java plugins.

Roles and resources

Although Nuxeo has described its product as being built “for developers by developers” Rios feels it “hasn’t forgotten business users”, and cites the Nuxeo Studio configuration and customisation environment as an example of how Nuxeo Platform capabilities are exposed in a way that non-programmers can work with.

GSD&M did initially make use of an external development company, along with assistance from Nuxeo itself, but for the most part the project to deploy Nuxeo Platform has mainly relied on the company’s own internal resources. It gave itself a soft deadline for a Phase 3, which involves moving everything into Nuxeo. The company has reached the stage where it’s no longer storing new content in Documentum.

Rios reports that the company’s seen no big organisational shake-up since its Documentum days; the framework was already in place for how to operate, and this hasn’t changed. Regarding the need to create new roles: the move to Nuxeo has created agility and efficiency for business teams because users don’t have to ask IT to find content. However this does assume that asset metadata is correct, which Rios reminds is the biggest hurdle. His advice is: “you need to capture as much as you can, and do this pragmatically, but beware that this does break down if you rely on people who don’t themselves have time to do it well”.

Governance

Rios’ team has tried to leverage the company’s existing asset metadata structures as it’s shifted from Documentum to Nuxeo Platform. As it carried out the migration planning work, the team re-checked with stakeholder groups across GSD&M prior to roll-out to ensure existing governance frameworks would still work for them.

The team reports in terms of user experience, that the biggest change required from its Documentum-based applications was a change to the user interface specifically relating to navigation.

Technology and infrastructure

From the outset, GSD&M has been clear that it doesn’t want to rely on a pure SaaS content management facility. It wanted its heavy content assets to remain on-premise, so as not to impair performance across its production process. In addition, GSD&M uses Microsoft SharePoint on-premise to store other assets related to production jobs, and it wants to be able to co-ordinate the management of all assets across these systems.

To enable this co-ordination, GSD&M has built, and made extensive use of, a custom application called Integrated Work Order. This application programmatically creates ‘digital job jackets’ – folders that contain references to job-related ‘heavy asset’ content within Nuxeo. At the same time it creates parallel folders in SharePoint; users are able to navigate between the two systems via a link on SharePoint that points to the job jacket on Nuxeo.

This use of ‘digital job jackets’ had been in place prior to the investment in Nuxeo: previously, references were managed across SharePoint and Documentum. The key technology requirement GSD&M had of Nuxeo was for an application that would instantiate content production jobs with metadata to assist with workflow and re-use across projects.

With the Nuxeo Platform in place, GSD&M has integrated it with MS SharePoint for internal collaboration (and storage of ‘light’ digital assets). In the future, the company also plans integration with GSD&M’s financial system to acquire job numbers; and also further integration with SharePoint for the job jacketing system (Rios describes it as currently a “loose integration”). No additional integrations are planned, but GSD&M is keeping a watch on Nuxeo’s progress with Adobe products.

The results

Rios reports his team encountered no resistance against the use of Nuxeo technology for its DAM system, and some positive ‘unintended consequences’. GSD&M is part of the Omnicom group, alongside the TBWA agency. After hearing about GSD&M’s experience with Nuxeo at an internal conference, TBWA’s IT executives were impressed enough by the outcome to then decide to adopt Nuxeo for itself for TBWA’s own DAM system.

GSD&M took the decision that it wanted its IT team to understand how to work with Nuxeo Platform, so rather than feeling that they have to continue paying a developer to work with them for every content application development project Rios says they’ve “learned how to fish” for themselves. There have been a few application development hurdles, but nothing that’s delayed the overall outcome that the company’s achieved so far.

Regarding the financial results of GSD&M’s initiative to shift from Documentum to Nuxeo, Rios hasn’t performed any formal ROI calculations. However one clear benefit for business teams is that managers can make decisions to move people between client accounts, and feel confident that they’ll know to find and use content efficiently.

The company’s ultimate goal – not yet reached – is for it to be able to use Nuxeo as a single, unified asset management platform. This would completely remove the need for it to have automated systems create SharePoint ‘job jackets’, and remove the need to store content in SharePoint.

Recommendations for adopters

In our conversations with GSD&M’s CTO Jerry Rios for this case study, he offered several recommendations for organisations embarking on a similar initiative:

  • Pragmatically capture metadata (from original file structures) where you can. Kick-starting this metadata process initially will help compensate for any problems with manual metadata enrichment that might come later.
  • Look at the content management models and operating frameworks you already have first (as GSD&M did with its previous Documentum system) and check back to see if all they’re still relevant and fit-for-purpose first, then adopt (rather than try and fix it later).
  • Make sure there are no dependencies on local application clients (Java, etc.) or plugins. Rios describes it as being “very liberating” from an IT administration point of view that Nuxeo is a web-based platform, and IT can manage it more securely (and roll it out more easily) than it could with capabilities spread across a core product and a widely-distributed set of browser plugins.
  • Pay a visit to a potential suppliers, their delivery partners, and existing customers. Visits enable you “to get a feel” for what suppliers are really How happy are existing customers, how do suppliers and partners react to feedback (is it truly a partnership), etc?
  • Conduct a formal discovery phase. This is vital to enable you to build what real users need… not what IT thinks they do!

Best practice insights

When GSD&M decided that its incumbent DAM product (Documentum) wasn’t going in the direction it felt it needed to go, it set about surveying the competition from open source / open core alternatives, and settled on Nuxeo in 2013. Crucially for GSD&M, it was looking not only for an answer to its pressing DAM migration needs, but also for an extensible platform it felt it could itself build upon to develop future applications in other areas of its business.

The company sensibly pursued a staged approach that has delivered significant early wins in terms of DAM replacement and migration. In fact, it’s been so successful that other businesses within GSD&M’s parent group have decided to follow suit with Nuxeo for their own DAM replacement projects. Not all of the DAM project has been focused on technology of course: GSD&M’s CTO Jerry Rios highlights the importance of good adoption practices relating to the management of content models and metadata, to ensure that people can get the best out of any given technology.

Building on these successes, and now with Nuxeo skills embedded in its workforce, GSD&M is in a strong position to leverage the platform in other areas – without an over-reliance on expensive specialist contractors, or the client-side plugins that previously caused its IT team so much of a support headache.

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