Trees can breathe a sigh of relief. According to a 2003 study done by the University of California, Berkeley's School of Information Management and Systems, only a scant 0.01% of the nearly five exabytes of information created in 2002 was stored on paper. Nearly all the rest of it—92%—was created or stored in a digital format. While this lets the rainforests off the hook, it's created a whole new set of challenges for companies that need to be able to create, access, and use the growing stores of digital information.
The following five companies are from a variety of different industries, but they have one thing in common: They're on the cutting edge when it comes to developing, using, and dispatching digital content on a daily basis.
TracyLocke Checks Out TheLibrary
Globalization may be a marketing buzzword, but advertising agency TracyLocke knows that managing ad campaigns down to the local level for a corporate clientele that includes Pepsi Co. and Pizza Hut is just as critical. "In the past," says Nancy Ross, a partner at TracyLocke, "ad agencies used one national campaign," whether they were running Super Bowl halftime ads or gas station promotions in Kansas, "[but] all projects are not created equal." Although companies like Pepsi require big agencies capable of deploying largescale campaigns, major agencies often weren't agile enough to recreate those same campaigns quickly and cheaply in local markets. Most of that work would be contracted to smaller, in-town firms, which was not an ideal solution, since it meant sending work (and fees) out-of-house.
Ross recalls what TracyLocke's asset management solution was before it went digital: a "human assets manager, with a binder of disk directories." In mid-2004, the leadership at TracyLocke decided to scrap the old hand-filed system. It was replaced with ClearStory System's Active Media, a hosted digital asset management (DAM) system that was targeted to other ad agencies, media producers, and publishing firms.
"The difference between the old system and our new one," explains Ross, "is like the difference between waiting for room service and having the convenience of self-service." In other words, employees are individually empowered by having "all of the existing assets available 24-7." They've dubbed it "TheLibrary." Instead of one "human assets manager," TracyLocke now has two employees responsible for uploading and tagging all the material posted through the network, although Ross anticipates that before long, the uploading process will be automated to save time.
Since its implementation, Ross has noticed three major changes in the way TracyLocke does business—in ad production, resource sharing, and collaborative capacity. Active Media tools are integrated into workers' desktop stations, providing them with a centralized common workspace where they can easily access, store, share, and edit existing assets. Ad campaigns, TracyLocke found, don't come in small packages. "Even small promotions require files ranging from 10 to 100 megabytes," says Susan Worthy, VP of marketing at ClearStory. Content also comes in a variety of packages: To address the myriad formats for digital assets, the software allows users to see and describe the whole range of files and content.
Since the system is browser-based, TheLibrary can travel with road warriors to just about anywhere they can log onto the internet. Ad execs can get input from clients and partner ad agencies by allowing outside parties to access selected parts of the database remotely.
TheLibrary also manages TracyLocke's licensed and copyrightsensitive materials. Permissions can expire in a matter of days or weeks, so keeping creative teams on top of the changes was cumbersome. Now, as soon as a digital asset reaches the end of its license, the asset is marked as expired—not completely removed from the system, but clearly off-limits for further use. And when workers see that a material has passed its date, they can reapply quickly to limit lost time and legal fees.
Users can search keywords, assigned to assets by topic, for relevant material or past campaigns. Employees can, at a glance, take into account old ideas and new additions and see what's happening with similar projects across the company. PowerPoint presentations, an integral part of ad pitches, are easily built and shared.
Since the switch, departments across the company have grown to meet the volume of work that can now be completed from within the agency. As TracyLocke prepares to upgrade from Active Media 5.5 to 7 early next year, Ross says that TheLibrary is now a valuable asset in its own right: "It allows us to get materials out there that are more high-end than they were in the past."
CB Richard Ellis Gets into the Digital Market
"If I had predicted seven years ago where we'd be today," admits Factiva's VP of products Dennis Cahill, "I would've gotten it completely wrong." It's been seven years since Dow Jones Interactive (DJI) and Reuters Business Briefing (RBB) decided to join their vast information resources into one digital news archive for businesses. The result was Factiva, a company whose interactive news delivery tools now cater to 80% of Fortune 500 companies and 1.8 million subscribers worldwide.
One such customer, CB Richard Ellis, found itself looking for a solution that would help it address its complex business needs. Besides brokering real estate transactions, the company offers global investment opportunities, industry analysis, financial advice, and consulting services to a corporate clientele—and it does so on a global scale. Like many of its fellow Fortune 500 peers, it decided to try Factiva's web-based business information aggregation and delivery service Factiva.com, a subscription site that filters and feeds news from over 10,000 sources coming from as many countries as CB Richard Ellis itself resides in. They started with a small-scale, 50-employee trial. According to Wendy Sherwood, director of marketing communications in CB Richard Ellis's web services department, "The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone agreed that Factiva.com would help them with prospecting, client services, and day-to-day business."
The trial's success convinced company executives that Factiva's digital information resources would be a powerful asset company-wide. As a result, more than 2,000 employees at CB Richard Ellis now have access to Factiva.com's news services.
In addition to having the vast pool of resources to draw from, Factiva.com users find that the site's search technology saves them time by pinpointing the most relevant results among thousands of hits. Dennis Cahill, Factiva's VP of products, credits the site's use of text mining, which scans a document's entire text for words or phrases. "Unlike data mining," says Cahill, referring to the typical search engine practice of only searching site metadata, "text mining can extract meaning from unstructured data, such as web pages or many years of news stories." Searchers on Factiva.com can store results using the site's "briefcase" feature and refind them again in later sessions.
Since information needs vary widely from office to office—and even employee-to-employee—CB Richard Ellis workers are encouraged to cultivate their own individual and group news pages via Factiva.com. There they can view a custom-tailored set of digital information that serves specific locations, client types, and industries.
"The biggest change I've seen in the way people work is that smart organizations are realizing the need to save time and money by placing critical news and information directly into workflow applications that employees use every day," says Cahill. To that end, Factiva has been releasing programs and applications that are integrated directly into the corporate intranets, web programs such as Yahoo! Search Subscriptions, and desktop tools such as Microsoft Office. CB Richard Ellis employees don't have to jump from source to source to find data—instead, they can find it all through a central point in their work desktop.
Pleased with its Factiva.com experience, CB Richard Ellis is now investigating other ways to manage its digital content through Factiva services. Currently, Factiva's professional services consulting department is working with CB Richard Ellis to develop a taxonomy across all of the company's digital information assets. This massive project involves digitizing the company's information resources then integrating them alongside third-party information from sources like Factiva.com and clients. "We want our professionals to go to our intranet, enter a client name, and retrieve news and financial information from Factiva along with information on the services we provide for that client, contact information for the professionals serving that client, relevant proposals, presentations, and more," says Sherwood of the proposed system.
With this ambitious overhaul, CB Richard Ellis hopes to stay on top of its game by exploring new digital resources—and using digital content to tap into what it's already got.