Manage Those Assets

If you aren’t taking precious care to capture, organize, and protect your source files, then you’re throwing away money.

Sadly, I see this all the time. A client would like to update a course, but that quick update instead becomes a complete rebuild because:

  • The files were on a drive, but the drive was corrupted.

  • That dude who worked on the project left the organization. We don't know where his files are.

  • I forgot to get the files from the vendor, and they don't have them anymore.

  • The vendor doesn't provide source files.

The list goes on and on, but you get the point.

There are asset management systems out there that can support this process, but great asset management can be achieved using two key things: a safe storage location and a process. The safe storage location is the easiest part of the equation.

Safe Storage

A storage location should be private and backed up. That could be an internal drive that is backed up by your IT department. Or it could be a cloud-based system that allows you to restore files. There are many practical solutions here, and once you outline your process (who, what, where) you’ll be in a position to choose a storage location that works.

It's not the best idea to make your storage location accessible to the whole company, as someone could accidentally delete something important. Consider assigning different permission levels (Read Only, Read Write, etc.) depending on a person’s role. For instance, maybe the Instructional Designers need to have read/write access to all the files, while trainers may only need to have read/write or read only permissions for the ILT or presentation materials.

Creating an Asset Management Process

Sometimes organizations think that a content or asset management system will solve all their problems (“shiny thing syndrome”), but without a process it’s less than of half the equation. The best system I've seen was just an internal shared drive with appropriate permissions assigned to the appropriate parties. Not elaborate in the slightest.

Safe storage alone is not enough to fix all the example problems listed. Creating and implementing a process is the harder part. There are two things that make this challenging.

First, we live in a world of rapid design where anyone can be a creator. It can be hard to even identify everyone who is making courses at your organization.

Secondly, many large organizations have global training departments. Once you identify the key players globally, it can be even harder to get them to agree to store their files in a centralized place. This requires buy-in and alignment between multiple parties, groups, and departments, and this is where people get hung up.

The first step in alignment is education. Implementing a process requires an awareness of why content management is important and a basic understanding of what a source file is.

If you’re hung up on the process, start small. Don’t get into the weeds just yet. First focus on the three big items:

  • Who is responsible for identifying and storing files?

  • What should be stored?*

  • Where should it be stored?

You can go much deeper into things like required folder structures and naming conventions later, but when alignment is a struggle, start with the basics of who, what, and where.

In situations where a centralized process has failed, have different groups define their process in a way that meets the ultimate goal: that when a course or other learning object needs to be updated, the source file is accessible at that time.

This may mean that ILT materials are stored in a different location than eLearning. While it may not be ideal, as long as the files get saved and those that make updates know where to access the files, you are leaps and bounds better off than where you started.

*It’s important to revisit the “what” here. If you’re struggling with what should be stored and who owns it, you might need to define the “what.” Looking at the longevity or intended shelf life of the content as well as the cost of the content will help you define what’s important at your organization. For example: You might not get Pat in IT on board with saving all of his quick help tutorials in your storage location, but if Pat’s inexpensive videos don’t have a long shelf life because technology is constantly changing then that’s ok. Different organizations may have different definitions of what should be stored.

As with most problems in life, there isn’t one easy answer that covers all situations. The information offered here is based on lessons learned, and what I've personally seen work well and fail miserable at different organizations.