The University of Washington is one of the most well-known and successful names in college athletics. Its trophy case is full of conference and national championships, and its alumni include all-time greats like 2008 Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants and NFL Hall of Famer Warren Moon.
With such a strong presence on the college sports landscape, the Huskies’ athletics department remains a busy place. From team marketing to media requests, the department handles all things sports for UW, and its place in the public spotlight means that media requests come fast and furious – especially during football and basketball season.
The Challenge: Wearing Out the Playbook
The Huskies’ global presence creates a demand for high-quality images from just about everywhere: college sports websites, newspapers, television and even internal departments needing images for marketing and communications.
In the past, all image requests funneled down to the athletics department’s staff. That meant postponing whatever task was at hand to dig up an image, send it to the requester and verify that it was appropriate for the situation. If it didn’t work, the staff member would have to begin the search process all over again.
Because each person in the organization had their own unique method of archiving, locating the best image sometimes turned into the proverbial “needle in a haystack.” With constant demand coming from both in and outside the university, other projects could quickly experience day-to-day schedule slips. This system didn’t allow any external access to photo archives; all searching, cataloging and updating had to be done by hand.
This manual-intensive effort meant that updating required extra time, as images had to be properly processed by the department before being made available – and even then, requests could only go by verbal or written descriptions of what they needed, not specific examples.
The athletics department recognized the need to upgrade its technology and began the search for a digital asset management (DAM) solution.
The Solution: Adopting a New Strategy
After receiving a recommendation from a peer at another university, UW Athletic Director Richard Kilwein elected to go with Webdam for its DAM. The reasoning was simple: the Huskies needed a combination of structure, search capability and accessibility. Webdam provided all of that and more.
- STRUCTURE: The easy-to-use Webdam user interface fulfills the need for a stable, structured interface for both external requests and back-end administration.
- SEARCH CAPABILITY: One of the biggest issues facing the athletic department was the level of disorganization within the photo archives. Webdam provides a single-source archive that’s easy to sort, tag and update for more effective searches.
- ACCESSIBILITY: Under the old system, each request – whether originating from an on-campus department or outside media – had to be handled by a staff member. Webdam gives each user their own account so they can search the archives themselves, allowing requesters to find exactly what they need without having to go through a middleman.
The Results: Cruising to Victory
Webdam instantly made a world of difference for the Huskies athletic department. Its requester/photographer accessibility essentially removed the burden of retrieving/adding images from the staff, allowing them to work in a much more focused and efficient manner.
“In other words, project manager, graphic designers and others don’t have to call our office to request a photo, and our staff doesn’t have to spend time looking for something that suits their needs,” says Kilwein. He also stated that the platform’s intuitive interface is essentially “dummy-proof” and simplifies the process for everyone involved. For the actual archives, the addition of meta tags makes the search process more user-friendly and efficient.
One of the unique benefits of Webdam is its upload/FTP process, which essentially gives photographers the ability to upload at any time. Kilwein noted that this adds much more flexibility in terms of coverage – photos can actually be added to the archive while games are still being played, giving media what they needed far earlier than previously available.
From a human resources perspective, Kilwein calls Webdam “a blessing.” The Huskies’ staff members didn’t plan on spending the bulk of their time sifting through photo archives, yet that process often ate up more time than anticipated. Not only was it time consuming, it heightened the intensity of deadlines and other project goals, adding an unnecessary level of stress to the department. With Webdam removing that burden, the office is more efficient and delivers a better, more focused effort.
“The simple fact that we can now provide photography to our users in a much more timely manner and become more efficient in our core duties is critical,” said Kilwein. “It has also eliminated much of the disconnect that occurs in project management situations.”
Kilwein cited the specific example of an eight-page, full-color brochure for the Huskies’ men’s basketball team. Before Webdam, the marketing department would send a designer to the department to work with a staff member on poring through countless photo archives for an appropriate image. With Webdam, Kilwein simply sets up an account for the designer so he can independently research images and work independent of the limited staff within the athletic department.
From conception to completion, the photo process – something that used to potentially take hours, if not an entire work day — eats up only a few minutes of account management time for Kilwein without affecting the rest of his staff.
With Webdam, the University of Washington Huskies’ athletics department essentially removes a time-consuming and laborious activity from its to-do list. While it streamlines things internally, the easy access and deep search capabilities of Webdam also fulfills external needs faster and easier than ever before.
“Centralizing our photography will provide huge long-term benefits for our organization as we continue to try to deal with the issues that arise from changes in technology,” said Kilwein. “We are thrilled with our experience with Webdam and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to become more efficient and expand their digital archives.”