Aldis, digital asset management


A DAM Story In Two Acts

Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW) is a non-profit organization with a clear mission: to increase the sale and consumption of Wisconsin dairy products. That might sound pretty simple, but it’s actually an increasingly complicated juggling act.


A small creative team plans and produces marketing campaigns and promotional programs, and it’s all funded by Wisconsin dairy farm families, literally.

So everyone involved keeps a close eye on costs, and they manage a LOT of media – thousands of product photographs, videos, social media posts, and even recipes. They're sharing digital assets with a wide range of retailers, industry partners, and dozens of content-producing agencies… and there’s an always-on need to synchronize across production/project-management workflows, inside and outside DFW.

Oh, and the number of assets grows every year, as does the complexity of those interlocking relationships.

Right in the middle of it all is a woman named Mary Litviak, DFW Asset Librarian and Graphic Designer. “It's a unique way of doing things, for sure, but I think it's creative, and it works, and I’m proud to stand behind the hardworking dairy farmers in our state,” said Mary.

Act One

Optimizing an Existing DAM

Mary is unique: a creative person who’s also a natural librarian. “I’m a designer, but I’m really into process. I guess I’m a double-edged sword.”

She brought both edges with her when she joined DFW (then called the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board) in 2000, just one year after the organization adopted a Canto Cumulus DAM. The work was evolving from analog to digital; manual copying and shipping of discs, tapes, and drives was giving way to a genuine digital asset management system.

To help her channel her natural librarian instincts into becoming a bona fide digital librarian, Mary discovered the information-rich conferences of the Henry Stewart Group. “Their conferences put me in the atmosphere of talking to other DAM people,” said Mary. “That's really where I learned everything I needed to know about DAM.”

As the work became more complex – Mary estimates that the DFW library has grown from about 1,000 assets to more than 100,000 in twenty years – the Canto system was upgraded. But that upgrade left the DFW team in a quandary. They now had a system with more firepower and lots of potential but lacked the staff to optimize it because Mary and the DFW team had their hands full managing the run-the-business pipeline. They needed someone to help communicate with Canto, to make sure that DFW got the most out of the upgraded DAM system.


In 2019 she found that help in Aldis, at one of those Henry Stewart conferences, in a breakout round-table discussion. “We heard Mary describe her challenges,” said Phil Seibel, Aldis Librarian, MLIS, “and we said, ‘Hey, we can help!’”

Mary remembers it this way: “I was sitting with this guy who was helping someone from another company, and as I just listened to all the answers that came out of his mouth, I'm like, ‘this guy really knows what he's talking about. This is the kind of guy we need to fill all the potholes in our road.’”

That pothole-filler was Phil, of course. “Since we’ve worked with so many unique DAM implementations, we can bridge the gap between what an end-user is asking for and how a software developer actually executes the solution,” said Phil. “You're not thinking about how an SQL query needs to be typed out. That’s our job. We become the translators.”

Aldis Makes (Any) DAM Work

Unlike a lot of players in the DAM marketplace, the Aldis team loves to play the middle-man, and they’re proudly system-agnostic. “There are a lot of really great programmers out there who create great systems. And there are a lot of wonderful, creative minds who are very, very good at their jobs and need those systems,” said Phil. “It's difficult to get those two groups to communicate well, but seeing the lights go on between the two teams at the ‘crosswalk’ is the part I enjoy.”

For DFW, that meant not only helping maximize the upgraded platform, it meant developing a sustainable, searchable system with a keyword architecture and types of metadata the whole DFW organization could use – not just the creative team.

Act Two

Finding the Right (New) DAM...and Migrating to it Successfully

By 2020, the DAM had been adopted across the DFW organization and their partner network… but that introduced a new challenge. 


“Canto was an ideal product and it carried us many years, but now we needed more,” said Mary. “More project management capabilities, more of an enterprise solution, which the current system was never meant to be.”

Compounding the problem: the COVID pandemic, and the abrupt change to a fully-remote workforce. Workflow integration and system-wide project management became even more difficult. In short, DFW realized that it was time to look for a new, holistic DAM solution, and they turned to Aldis to help lead the search.

“There are, you know, 40,000 vendors out there,” said Mary. “I didn't know the first thing about investigating or researching all these vendors… but Aldis does. And they knew us: who we were, what we were trying to do, what kind of business we were in.”

The Search Process

According to Phil, to identify the ideal set of system requirements, the Aldis team frames the conversation around three questions: 

  • What’s working in your current system? 
  • What's broken? 
  • What's on your ‘Pie in the Sky’ wish list?

“Then we made a bullseye graphic on a Miro interactive whiteboard and just started putting up virtual post-it notes,” said Phil. And we talked with Mary and the team about any and all possible features of the new system.”

The Aldis team is constantly canvassing the DAM marketplace to stay abreast of new vendors, products, digital asset management best practices, and trends emerging from existing ones. Using that knowledge, they identified a short list of about a half-dozen vendor-candidates for consideration, based on the criteria that bubbled up in the guided conversations with the DFW team. And then they gave each of those vendors a briefing, to make sure the demo process was tailored to DFW’s needs – not the bells and whistles the vendor wants to showcase.

“Yeah, DAM vendors all have their sort of sales-y demo that they’ll do, and you can’t blame them,” said Phil. “But we can talk to them in their language and make sure they understand the real-world features we need to see in the demo, not just some cool WYSIWYG* stuff, built in a vacuum.” 

*Phil Translator: “What You See Is What You Get”

After the first round of demo sessions, the combined DFW-Aldis team met, compared notes, made a few cuts to the candidate list, and then provided feedback to the remaining ones. After another few rounds of meetings, the choice was made. The new DFW digital asset management system (as of January, 2024) is Acquia.

"We just wouldn't be where we are without their help.
They’re just part of our team and we couldn't be happier."
~ Mary L., DFW

Migration, Migration, Migration

Of course, choosing the new system was really only the beginning. Migrating from the old system to the new Acquia system was itself a months-long process, and once again, Aldis helped DFW navigate the process. It’s way more than just moving assets from one database to another.

“Migration is its own sub-category of work, for sure,” said Phil. “There’s a ton of things to consider. What’s the database? How are the APIs built? How are they connected? What kind of programming language is used to put these things together?

“Once we’ve done that due diligence, we can advise – with confidence – about who should do the work. Can it be partially done in-house? Do we need to find a third party for you? Or will we handle it all for you? It depends on the client and the situation, and everyone’s different. But we're just really comfortable in that space.”

Mutual Respect

The Aldis team continues to help DFW with the ongoing work of optimizing the new system. Phil says the real reason for the success of the multi-year relationship between DFW and Aldis comes down to two words. The first one: trust.

“They trust us to give them advice at every phase of this work because they know we’re not ‘selling,’ you know?” said Phil. “They know we only want what’s really best for them.”

The other word: Mary.

“When we first met Mary at the Henry Stewart conference, it was immediately obvious that she brought a seriousness and a level of engagement that would make it possible to work with her and the rest of the team, and be super successful together. She’s the best.”

The feeling is mutual. 

“We just wouldn't be where we are without their help,” said Mary. “It’s much more valuable to have somebody come in with the kind of knowledge Aldis has, and help you along the way, than it is to try to figure it out yourself and pretend that you’re saving time and money… when in fact you’re wasting it.

“They’re excellent partners, and I look forward to every interaction with them. They’re just part of our team and we couldn't be happier having them there.”  

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