Interview with Anne Gretland, CEO, FotoWare

Anne Gretland
Anne Gretland

“Digital innovation is about how we no longer have to do many small tasks to get the job done or to make something happen.”

Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to be part of FotoWare?

I fell in love with technology when I started working for Microsoft in 1998. I had never before experienced such a passion for technology or seen up close how technology so fundamentally can affect our everyday lives. That’s when knew I belonged in the IT-world, and I have never looked back. It is important for me to represent a company and a solution that I believe in and trust, in addition to working with people that share my values. So, when I was approached about becoming CEO of FotoWare, I immediately felt this was right for me. Their values, their story, and their mission was something that I could identify with, and I knew they had great potential for the future. I think that Digital Asset Management is an essential tool for every organization, as the future is digital, everybody has digital assets, and FotoWare has the solution to manage it.

How do you define “Digital Transformation’ and “Digital Innovation” respectively?

For me, they are both equally important and co-dependent. Certain times innovation drives transformation, and other times during digital transformation companies drive innovation. Digital innovation is about how we no longer have to do many small tasks to get the job done or to make something happen. It just makes our lives easier. Before, we had to park our car, find a meter, put coins in, get a note, and go back to the car to insert it in the window. Now, I drive into the parking space and my car gets automatically registered; where I park, for how long, and the fee is automatically deducted from my card, via an app, that I approve once a week. This transforms the way I live my life and perform my everyday tasks.

I love how digital innovation transforms the world by removing cognitive (human) bias. The Norwegian IT company, Evry, is using robots to hire IT-consultants, and because they are programmed to look for skills and expertise, they do not care about gender, cultural background or names. It only focuses on the hiring criteria. Because of that, Evry increased female hiring. 33% of the 600 hires in the last year, were women. That is an increase from 20% to 33% in a year. And that is pretty amazing.

Digital innovation has also distributed power from a selected few to all. All you need now is the internet and a device, and you can live anywhere in the world and find any information online, read free books and get an education. Now knowledge and education are available to more people, and with knowledge and education comes prosperity. That to me is one of the most critical changes that technology can drive.

What is your company roadmap to lead FotoWare into the highly disruptive Customer Experience landscape?

We strongly believe in innovation, and at the same time make stable, secure and user-friendly solutions. We want to deliver products to the users before they realize the need for them, in the ways they need it. In our road ahead, we aim to keep evolving, keep up with innovation, and continue to either be disruptive or learn from the disruptiveness.

FotoWare’s software helps people create and share stories across the world. We are proud to make a difference in the everyday lives of users handling a large volume of visual files, and we will always need disruptive technology to improve. We need great competitors so that we can continue to outperform each other; continue to make innovative and user-friendly products, and continue to win the customers’ hearts and minds. That way the customer can get the best solution for their needs. The Digital Asset Management industry is one of the most exciting right now because in today’s world, individuals make some of the most stunning and important content! Nowadays, we are all professional photographers, writers, and brand builders and need professional and innovative tools.

What are the major pain points for B2B marketers in the adoption of DAMs for corporate communication?

Adoption barriers are very low for a DAM system, especially in the case of B2B marketing users. Corporate communication departments are already facing the issue of inconsistent branding and wasting time on being a service provider (of the latest logo, PowerPoint slide or product photos). With a central repository, the B2B marketing team could be more organized and ensure that their company’s visuals always look stunning.

There are no requirements for adopting FotoWare – just a couple of hours on getting the system personalized to your needs either by yourself or together with a FotoWare expert. We have online videos, tutorials and technical documentation that are free.

We advise the customer to get involved across the organization, to maximize user adaption and get the most value for money. We have designed our product for multifunctional use because we believe that a user should not need to exit their favorite tool to gain access to marketing materials, photos, videos or other elements. That is why FotoWare has designed a ready plugin for Microsoft Office, and InDesign, which can integrate with a couple of lines of Java code to any web CMS. In this way, a salesperson would always have the latest, approved and correctly licensed marketing graphics available while they are building their presentations. Likewise, a designer would directly access the licensed stock photos or product photoshoots in their InDesign document. And most importantly, your brand will be up to date at every digital touchpoint. This ensures smooth and frictionless adoption.

What are the key metrics you use to measure your B2B customer success?

First: customer wins, customer satisfaction, and customer renewal. Our current customers have become our ambassadors, and that is our most significant success factor.

Technology adoption is also a success rate. When we solve challenges that the customer had; that they are so passionate about the product that their eyes shine. We love to enthuse our end-users, and when customers become our fans – that is the best metric to measure.

Our products help our customers achieve their goals -e.g., in a marketing department – that everyone talks and presents the brand in an up-to-date and consistent way, in addition to increasing the lifecycle of the content.

From a sales perspective, we believe that our product helps in creating new business opportunities – when using FotoWare. The customer has a full overview of all their historical archives, how the content is used and the data/information that goes with the content. With FotoWare, a file becomes content and transforms into an asset that can add value to the business.

What are your predictions for DAMs in 2018? How does FotoWare prepare for these?

I think we are at a turning point; DAM is becoming more relevant for customers, and for consumers as well. In the beginning, it was mostly used by large publications, then large marketing departments and retail, but now, we see that “everybody” needs a DAM system. With the increasing number of pictures and videos, and holograms and 3D images stored in folders on the employee’s PC or a server, is just not effective enough in today’s fast-moving, cloud-first, mobile-first world. In addition, we believe that more affordable and accessible offerings will increase the market potential and that smaller and more generic DAM vendors will be acquired by larger entities, resulting in fewer but larger vendors. New niche offerings will emerge, tailored for specific market verticals.

What startups in the martech industry are you watching/keen on right now?

No isolation’ is a Norwegian startup that makes robots sit in the classroom instead of a student, who is on leave. That way the student can be at home in bed, and via a tablet or PC watch the class and not miss out on the learning. I believe in the technology that changes the world for the better, and that helps people make their lives easier, all over the world. That is why I welcome robots into our lives with great enthusiasm. Robots could work in healthcare and take care of patients, and the elderly, without suffering from back-pain from lifting people, or feeling burnt out from working nights. Drones could deliver medicine to people not able to get to the pharmacy or that live far out in the countryside. AI is going to make millions of people’s lives easier, both for those who need the help and for those who give the help.

What marketing and sales tools and automation technologies do you use?

Our first stop for driving marketing and lead generation is Hubspot – it is an enabling tool that gives marketers the data they need in one place to create content-driven strategies. We need to educate, inform and entertain our website visitors and social media followers, because we no longer live in a B2B marketing world but in H2H.

Secondly, FotoWare is a crucial part of reaching our marketing goals. We operate through resellers and product specialists in 41 countries while driving global marketing. With FotoWare we can have a full overview of how our branded materials are used and a complete overview of a 20-year archive of marketing materials. This significantly increases the lifecycle of our content marketing and can serve as an inspiration for recycling and reusing content in new creative ways. FotoWare is the tool we use to distribute our global and localized materials to our resellers on time and with the correct guidelines.

Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign at FotoWare? 

I believe that people want to read about real people. Consumers are too smart to be tricked into thinking that it is not a sales campaign when it really is. We want to let customers know who we are and what we do, and what we have to offer. We want to be there in the “moment” when customers’ needs us. It is about building a relationship, and that must be done in an honest and transparent way. This takes time and requires always to be willing to share information. This also puts you in a vulnerable situation of course. Anyone can take your selling points or steal your knowledge. However, we have to think that by sharing, we are contributing to building a stronger Digital Asset Management industry. Making Digital Asset Management a word that everybody knows about, builds our industry and our common business.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader? How do you leverage AI capabilities at FotoWare?

For our users, the most important role of AI is to edit and organize content. This helped us set it up as a high priority at an early stage. FotoWare offers to automatically add keywords and crop photos in a new way. With FotoWare, you can understand what people search for in an archive of photos. A marketing person wanting to run a specific campaign and would not necessarily know to search for a picture by its location, photographer, or product SKU. Instead, a user will often search for a descriptive keyword that the AI can identify. It is estimated that as much as 10% of images in a collection become unsearchable because of no or inadequate keywording, making them impossible to retrieve. FotoWare users can considerably reduce the time it takes to tag photos, and their collections become more accessible with additional searchable information using AI.

In the future, it will not just be about auto-tagging images, but how do give your user the content they are looking for, without knowing what they are looking for. Providing navigation models based on automatic tagging will be an essential AI-powered feature.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology at FotoWare?

Since FotoWare is a technology company, and we make our own software, tech is in our DNA. We take pride in our vision of being pioneers in innovation and having a growth mindset. We need to fill the needs of the customers we have today, and at the same time make a product that will inspire customers in the future. We all have a passion for technology, and that means also staying on top of what happens in the market; to be a part of the change. We want to be early adopters and drivers. That certainly involves an element of risk. Being the first, you never really know if it will stick – but that is the risk we must take. In the past, our ability to look into the crystal bowl has been positive, and a lot of this, I believe is using plain common sense and thinking about usability, in addition to keeping informed about what the large tech companies are doing, and their prediction for the future.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Me personally, cannot live without my public transportation app, and my money transfers app. At work and as a team, our organization is dependent on sharing information cross-border and groups effectively, and we use Slack, Teams, and Confluence. Having partnered with Imagga has been a great collaboration for us, because having auto-tagging in our product, makes it easy both for our customers and us.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

The simplest of them all: turning off all sound, notification, and indications of incoming mail. I never see or hear when mail is incoming, not even in the taskbar. That way, I do not get distracted by the urgency. I go to my mailbox when I am ready, not when I see a notification on my screen. I have also set my Outlook to open in calendar view so that I have an overview of my day before I turn to see the inbox.

What are you currently reading? 

I read a lot of books about leadership because there is always something to learn in this very exciting field. Leadership and management roles are very important, as you are responsible for your coworkers work life, and that responsibility should not be taking lightly.

I just finished The First 90 Days, by Michael D. Watkins – I read this book to prepare myself for my new job. Before that, I read The Phenix Project, by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford, a book about Dev/Opps and leadership and how to structure a business

Right now I am reading Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg. This might not seem like a leadership book, but personal sacrifice and life-changing situations are somethings that help you grow as a person and become more empathic towards other people.

However, I find fascinating articles online, via my social media feeds. I follow CEOWorld, Harvard Business Review, Lean In, and several other international leadership hubs and magazines. In addition, I get a lot of information and learning from my mentors and my network. I am part of an international learning network with people from England, Germany, Norway, and Ireland, and we share leadership and technology knowledge on a regular basis.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It is better to take a chance on something and fail, (and learn from that) than not try at all. If you never go outside your comfort zone, you will never grow or understand what you are really capable of. Don’t let your comfort zone hold you back.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

What makes a great leader? – Birger Steen

What is the next big technology thing? – Daniel Newman

What will the future be like for marketing and sales – Gary Vaynerchuk

Anne features in the list of Norway’s 50 leading IT women. She has a passion for technology and what it can do for people all over the world. She belive ins diversity and that we are better if we make our colleagues better.

She has been working in the IT industry in different leadership roles since 1998, when she started in Microsoft Norway. Anne is the co-founder of the largest network for Women working in the IT-sector in the Nordics, ODA (formerly Nora Nettverk) that has 8000 members, 32 partners and 30 people working on a volunteer basis.

FotoWare Logo
FotoWare is a software company based in Oslo, Norway, with offices in Hamburg, Sydney and Gothenburg, and resellers in 41 countries. Established in 1994 as a result of the growing demand to handle large volumes of digital photos and videos, the company has since then provided 2000+ companies with enterprise-class Digital Asset Management solutions. FotoWare has built one of the most efficient and productive solutions found on the market today for finding, processing and sharing videos, photos, graphics, audio, presentations, and documents. The solution is praised among users for the user experience and functionality, and the modular system is very cost efficient for both small and large companies, and is available for private-cloud, hybrid or on-premise deployments.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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