Interview with Thomas Schleu
and Jack McGannon


(Veröffentlicht in Das Produktkulturmagazin Ausgabe 1 2014)

Canto has been one of the inventors of the Digital Asset Management (DAM) category more than 20 years ago. Today they serve more than 2.000 active customers worldwide. Yet, the industry is at a turbulent stage with the explosive growth of rich media content during the past few years. We learn from Canto’s CEO Jack McGannon, who joined the company in 2013, and Canto’s CTO, Thomas Schleu, what they think will drive the industry throughout the next years and what Canto’s future plans are all about.  

Thomas, you were part of establishing the Digital Asset Management industry more than 20 years ago – how did it get started?  

Thomas Schleu: Well … I got into the business at the end of the 80s – when computers were starting to become more important and organizations started to create their own digital content. In 1990 we founded Canto – originally to produce scanning software for the Macintosh. As time went by, our customers started asking for a tool to manage the rising amount of scanned files. That’s when we came up with the idea of developing a system to search, categorize and find digital assets: Cumulus.  

Jack, you started at Canto one year ago – I’m sure you’ve heard that some people still think of Canto as the DAM-Dino – what do you think about that?

Jack McGannon.: Canto certainly has a rich legacy – but things at Canto are evolving at a rapid pace. I think the DAM-Dino is nothing else but an outdated image for Canto (smiles).  

The ways we use technology and digital content have evolved dramatically over the last years – how do you experience changing customer requirements?

J. M.: Borders between the private and the business world are blurring – we use the same systems and devices in both worlds. Nowadays, people expect the technology tools they use at work to offer the same intuitive user experience that their consumer software at home offers.

T. S.: Another element is what we call the social content flow: people develop and use exponentially growing amounts of digital content. They want to be able to share this content fast and easy, within teams, but also with externals.  

And how does this influence product development?  

T. S.: Consumerization is one of the key elements of the new user interface of the Cumulus Web Client that we launched last fall. Some industry trends get addressed by simply adding the relevant functionality – like video conversion and streaming in the case of video.  

I see a lot of CMS, MRM and PIM systems offering basic DAM functionalities – do you think this could be the end of the Digital Asset Management era?

T. S.: I actually believe the opposite. Multiple systems can never provide a single source of truth for all assets. A central asset repository is needed – that can be integrated with the other systems and applications to ensure an efficient workflow and a great user experience. We believe customers benefit most from a best of breed approach, and we work closely with strategic technology alliances to integrate with CMS/MRM and PIM systems.

So what does that mean for the complexity of integration? How do you manage syncing several systems with different data models?

T. S.: The key is our integration platform! You don’t want to copy data manually between different systems. For example in case of our video cloud integration, Cumulus will always show the most current links to the various formats in which a video is available. And if someone changes how the video player should look like, the embedded links shown in Cumulus will be updated. Our integrations are not just some press statements: both parties actually sat together to define how data gets exchanged and kept up to date.

Jack, you have been leading software companies as CEO for more than 15 years. When it comes to leading people and teams, what do you think is the secret to success?

J. M.: I used to play rugby many years ago. And I strongly believe that companies can work much like a rugby team: everyone has different capacities and tasks, but to be successful it is important to work together as a team, where everyone feels valued and all work together to reach a common goal.

Canto is traditionally very strong in the US and Germany. What are the biggest differences between these two markets?

J. M.: There are many differences – but just to name two that influence us a lot in our daily work: One is the way of building customer relationships – in the US we use a lot of technology to host virtual meetings and stay in touch, while in Germany face-to-face contacts seem to play a much more important role. Another thing I perceive is that – while in the US the concept of DAM or MAM (Media Asset Management) has evolved and a community is well established – the concept is still surprisingly unknown in Germany.

Having insight in how software companies evolve – what do you think German software companies can learn from US software companies?

J. M.: I highly appreciate to work closely with the German team – to explore a new culture and a different way of doing things is always interesting. I actually think that our US- and Germany-based teams are a great combination – the German engineering and attention to detail combined with the American “entrepreneurial spirit” (smiles).

You know best that every investment needs to pay off. What do you think is key when implementing a MAM-solution?

J. M.: A mistake that companies often make is thinking that all problems are solved by just buying a software tool. The implementation of a MAM-solution is a project that is about more than just a new tool – it includes a thorough evaluation of processes, workflows and structures, and of course project management.  

Which strategy do you follow to serve Social Media channels? Best of breed or embedded cockpit?

T. S.: Well – that depends on the use case. For social channels such as Twitter or Facebook we offer a tool that schedules automated tweets or posts – but of course users can also embed the content from Cumulus on demand. For blog software such as WordPress, Canto offers specific integrations that allow users to post Cumulus assets directly on your blog via the WordPress media library.  

What do you think will be the drivers of change in Media Asset Management in 2014 and beyond – and what can we expect from Canto?

J. M.: Consumerization in the business world will continue to put pressure on DAM vendors – this includes the social content flow mentioned above and the multi-device aspect, as well as the ability to integrate with top tier systems. New ways to collaborate and leverage content will also be key influencers in the DAM-marketplace. That is why in 2014 and beyond Canto will continue to put a strong focus on integration and technology alliances. Additionally, we have adopted an agile development approach to shorten our release cycles and respond faster to the demands of evolving markets. I also think that the “human aspect of DAM” will play an increasingly important role: Customers need consultancy and support. This is why our Canto Professional Services team is a key differentiator. Managing large amounts of digital content will become an important success factor for companies in all industries – and we are excited to be a part of it. And last but not least, cloud-based solutions will play an increasingly important role.

Besides all the technical stuff – which books are you both reading at the moment and where would you travel if you had the chance to take off for a month?

J. M.: I just finished reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, which has a hopeful message about following a dream and achieving one’s inner destiny. If I had the opportunity to take off for a month, given my interest in history and architecture (and my desire to improve my German language skills), I would explore the various regions of Germany and Austria.

T. S.: I am currently reading “The Physician” by Noah Gordon.  As for traveling: I always wanted to visit India because of their rich culture and history.

Hat Ihnen dieser Artikel gefallen? Legen Sie ihn in Ihren Warenkorb!


Canto bietet individuell anpassbare Lösungen, die auf der Digital-Asset-Management-Plattform Cumulus aufbauen. Cumulus lässt sich beliebig erweitern und in Unternehmensanwendungen wie ERP-, CMS-, PIM-, Web2Print- oder E-Shop-Systeme integrieren. 

Canto GmbH

Picture credits © Canto

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published