Implementing technology; Abbie Enock about teams

Technology has been a major driver of a number of revolutionary changes in the Stock Media industry. Abbie Enock, Managing Director of Capture talks about the advantages of well implemented technology and warns about some of the pitfalls in this exclusive interview

What do companies need to think about right now when it comes to technology?

There are a number of things companies need to think of but the most important is that whatever system they use it supports the sales effort, ultimately it’s all about sales and people should never forget that. Companies should have an ‘end to end’ system that does the whole thing. Some companies are still obsessive about having bits of a system that do this and other bits that do that. We believe a system like Capture is the best way to build a profitable business. We call it ‘shoot to loot’ and it takes care of the entire process.

A complicated workflow is made infinitely simpler if you have a single tool. Some people may find it frightening dealing with one company but it’s a hell of a lot better than dealing with many. A system should be web based so people can access it flexibly and easily, The Stock industry is about technology now. Unless you have a passion, money, resources and patience people should never do this in-house or try to recreate the wheel, it has already been created. It’s a hard and long trip to do it yourself and it will not save money.

Finally, many companies in our industry are made up of creatives and they rarely achieve similar results as companies with a mix of people. This should include a logical, IT savvy person. Is it really necessary to have IT staff on board? It is very important that someone is a logical thinker, perhaps not full time. Even. If these people are not there the supplier will need to have a bigger input. So much comes down to project management, if its Just creatives in a company this can create a challenging situation. They need to recognise a client side resource is needed to plan and work through the process.

What was your motivation to start Capture in 1998?

I was originally a journalist, then a photographer and did a lot of newspaper and magazine design. I also worked in senior positions in large organizations for many years. After travelling around the world I brought back a lot of photography. I started selling my own work and then decided I did not want to do more foreign assignment work. When I reached that point I realized I had to take in other photographers’ work and needed a system to organise everything. I went on to research what was available and couldn’t find anything existing to suit my needs. I then proceeded to write down the spec and went to external developers.

I soon realized I was looking at a system that was going to cost millions of dollars and many years to build. By then the pile of submissions from photographers was getting bigger and bigger so I decided I’d better start myself. Over a period of years, long days and teaching myself I wrote the program for Travelink. Other people started to be interested and wanted to buy it.

With more and more people showing an interest I started to realize that perhaps this would be my way forward in life. I want to do things properly and set up a software company with a business partner and friend in 1998. At that point Capture limited was born. I rewrote the program completely in January 2000 and before the end of that year we were market leader. It solved problems for many people as we were the first to put a front- and back-end together and offer this integrated system. In short; it came from other people encouraging us that what I created could be of great commercial benefit to every¬body.

How much does the company today resemble the humble beginnings?

Capture is obviously much bigger now. In the old days I wrote every line of code myself. I must have done 120 hours a week for 6 years or something like that, absolutely shameful! really ridiculous. It was a huge effort. In the last 3 years we made another big effort to produce the online system. The difference is that back then it was just me to start with. Now we have a team of 8 including a technical manager, project management, sales and marketing which makes my life a lot easier.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in your years in the industry while you were growing Capture?

When we started the digital revolution was underway but many people still had their feet firmly in the analogue era. Capture was built to bridge that gap and the first version has done that really well. In the old days people used to come to me asking ‘What’s a JPEG’, or ‘How do we buy a JPEG scanner’. Nobody had a clue changes that came off the back off the digital revolution. The Royalty Free licensing model was a big one, catalogues disappearing another. Only big companies could afford catalogues. As a result of the digital revolution smaller companies could now play in this arena and compete, the playing field became more level.

How do you feel software has helped companies grow and develop?

Not many companies have the resources to write quite such a sophisticated system. With Capture 2.1 small companies can now get a sophisticated system at a low price. Capture now matches the best frontends in the world and a better backend because of multimillion dol¬lar investments. This is particularly important now that small agencies are reliant on distribution and direct sales are concentrated the market leaders.

When does IT become a limiting factor? it seems to take up a lot of time.

First of all, don’t do anything you are not suited to. Creative people are very often not suited to deal with technical things and a lot of frustration sets in when they try to. Things then take much longer then they should. I’m a great believer in teams. Even in small teams people need to play to their strengths. Some owners and managers may feel a bit out of control now but if they have built a good team they have to stand back and let the people they appointed handle things without management trying to understand it. Freaking out about a lack of understanding will just throw grit in an otherwise well functioning machine.

A lot of time is wasted because a building block in the team is missing. Many times this is a logical, sensible plan¬ner. We perform best when we’re matched professionally by top notch demanding teams on the client side. IT is now part of every organization; you have to have someone to help pure creatives in companies think logically and technically

There are a lot of changes in the industry, when the recession is over how do you think the industry will pick up the pieces?

It’s going to be down to good old management. Teams will have to analyse statistics and go through basic business processes and yes, a tool like Capture will help do this. Making some difficult decisions before it’s critical and planning prop¬erly is also important. The Picture library industry has been in a wobbly state for a while so people are quite practiced in recession. This is an advantage for us. Some even think the recession will be the making of the industry because it will lead to a rise in the use of Stock imagery, albeit at the cheaper end. The recession has made people look at what makes money and focus on this. It has made people appreciate what they’ve got, weed out the rub¬bish and focus on business. People who survive will undoubtedly be much stronger.

What other things are on the horizon. Any new technologies that we should know of?

Yes, there will be things coming out. Our whole purpose has always been to reduce the time from when an asset is born to the point that it’s useful, i.e. making money. We will also be partnering with companies with new technologies to constantly help shrink that time scale. Distribution and the Globalization of images is another area that needs support.

What are your plans for the future; you’ve just launched Greenlight, what’s next?

Capture 2 is launched. 2.1 Is due end summer, beginning autumn. This will include enhancements to the frontend plus backend improvements including editing and review changes. It will have Lots of changes to the agents’ distribution area as well. If you think hard enough it’s quite possible to make this less onerous. Often these days original images come from the amateurs, I am keen to make it easier to ingest these images.

In 5 years time. What will Capture look like and what will you be doing?

We want to be the company that is selling the world’s best system. I think we probably do this already. We want to sell world class systems and provide world class support. It has to be a partnership between us and the client. They should not try to do technology so trust is needed which we need to always work on and improve. Eventually I want to have a company that will stay profitable. We invested a lot of money in the system. We would like to make that back and be able to invest that into some fantastic innovations. I am always thinking about what we can do for the industry, helping it move forward and become more productive and profitable. Our clients extend beyond the picture library industry and we’ll continue to extent our reach in clients. I am not sure if everyone will like that, they’ll be going like: ‘Oh my god, she is not going to concentrate enough on me now’ but I don’t want to rule the world. I want enough excellent clients to make my com¬pany solid financially and allow me and the team to make a good living while providing a system that is good value and a world class product.

And finally, will you still be based in ‘the old coach house’ in Goring on Thames?

Probably not, we’re straining at the seams. I do want to stay here in Goring. Lots of clients seem to love to come here. I would like to have a good, funky, open plan space. I want a big old barn and to make it an absolutely joyous experience where people can soak up the positive energy. I really care about what we do, for clients and the staff. We’re in a fantastic industry, even on a personal level. We have to fight through this and find the way to the roads ahead. About Capture Capture is the leading developer of fully integrated image management systems in the UK. It provides a total business solution to meet the needs of traditional picture libraries as well as the diverse and rapidly changing needs of today’s media, publishing, creative and cultural industries in the digital age. Capture software includes a fully integrated web-based system to provide secure web access to images and worldwide marketing opportunities available through the internet.

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses