The DAM industry has enjoyed significant growth in the last few years — probably as far back as a decade ago. The reason behind this is a simple supply and demand effect that is easier to spot with hindsight but harder to identify while it is in-play (and might explain why DAM was ignored as a side-show by so many for so long).
A proliferation of digital media origination tools means that more digital media is in now circulation than ever before. This is a trend that has unstoppable momentum and I am not able to think of anything (bar global catastrophe) that might halt it. The need to organize digital content has rapidly become a crucial task, hence why DAM solutions are in-demand.
These are the fundamental factors behind the growth in DAM and the implication is that there still is a clear and increasing need for them. A more critical question is whether value can continue to be obtained from the current DAM platforms that are on offer, or if alternatives might better answer end user requirements.
Bloated Applications And The DAM Features Arms Race
There are numerous other methods by which digital assets acquire value. A few of the more significant functional areas include: adding metadata to help users find assets (probably the key reason still), asset manipulation, advanced workflow, decision support, permissions and asset access controls and business intelligence. The interrelationship between these functional areas is also becoming highly sophisticated, especially in respect of metadata. A side-effect of this complexity is that different interfaces are becoming necessary to cope with diverging levels of user expertise.
The scope of DAM applications is becoming too diverse for vendors to handle exclusively on their own. As one vendor adds a feature requested by one client, so there becomes an expectation that they will all offer it. Many vendors now spend large proportions of their development budgets simply trying to remain in the 'feature arms race'. This is unsustainable over the medium-long term from both a cost and technical stability perspective. As with any other capitally intensive conflict, the victor is typically the one with the deepest pockets; however, in DAM, while there are a number of brands which are better known than others, none of them are wealthy enough to win this war outright.
An early casualty of bloatware applications is reliability. Many DAM systems I come into contact with now are more buggy and less robust than they had been several years ago. This has to be a consequence of vendors needing to spread themselves too thinly without adequate resources (and ultimately capital) to achieve their ambitions.
Editor's Note: Also check out DAM Beauty and Usability
More DAM Stakeholders Than Ever
The number of different stakeholders involved in Digital Asset Management initiatives has increased in recent times. There has been a surge of vendors producing dedicated end user interfaces, cut down versions that can upgrade to another product, or features that allow specific functionality to be used outside the core DAM interface. These are all to cope with new users who might be unwilling to go through an extended learning curve. They need to rapidly find relevant media assets and move on.
At the same time, those who do spend most of their working day with a DAM system, such as production personnel, want to be able to do far more with it. They require more advanced batch processing capabilities and assistance with managing common asset workflow tasks.
There is a further class of stakeholders who have a more strategic or managerial role. They have to get all the assets acquired from multiple sources and ensure they circulate through the business. They also need related solutions to contribute metadata to digital assets and create connections between systems that support advanced enterprise-wide competitive intelligence. Although I am unsure about how far DAM is really a subsidiary of CXM, I am certain that it has a key role to play within the strategic approach which CXM represents.
The Break Up Of The DAM Market
The assumption of many in the DAM market is to assume there is likely to be a period of ongoing stratospheric growth in our sector. There is dangerous collective industry-wide complacency developing based on increased customer interest. As described at the top of the article, this is not because end users think DAM software is especially good, it is an external factor pushing growth in demand for anything available which might do the job. At present, users have limited choice outside the options provided by different DAM vendors, but that could change unless some of the structural inefficiencies in the DAM solution market are resolved.
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