Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems are not only for big, flashy and expensive web properties but have a place in managing intranet content too. 

Before we get into details, perhaps we should establish some common ground by defining the term “Digital Asset Management.” According to Wikipedia:

Digital asset management (DAM) consists of management tasks and decisions surrounding the ingestion, annotation, cataloguing, storage, retrieval and distribution of digital assets.”

Digital assets are further defined as digital content that is in a binary form, which includes the rights to use it. The important part there is the rights to use the asset. No rights -- then it’s not an asset. This to me is what really defines DAM as a sub-set of Enterprise Content Management or Web Content Management for an intranet, and it suggests that an element of "rights management" should be included in a DAM system.

Where Does DAM Fit in the Intranet?

If we agree that an intranet is an internal network that uses TCP/IP networks and World Wide Web technologies in an internal context for a particular organization, then a modern intranet in the broader context of being part of a digital workplace may, just like a modern website, offer its users information in many different digital formats -- lots of graphics, including nice photography to break up the boring text, video, downloadable audio files, podcasts, etc.  

For those running the back end of these systems, managing these different assets becomes just another content management problem: how to tag the assets with appropriate metadata, how to make them findable, how to manage re-use. In this context the rights management element might just be a case of additional metadata in your CMS, attached to Digital Asset “Content Types” or you may have a stand-alone Rights Management System that you have integrated.

Either way, additional metadata is one of many issues that you may have to consider, including file sizes for video and audio content and the impact they may have on your internal networks (WAN and LAN) and requirements for desktop applications or web applications used to play back multimedia content.

Separate DAM System or DAM Your CMS?

If you are in a large organization you might want to invest in a single enterprise DAM system. This system could can be used for managing assets for the intranet, external web sites, print media and maybe even assets to add to homemade training materials in your Learning Management System. Such a system might be provided by the DAM "module" of an ECM suite like those from EMC Documentum, OpenText or IBM; or a specialist tool like Woodwing (gotta love a company that calls its product Elvis). The Open Source CMS movement is covered too, Nuxeo being a good example.

For many though, an intranet -- be it small or large -- boils down to what features and functionality are available in Microsoft’s ubiquitous SharePoint platform, and let's face it, SharePoint is not a DAM! Fortunately the upgrade to SharePoint 2013 brings us the new Asset Libraries and improved video handling functionality, much improving SharePoint’s usability in a DAM scenario. SharePoint also offers integrations with many other DAM systems, and a wide range of add ons from the partner ecosystem.

Your Internal YouTube

Video seems to just get more and more popular on the intranet; from CEO messages, to HR and Line of Business training videos. If you are open to user generated content (even if it's a loose definition of the term, such as only allowing your marketing and communications departments the ability to upload), then you may want a more specialist solution rather than the traditional DAM system. HP/Autonomy, Open Text, Adobe and Cisco amongst others have specialist solutions to build an internal YouTube, just in case for some reason you can’t use the real one.

Summary

The answer to the question "Do you need a Digital Asset Management system for your intranet" receives the standard consultants response: "well, it depends ...."

As with all things to do with content management in any of its forms, there is plenty of software out there that can help you solve your DAM problems! However I will also offer my standard caveat; all problems are much easier to solve if you fully understand them. If you have a clear strategy and a comprehensive set of requirements -- you can make sure you implement the right Digital Asset Management strategy and pick the right tools to serve your intranet and broader digital workplace.

Title image courtesy of (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more from Jed in The Employee Digital Experience - The Need for a User Centric Workplace