Has your Digital Asset Management solution become part of the “core” business capabilities and functionality that serve other platforms within your organization? If so, is it a competitive or a collaborative infrastructure design?

The question for discussion is; do we still need DAM? With no uncertain hesitation, the answer is an obvious “yes.” There are many good reasons for its continued need and potential to solve problems within marketing and communications operations, production systems and other enterprise collaborative work systems.

What is DAM?

The professional practice of DAM consists of a set of practices to enhance the inventory, control and distribution of digital assets. The practice includes management tasks and decisions including the technical functionality surrounding the ingestion, annotation, cataloguing, storage, retrieval and distribution of digital assets. Enterprises produce assets like photographs, animations, videos and graphics to facilitate and maximize their use and reuse in daily operations.

DAM systems house different forms of digital information including audio, image and video files and aim to improve workflow efficiency through the automation of tasks such as ingest, metadata creation and authenticated access. DAM involves not only the stewardship of digital assets but also managing the people and activities that interact with those assets.

Managing your digital assets achieves operational control of your organization's information. Manage these assets well, discover their potential and measure their use for growth and a DAM may enhance other mission critical systems such as e-commerce and online shopping experiences.

DAM may also be valuable for product management and compliance where needed. Ultimately, it serves as the single source of truth for all assets within an organization and must be supported by effective metadata, taxonomy and robust search. With virtually all content “born digital,” digital media collections are increasing exponentially in size across industries -- both in terms of numbers and size when video assets and other large graphic files are considered.

More than ever, there is direct need for DAM to serve as a core application within the enterprise to manage these assets.

Business Case for DAM

The need for DAM remains strong and continues to support strategic organizational initiatives at all levels. DAM provides, more than ever, value in:

  • Reducing Costs
  • Generating new revenue opportunities
  • Improving market or brand perception and competitiveness
  • Reducing the cost of initiatives that consume DAM services

The need for better brand management is always a good thing and certainly a key priority for many organizations as they face the challenges of a multi-channel distribution model including social media. As DAM matures within the organization new considerations must be addressed to help strengthen the DAM such as “Governance” and “Content Stewardship.”

Overseeing all aspects of DAM is crucial to success and an effective layer of governance will help create a framework for your company’s unique operations and processes in compliance with your risk management procedures. In addition, the role of “Content Stewards” who work with all forms of assets across the enterprise, keep the right version of assets discoverable and accessible to groups with different needs for content access and usage. Content Stewards are also the strategic partner for every department in looking ahead to next year’s business goals and how DAM can support them.

DAM in 2013

A look at DAM in 2013 is a prudent place to begin evaluating its presence on the technology and operations systems’ roadmap. A quick check-in on the DAM conferences shows that the attendance has grown over the last few years with new buyers looking for innovative DAM technology, and veterans looking to remediate their systems with the same or possibly a new DAM vendor.

New players have emerged along with the steadfast, large “enterprise” DAM solutions that have played an active role in helping shape the profession, there is an incredible assortment of mid-size to small DAM vendors. Lastly, reports from the Real Story Group, Gartner and other analysts continue to highlight the strong demand for DAM in business; the need for DAM remains.

DAM Needs - Forever and Ever?

The decision to implement a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system is a positive step in the right direction to gaining operational and intellectual control of your digital assets. DAM brings with it great responsibility to understand how the organization’s assets will be efficiently and effectively managed in its daily operations.

Perhaps more than any other class of enterprise software, it is more than a sum total of its parts; it must include a detailed review and analysis of all those contributing factors to DAM; digital assets, organizational policies and procedures, governance, workflow, security, etc. Therefore, it is wise to revisit and affirm what DAM, both as a technology and a professional practice, demands:

Basic DAM Components

1. Media Collections

There is no shortage of examples of organizations having media intensive collections to manage. Beyond the use of graphics and images, there is a trend towards the “corporate studio” movement where the increased demand for and usage of video has led to corporations producing and serving video as if they were a broadcaster in their own right.

2. Metadata

Metadata is simply, “data about data” and is the “lifeblood” of your DAM. You need effective metadata to create smart assets within your DAM, as without the metadata, your assets will be unstructured and worse, undiscoverable. One of the premier tenets of a DAM is to allow for effective search and to have your assets be found. Metadata is no longer a “buzz word”; it is the “first and last word” in managing your assets.

3. Taxonomy

There is no good search and retrieval without an effective layer of organizational control in your vocabulary and tagging; the taxonomy. This is needed for effective findability and retrieval for the organization. It is important to remember that the assets “want to be found,” and may only do so with effective metadata and control via taxonomy.

4. Workflow

The assets in DAM come from a well-planned workflow focusing on asset creation and management beginning with ingestion, then to media processing, and all the way to storage and archiving. This is more than just transformation and transcoding; an effective workflow built into your DAM will enable the multichannel delivery and distribution method needed to support your business objectives. Collaboration is no longer an option, as it is now the norm and the DAM needs to support this demand.

5. Rights Management

The need to associate rules and regulations on what can and cannot be done with your digital assets is as strong as it has ever been if not more so. Digital Asset Managers need to understand usage rights and potential risk of misuse in the organization. Digital assets might well move around the organization and outside the legal boundaries, possibly impacting brand consistency.

6. Security / Roles / Permissions

Digital assets are complex in many ways, not the least of which is determining who uses them, and how they might be used. More than ever, DAMs are created to serve different user groups within an organization, which demand varying levels of controls to be configured for asset access and use. These permissions may well be for internal use but also require external controls for third party agencies or other suppliers situated outside the organization that need a direct line of contact with the DAM.

7. Digital Preservation

What are your digital preservation needs? Are some of your assets worth preserving beyond the current workflow cycles? While consideration of a DAM serving as an Archive may not be paramount in the initial planning for a DAM, consideration must be given on when to expire assets and what to do with them past their prime with users. A DAM may not be an archive, but it provides an effective tool for archive management.

Final Thoughts

DAM is the core of the modern digital lifecycle for marketing communications and brand operations. It serves as the central, single source of truth at a time when information overload and media congestion infers that we “can’t handle the truth.”

More than ever, DAM is required to drive the efficiencies needed to meet our business goals and optimize operations. If the strategy is well conceived, the DAM will be at the core of your enterprise architecture, and the operational tactics will be in place -- DAM will serve your enterprise well to maximize return on intellectual and creative capital.

More than ever, there is direct need for DAM to serve as a core application in business.

Editor's Note: Read more opinions on the value of DAM today, starting with Deconstructing DAM Platforms: The Service Oriented Future Of Digital Asset Management.