One thing many people do not think about enough is whether something will scale (up, out, in and/or down) as needed. Scalability is critical for any organization to consider if they plan to grow and thrive, not just survive. Otherwise, staying with decisions made in the short term will affect the organization rapidly in the long term.
What is Scale?
Ever seen a scale model car or train? It is usually smaller, less functional, less powerful and less expensive than the real thing. The same principle applies to the number of people working, the processes followed and technology in use.
Digital Asset Management is a business tool to search, find, use, reuse and repurpose digital assets quickly. That still takes people following good process empowered by technology.
Unless we archive offline at the end of an established digital asset life cycle or purge (due to regulations), we will only accumulate digital assets. The rate of growth is likely increasing and likely even multiplying regularly. We can measure and track this growth based on asset count over given periods of time. Measure what you manage. Otherwise, we better plan on increasing storage space exponentially and very often.
Specific to technology, scalability is more important than ever. Nowadays, increasingly more of our assets are intangible, digital assets which require more of everything, including:
- software (that scales up)
- concurrent users
- processing power
- languages (not just in the user interface, but the assets themselves if you truly have an international audience going beyond one language)
- version control (of assets and metadata separately)
- access (including mobile)
- security vs. openness
- rights and permissions (clearly explained)
- user adoption
- delivery portals to various channels/vehicles
- reducing silos and exact duplicates
- analytics (to measure and track usage)
As David Klee mentioned on Another DAM podcast, there is a careful balance to weigh within your organization between:
- long term cataloging vs. short term workflow
- speed vs. safety
- flexibility vs. consistency
- usability vs. quality
How to Scale Search from the Beginning
Digital Asset Management is not a problem to solve, but rather a process that needs to be managed regularly. Stop re-adjusting your blinders and simply remove them. Start thinking about your organization's growth globally and how it manages digital assets as it grows (and needs to scale) even if you are not a media company.
If you shortcut your process by skipping metadata while your organization grows and accumulates more assets, the issue of not being able to search (often driven in large part by metadata) will multiply, the DAM becomes less effective and scales in (limits) your organization's growth.
If you cannot search, you cannot find. If you cannot find, you cannot use, reuse nor repurpose.
Imagine the reality behind having 10,000 assets without usable metadata. Now imagine that number increasing to 100,000 assets with the same issue. That is scaling in the negative way due to short sighted thinking.
What is the point of a Digital Asset Management solution that you cannot search and that does not scale properly? That is not management. That is simply a digital dumping ground. Consider what metadata you need based on standards before you add any assets to the DAM.
Long Term, Short Term Thinking on Scale
Look at the technology being used and how it is used to be sure it can scale. Do not think short term unless you enjoy frequent database migrations. As mentioned by Jennifer Tyner on Another DAM podcast, database migrations are not much fun, but sometimes need to happen.
If the tools and processes do not scale, these will not grow with the organization and even risk restricting current growth.
A common misconception heard is "we will just stand up another duplicate system to do the same thing." The primary issues with this short sighted point of view (again) of scaling out (vs. up) is syncing and latency between the two (or more) systems together to search, find, use, reuse and repurpose digital assets. How many places do you plan to search for one asset? Syncing and latency are often overlooked until patience and the real expectations of users are revisited.
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