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We heard from Digital Asset Management (DAM) vendors at the beginning of the year as they shared their 2015 roadmaps and visions of where the DAM industry was headed beyond 2015. The ensuing conversation made me want to hear the other side of the coin: what the DAM community wanted or needed from DAM.  

I asked the community these questions: Did the industry get it right? Are vendors developing the features and functionality your organization needs? If you could get DAM vendors to build one thing just for your business, what would you ask for?

Although fewer responses came in than expected, the people who did respond provided insightful input on the challenges and needs of their organizations.

What should the DAM Industry be working on? Here are some insights from the DAM Community.

Interoperability

Interoperability between systems was a major theme. Most people expressed a strong need to easily connect the DAM with their CMS. A studio executive explained that,

One of their big challenges is the need for Enterprise Application Integration (EAI). How do you actually get these systems to work together? I need a place where I can apply rules to govern the asset usage. Digital Rights Management Tools are not tightly integrated into the DAM solutions.”

Several other people took this idea a step further and suggested DAM should also connect with other systems such as Dropbox, Flickr and enterprise asset management tools. While most DAM vendors are providing some APIs and the ability to customize connection between systems, the community was asking for out-of-the-box functionality that would allow users to add and remove common systems as needed without custom development. Many people who spoke about this need also asked for a “sleek” interface that is quick and easy to use and that anyone could set up with little to no technical knowledge.

Social Channels

I'd suggest this go one step further, and connect with the most common social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, VK, Flickr, Vine and others. This interoperability should provide two-way communication that sends back metrics between assets shared on social channels and the DAM.

Business Intelligence

Many people shared their need to collect better business intelligence (BI) data, specifically, on how and where assets are being used to help determine the ROI on the assets. Additionally, many people expressed a need to understand how assets move through the assets life cycle and what DAM users search for in those assets. A studio executive said they needed a way to “track the effectiveness of the assets.”

What if we took this idea one step further by making it possible to create business rules that allow the DAM to automatically respond to successful campaigns?

Let me explain: Say your social media team sent out a series of assets with a marketing message to their social networks. In doing so they are testing out what images / videos and metadata are the most effective. As the metrics flow back to the DAM in real-time the system automatically sends out new assets with the most effective marketing messages, metadata and hashtags. This way more effective marketing messages could be sent out to reach the intended audience. This could also be true about time-of-day, day-of-week, etc.

Most companies receive this information from various analytics and BI tools, but it requires a person to manually update and resend the assets. Interoperability between the DAM, CMS, social channels and the BI tools would allow the social media teams to create more effective marketing campaigns by leveraging automation to immediately respond to the market.

Many vendors offer these types of tools and I anticipate that the DAM vendors will continue to improve the tools they offer. This is a clear win-win strategy for both the DAM vendors and their clients. Clients have a need to demonstrate asset ROI and DAM vendors have a need to demonstrate the value of their solution.

This kind of approach could also leverage semantic search and trending analysis to anticipate what assets would gain the most interest or company value.

Distribution and Sharing

Many companies also face the challenge of easily distributing and syndicating assets. One DAM user asked for sophisticated publishing tools. Another asked for “efficient distribution systems.” Most DAM vendors offer tools for distribution and syndication, some are better than others. A few DAM vendors offer advanced options such as packet accelerators and automation to distribute using metadata to automatically route assets.

I challenge DAM vendors to completely rethink how assets are shared. Imagine if there was a new way of distributing assets that was as easy and familiar as email. I've found that when users need to share assets they often just email it. But consider the issues associated with this solution. Once an email is sent, it's no longer possible to track that asset. There is no governance, no way to control the digital rights, no way to know where the asset is being used, where it is being stored and ... well, you get the idea.

But what if you could integrate the DAM with the email system in such a way that would allow users to “attach” an asset in the DAM to an email. The asset might remain in the DAM, allowing the recipient to access the asset. This would resolve many of the challenges discussed above.

This might also move one step closer to solving the issue of providing users with access to assets. In this scenario business rules could be developed to allow temporary or limited access to just those assets. Access could be granted based on a collaboration team or a client list.

Metadata

Newer and better ways to help users easily add and enhance metadata on their assets will always be in demand. All good DAM vendors provide ways to add metadata and create metadata schemas. A few DAM vendors have started thinking outside the box and have created some very interesting tools.

Several DAM users asked for thesaurus capabilities to be offered by the DAM solutions. Some vendors may offer this functionality, but the idea was intriguing. Why not include the most common well-established metadata standards, such as the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC), Picture Licensing Universal System (PLUS) Coalition and others?

A good example of how this might be done is Microsoft Word’s Dictionary. The user can pick from the standard dictionary or any number of dictionaries. Microsoft Word also makes it very easy to add custom words or import a new dictionary. Wouldn’t it be great if a DAM administrator could select a well-established metadata standard from a provided list? Or the ability to add new metadata to meet the organization's specific needs? This same idea could be carried over to Thesaurus and Synonyms. If any DAM vendor already offers something like this, please let me know.

Too Much Data

One of the more interesting challenges was the sheer size and volume of assets being managed today. This might be the proverbial elephant in the room, but organizations are struggling with collecting, storing and retrieving assets. This is especially true when we factor in the need to gather and analyze big data.

Even with proper asset governance and strong metadata policies, the volume is making it more difficult to find and retrieve assets. Storage, relevancy, speed all are being pushed to their limits, while at the same time companies feel the pressure to increase their time-to-market.

Many DAM vendors will need to rethink their architecture and adopt newer search technologies to remain competitive. At the same time companies will need to make decisions on how much data to store and develop ways to purge useless information that has little or no ROI value. Vendors that have not started thinking about ways to improve performance may struggle to provide value to their clients and may need to rethink how they do business.

A Few More Ideas

Here are a few more ideas that DAM users shared.

A few people would like to see better facial recognition technology. A few DAM vendors offer this type of technology, but in most cases it's through a third-party add-on that's integrated with their DAM solution. Some interesting open source technologies are doing an amazing job with Facial recognition, such as Lambda Labs Face Recognition, Animetrics FaceR, SkyBiometry, Face++, Eyedea EyeFace and others. Facebook and other social media companies are pushing facial recognition technologies to constantly improve. The push -- or maybe it’s a shove -- by the social media companies will make facial recognition software more accessible to DAM solutions. These types of technology will carry over to objects, scene, landmarks etc.

Good work is happening with voice recognition and voice to text that allows metadata to be added along a timeline. Only the most expensive solutions currently offer these technologies, but it too will become more accessible to less expensive DAM solutions.

The community expressed a desire for more agility in customizing interfaces. They want the ability to modify the look, feel and functionality without technical knowledge. Several vendors spoke about improving the user interface and user experience in the previous posts. A few vendors have or are planning on releasing easily customized experiences for users. While vendors may be heading in the right direction, they still have a long way to go.

A popular request was for better mobile experiences that provide full range of DAM capabilities. Mobile usage is growing at an exponential pace and there is a need to fully support these users.

Everyone wanted a more intuitive user interface. One DAM user explained it best “Make MAMs and DAMs more intuitive with less need for programming and more need for having that (mobile capabilities) built in.”

What Will Emerge?

There are hundreds of DAM vendors on the market and some of these features may be available today or may be on a vendor’s technology roadmap. If you currently offer any of these features, please let me know. I am always interested in seeing emerging technology and new ideas.

Will a social media company like Facebook create a new disruptive DAM technology? If it does, what does that mean to the DAM industry? Transformational change is coming one way or another. As DAM professionals, you have an opportunity to help influence that change, so speak up and let the vendors know what you need!

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image by  Paul Kline