Digital asset management (DAM) lies at the heart of integrated digital experiences, especially those customer journeys that cross multiple channels, formats, languages and regions.  

But the other half of that digital experience, that of the content creator, is greatly enhanced by a well-functioning DAM, thanks to the range of capabilities and integrations most solutions now offer.

DAM Infiltrates Enterprise Content Management Territory

Some argue DAM is creeping into the space enterprise content management wanted to occupy a decade ago, albeit without necessarily announcing itself as a one-stop shop for all your content needs.  

Rather, by building on the strengths that set it apart from most content management systems (CMS) and extending those tools into other areas, DAM has quietly become the single source of truth within a company’s broader content ecosystem. 

It may not be an end-to-end publishing solution — though some vendors are positioning themselves as such — but it frequently serves as the core system that pushes out to other content publishing tools, either via API or as part of a product suite. 

Let’s take a look at some of DAM's strengths, and why trying to manage ‘everything’ in a CMS rarely works.

Rich Metadata, For the Win

The best DAM solution in the world won’t provide value without quality metadata about each digital object. And as the range of digital objects DAMs support has grown (more on that in a moment), this becomes evermore evident. 

The way both descriptive and administrative metadata functions within (most) DAMs is typically much more fully-featured than what you find in a CMS, which focuses more on getting an object onto a web page, not in tracking its lifecycle beyond that. 

Other useful metadata, including licensing, regional usage, versioning, creators or uses in other projects, are rarely available in a CMS. 

This is where a DAM excels. A great DAM makes it simple to customize your metadata, and to run detailed reports on your digital assets. 

Your CMS may have metrics around page bounces (though frequently you’ve outsourced this to Google Analytics or another tool), but your DAM tells you the story of every digital asset: 

Is it licensed for use in a particular region? Have we used it too frequently in other campaigns over the past year? Do we need to push out a quick update everywhere because of a legal requirement or news story? What languages have we already translated this text block into — and did we update them? Where is the original master image? Who last updated this file?

DAM's Growing Reach

The range of what a digital asset "is" continues to grow. 

Early DAMs focused on images. This remains a key function of a DAM — storing and managing both the original, high-resolution images as well as any edits or renditions that might appear downstream. If it can’t handle images well, it’s not a DAM. 

Animations, audio and video have been standard formats for the DAM for years. But now text, both structured and unstructured, is finding its way into some solutions. 

In my opinion, this shift to moving more and more master content into the DAM, then slicing and dicing it there for consumption in other systems, has moved the needle for DAM. 

DAM is no longer "the place where you store images and video," but rather, "the place you manage all your source content." 

The addition of workflows based on business rules mean you aren’t simply storing and searching content, you are building and creating directly in the DAM. You may still have a variety of other content creation and delivery tools that hook into and out of the DAM, but by making your DAM the authoritative source for your content, the level of effort to source, create and re-create content drops significantly — though with the proviso that nothing works without the right people, processes and technology for your specific use case. 

Metadata provides the backbone that makes all of this possible. And at a time when content marketers are increasingly being pushed to create intelligent content, a DAM supplies the required structure on the back end that makes agile content repurposing happen. 

DAM as a central content creation hub makes it simple to craft a consistent user experience wherever you find your users. Reusing the same images, video and copy not only saves money, it removes any disconnect between what the user sees on social media (or elsewhere) versus browsing your content on their tablet or phone.

Whether you customize the customer experience based on regions or languages, your DAM — and the right metadata — is the connective tissue that holds those pieces of content together, allowing for a more personalized experience for your user, and fewer production headaches for you.

Title image "Stone Pavement" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by mrhayata