Everywhere we look, change is permeating businesses: the people, the processes and the technology. 

A common concern I heard at three recent content conferences was how to manage these changes and anticipate their effects. 

But have we become so involved in the details that we failed to see the bigger picture of what’s coming our way? Have we become too focused on discrete technology advances without considering their effects on operating models? Have our processes become so complicated that we are incapable to nimbly respond? 

Digital asset management (DAM) is not immune to these changes. And while the future looks bright for DAM, we need to broaden our vision of DAM beyond just managing digital assets to viewing it as a critical component of the information ecosystem.

DAM's First Wave

DAM's first wave was comprised of the management practices and technology designed to enhance the inventory, control and distribution of digital assets (rich media such as photographs, videos, graphics, logos, marketing collateral). DAM enables the ingestion, annotation, cataloguing, storage, retrieval and distribution of digital assets for use and reuse in marketing and business operations.

But as we've seen the internet evolve from more static content, to encourage greater collaboration among its users, content providers and enterprises, DAM too has evolved to give users more input into the nature and scope of the content and in many cases real-time control over content with robust workflows and other editing functionality. 

The opportunity for content owners, marketing technologists, and all those managing content lies in understanding how assets lie at the center of digital operations from creation, to discovery, through distribution. 

Get Ready for DAM's Second Wave

DAM, as a practice, is evolving to embody and facilitate responsiveness, agility and dynamism. This requires a departure from traditionally fixed infrastructure elements and business rules, and anticipates managing content beyond classically defined “digital assets.” 

Ultimately, DAM might require updated terminology as well as a new label. Characteristics will include greater user interactivity and collaboration, more pervasive network connectivity and enhanced communication channels. More than ever, companies will integrate and connect DAM with other channels in the information ecosystem.

Practitioners will have to build infrastructure, business rules and even business philosophy that embrace change and adaptation as constants. Metadata specialists will have to regularly revise and iterate metadata models to respond to emerging customer needs and new sources of content, while safeguarding the stability of business-critical data. They will welcome content from new sources, including social media audiences, pushed or pulled through similarly emerging channels. 

Businesses will view rights and access protocols not as fixed in stone but open to adaptability. 

This new wave of DAM will encourage the use of assets along new, often consumer-defined channels and content lifecycles, while protecting critical content where needed. And while there’s a “plug-in” for this, and a “plug-in” for that, the abundance of APIs will continue to rise as DAM is recognized for its key role within the Information Ecosystem. 

All this integration and interconnectivity strengthens the argument for metadata and workflow management. “Connected” is the new raison d’etre for content. 

'Things' are Getting Interesting

People should use the saying “a place for everything and everything in its place” to guide their content strategy today. The spread of content across platforms, channels and distribution frameworks means media and data can easily be lost as it travels, is linked to other data and transcoded. In addition, information is being collected through an exponentially growing number of devices and mechanisms. 

Two terms have emerged to describe some of this phenomena:

  • The Internet of Everything (IoE): Brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable and
  • The Internet of Things (IoT): Gathers uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an internet-like structure

Suddenly our definition of content is broadened. It lies at the “center of everything,” to be identified, accessed, repurposed and distributed.  

The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) and other platforms promises to produce even more information and data across locations, both within and external to an organization.  

To derive value from this exponential growth of data will require clear guidelines, smart use of technology and analytics know-how. Business rules will govern an organization’s ability to generate knowledge, and ultimately value. In order to deliver on its promise, data must be delivered consistently, with standard definitions, and organizations must have the ability to reconcile data models from different systems.

Informing a New Breed of Digital Experiences

Think of the massive connections this will make and how this pushes you outside of the traditional DAM point of view. Approach DAM in the context of a wider question: What is your industry dealing with? 

DAM must anticipate emerging trends and opportunities. A successful DAM program encourages curation and not just blind collection — and with the exponential growth of assets available, clear standards must be followed as to what is valuable creative content versus the extra stuff made in the process. Remember, the more assets you manage, the more resources needed for maintenance. 

Meaningful information architecture and adaptive user experience design using visualization and virtualization tools will guide the creation of new digital experiences. And while DAM speeds processes and reduces manual activity, don't forget it is at heart a human activity, requiring ongoing decision making that only human insight can provide. DAM is not about the totally elimination of human effort, but the best use of human intelligence with technology. 

DAM will accelerate the conversation between business and consumer. Businesses creating and disseminating brand and marketing messages and products will engage with consumers who respond via shopping behavior, internet searches, assets ad data such as reviews, comments, images, check-ins and other online actions. 

Content will act as a connection between people, process and technology. 

Part of the Broader Information Ecosystem

DAM cannot do all of these changes alone. Whether you view digital transformation as technology, customer engagement or marketing and sales, intelligent operations coordinate these efforts — across the business — towards a unified goal. As a critical component of this information ecosystem, DAM brings different frameworks for managing content, and grows in strength when working as part of the whole. 

Building a digital foundation requires attention and preparedness. Understand and define your fundamental goals, then look to the information and content your business relies on to explore new uses for that content. Creating a holistic solution around information will play an integral role in how the business generates revenue, increases efficiencies and enhances its ability to meet new and emerging market opportunities.

Title image Marcus Dall Col