Is it the destiny of digital asset management to disappear? According to DAM vendor NetXposure, keeping DAM hidden, even as it becomes an uber-system, works out just fine for many clients.

Dan Savickas, Account Manager at NetXposure, recently told CMSWire that the company has several major clients with embedded DAM systems that are fronted by custom interface panels. “Thousands of workers who use our DAM on a daily basis,” he said, “don’t really know it’s there.”

A Platform, Custom Interface

The essence of NetXposure’s perspective is two-fold. First, as the company notes in an essay on its site, “DAM is not just a traditional repository or distribution,” but is becoming a new platform. At its basic level, it can, of course, perform such functions as search and browse, grant access according to permission levels or make the latest versions of assets available to a team.

But it can also be a key part of the workflow and approval process, or distribute the final asset to the necessary channels, or even serve as the conductor of the entire orchestra. And, in becoming a platform, it is also moving toward using common standards, including Dublin Core for common metadata vocabularies, Adobe’s XMP for transporting metadata with an asset file, or JQuery for publishing DAM data through a content management system.

The second part of the company’s perspective is the development of custom interfaces for some of its clients, such as Catalina Marketing. This essentially completes the transformation of DAM into an essential but invisible component of a complete system -- not unlike, say, a traditional relational database that has been customized to underpin an entire system.

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NetXposure's custom interface for Catalina

16 Million Coupons

Florida-based Catalina Marketing, a NetXposure client, has about 16 million of its “Save $1 on a Rubbermaid Produce Saver Container” and similar coupons printed every day, at printers in 24,000 U.S. and 8,000 international grocery, drug and mass merchandiser stores. To create the coupons, Catalina’s designers use Adobe Creative Suite applications Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign. The output, custom jpeg images, are transmitted to the stores’ printers.

In the entire Catalina system, the NetXposure DAM is one component in a toolbox that includes the Creative Suite apps, an ink calculation service (the company spends more money on ink than on employees), a printer service, Elpical Claro service for image enhancement, a Workamajig service for graphics project management … and a custom “graphics panel.”

The DAM system provides the underlying storage and retrieval of images, and is in charge of routing files and data through the other components. NetXposure says its goal with the custom panel is to create a centralized management system and a single environment within InDesign, automating processes to improve speed and supporting the output to printers.

Transparent Interaction

In their design, NetXposure combined the system into the custom interface, including Creative Suite, the DAM, Catalina’s various Web services and the automated workflow.

For the designer, the interaction with the DAM is transparent. Projects and files are automatically downloaded for the signed-in user, and there are search functions, asset importing and listing, metadata and other DAM functionality.

Catalina worked over seven years with NetXposure to develop the custom front end they needed. The result, NetXposure’s VP for Product Kevin Peoples told, is that “the user never leaves InDesign.”

He added that NetXposure is “seeing this come up a lot,” where a client might only need specific DAM functionality within the workflow, such as for designers. The DAM becomes the “system of record,” he said, delivering and retrieving assets and having all third-party systems integrated.

As with databases, Peoples said, DAMs are moving “to become core business components,” systems that are responsible for “marrying all the data.” In fact, he added, in those systems NetXposure wants “you to stay in your environment and not even see our UI.”