Digital Asset Management or No Digital Asset Management? That is the Question
Most enterprise systems today support some form of content management functionality -- more or less. So why would organizations look for a separate Digital Asset Management (DAM) system just to manage their rich media files? The simple answer is multiple enterprise systems cannot provide a single source of truth for all your valuable digital assets. Let me explain.

Organizations spend a lot of money procuring, creating and carefully editing visual imagery and video content. Once these costs are covered, there is only a marginal extra cost for repurposing those images and videos to multiple destinations -- whether it be publishing online, in print, on a billboard or as part of an archive for future reuse.

Is There Life Without DAM?

Many organizations looking to invest in Web Content Management (WCM), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems ask themselves, why not store our assets inside the target system -- only feeding the system what it needs? Could that work? Not likely!

Here’s an all-too-familiar example of what happens when companies attempt to skirt a DAM system and rely on other systems to perform DAM-like capabilities:

Store all your image files in well-organized and labeled folders on a shared network drive. Place your final product pictures into a Web Content Management system for your website to serve them up quickly. Distribution partners need access to those perfected product images too, so you set up a shared Dropbox folder. And your Product Information Management (PIM) system also needs access to the latest approved product shots. A photo gets updated and approved for production. Now you must manage versions in at least three systems, plus the network drive … so, four. And multiply this situation for every piece of media content across the organization.

The Cost of Dodging DAM

It is not just the number of assets that poses problems. With growing demand for more content, rich media files come from different sources like in-house designers, external photographers or stock-photo agencies arriving in different formats, some with their own embedded metadata.

Today, media assets are used across every department. Large websites mostly show images and video with very little text. And it’s not just the website; every large IT system now tries to work with media files. And the number of assets and formats they are using grows every year.

Keeping track of digital assets is not the core functionality of the respective target systems. ERP, WCM, PIM and Web2Print vendors are specialists in their own areas, solving specific and complex customer problems.

As a result, vendor systems provide different ways of structuring content, different metadata to describe media files and different search capabilities to find those valuable assets.

Some enterprise systems may extract metadata from the assets and present a preview, others may not.

There is no way to centrally track the state of your digital media files, nor their global usage.

Invariably, multiple systems housing media files for print, on the Web, for digital marketing and as part of product information lifecycles will create a multi-dimensional mess!

Central DAM System

If you want to maintain control over your digital assets, avoid mistakes of publishing the wrong version and be able to repurpose your investment, you need a central management system that keeps track of the state and usage of all your assets.

Typically, you want to keep a “master asset” in your DAM and derive other variants (like low-resolution versions) from this master automatically. Every asset that can automatically be derived from a “master” does not need to be kept as a first-class asset in the DAM. You can always recreate its derivative on demand.

And you don’t just want to have a “master asset” for yourself and your team, but for the whole company -- to get a “single source of truth” for all media assets being used everywhere.

Connect Enterprise Systems to Your DAM

Leading organizations demand more and more integration with DAM systems into their work environments. We consistently see the following integrations into DAM, in order of priority:

  • Web Content Management System -- a must have
  • Product Information System -- a must have, if present
  • Database publishing, catalog production
  • e-Commerce / e-Shop
  • Enterprise Resource Planning System
  • Web2Print

Today, the majority of DAM system customization work we engage in is spent integrating the DAM into the aforementioned systems that need rich media content. Daily workflows are streamlined. Systems now integrated with DAM allow users to search and retrieve assets centrally, without having to leave their everyday work environment.

Take the example of a manufacturing customer with 10,000 employees and 65 subsidiaries worldwide. They keep all media assets of the entire company in the central DAM system. The Web CMS gets all assets from the DAM for all 48 websites in 26 languages. An integrated Content Delivery Network speeds up worldwide delivery of the assets. The PIM system is also connected to the DAM system to pull product pictures.

The exchange of assets with an external ad agency is controlled by the central DAM system. Integration of the catalog production system will follow to automate the creation of their 840-page catalog.

Using a DAM system started in the Marketing department of this customer, but today the DAM system is the central repository for all their media files.

DAM Needed Now More Than Ever

No other system can take this central role. If you are looking for a DAM system to play this role in your organization, don’t be shy to ask your vendor or system integrator for a tight integration into your other systems.

It is through this centrally searchable media database, the DAM -- especially when integrated with enterprise systems -- that top organizations can truly streamline workflow processes and capitalize on growing investments in digital media to gain economies of scale.

Title image courtesy of Brian A Jackson (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more from this month's examination of DAM here.