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PHOTO: YIFEI CHEN

For years, digital asset management (DAM) was either not included or was marginalized in the martech conversation. People viewed DAM as the tool of creatives, brand managers, and even (wait for it) librarians. But it’s well beyond time we recognize that not only should DAM be in the martech conversation, but that DAM has become an anchor service in enterprise martech stacks. 

Six trends suggest more concretely how this happened and why DAM will remain under the martech umbrella.

1. Moving from Information Management to Marketing Enablement

DAM technology started out by supplying glorified image libraries for use by information managers and preservationists. This is still a foundational use case, but enterprises today want to focus on putting their rich visuals and media to work in customer engagement. DAM has become, for most enterprises, a key marketing enabler.

Related Article: DAM Expands Its Reach Into the Enterprise

2. Tighter Integration Between Creative–IT–Marketing

Businesses are increasingly collocating DAM team with dedicated IT resources so they can quickly organize war rooms and fix problems. Like all marketing technology, DAM platforms present complicated tech problems and opportunities at scale. You need to keep your assets close, but your developers even closer.

3. Increasing Adoption of Agile Methodologies

There's an increasing awareness among experienced enterprises that their DAM systems are living, breathing systems that require nearly constant tweaks and enhancements. Savvy enterprises are naming their DAM environments and assigning real product managers (not just asset managers) to drive platform roadmaps.

Related Article: Agile Marketing Your Way Through the Next Recession

4. Emerging Consensus on Metrics

Everybody wants more metrics, yet few enterprises still have the organizational, technical and analytical chops to get the reports they want. Aside from useful repository reports, enterprises want to integrate analysis on distribution and effectiveness into DAM repositories. Some DAM vendors are trying to do this themselves, but smart customers are bypassing these trivialities and instead aggregating performance information in data warehouses. They can then import authoritative reports into their DAM environments. Of course, this kind of integration is easier said than done, and few vendors natively support this kind of analytics injection.

5. Rise of Omnichannel

An idealized omnichannel marketing stack separates concerns so customers can innovate, specialize and swap technologies out in an isolated way, all while maintaining single views of the customer and the opportunity for orchestrated journeys across channels. Martech vendors have a (bad) habit of trying to mix and match technologies in sometimes bloated suites that make it difficult to execute marketing strategies enterprise-wide.

DAM vendors are no exception. Some want to become your omnibus customer experience management system. In many cases they simply extend their brand portal extranet services as more generalized websites. This is a bad idea.

Pro Tip #1 — Don’t use your DAM as a run-time customer experience platform. 

Some DAM vendors also want to serve as your core data layer as well, particularly around master data management (MDM). This, too, is generally a bad idea.

Pro Tip #2 — Don’t use your DAM as a data warehouse. 

To be fair, not all DAM vendors are overreaching. Ultimately, it's up to us as customers to create flexible architectures with minimal overlaps.

Related Article: What Should Your Digital Experience Stack Look Like? It Depends

6. Rise of New Vendors Amid a Fragmented Marketplace

DAM Marketplace circa 2019

Like all martech marketplaces, the DAM market is highly fragmented, with new entrants every year. As the market has matured, though, vendors have tended to sort themselves out according to a fairly typical complexity spectrum. The DAM vendors that my company, The Real Story Group, evaluates range from high-end (but complicated) platforms on the left, to simpler (but potentially limited) products on the right.

For customers like you, this is good news. You have many choices across your budget levels, technology predilections and use-case depth.

Meantime, if you're an asset manager, welcome to the wonderful world of martech ....