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Digital Asset Management Glossaries And The Definition Of DAM

by Ralph Windsor on February 11, 2013

Last week CMSWire featured an article by Henrik de Gyor about Digital Asset Management glossaries:

Some vendors can produce a short list of terms either online or upon request, but I dare them to have a complete compendium of all industry terms and acronyms even if they do not have that option or feature. I believe it would only be fair for each vendor to include a list of all terms they may use months down the road from their first canned demo, through contract negotiation, through implementation, through user acceptance testing, past go live and even past the final sign off of the system because that is just the starting point.” [Read More]

My employer, Daydream (who were in the DAM software vending business at the time) published one of these in 2006. I don’t know if it was the first, but we couldn’t find too many other examples when we first started compiling it. A number of other people followed suit and an internet search engine will usually yield more. I also note David Riecks has posted a comment under the CMSWire article with a link to the photometadata.org glossary – which looks pretty good and although more photo-centric appears highly usable for those with a general interest in DAM too.

I do know that at the start of the DAM glossary exercise, adding terms was relatively entertaining – such as finding the Z39.50 entry for ‘Z’. After we got above 20 or so, however, this quickly turned into a bit of a chore and the number of volunteers tailed off as a result. That might become the problem with any collective endeavour too.

On Henrik’s point about use of obscure or proprietary terms, I can’t comment on whether these are used by others to deliberately deceive, but I know we certainly didn’t want to do that. It was more so we had some place to send interested parties so they could understand our frame of reference. We toned down the sales talk on the glossary because wanted our clients (prospective and existing) to read it so they understood what we were talking about.

Another factor was that before around 2005-2006 there were many more euphemisms for DAM than there are now. ‘Digital Content Management’ was one that I recall being bandied around a lot – you don’t hear that much any longer, perhaps because the ‘digital’ prefix has become unnecessary these days and the rest of it is too vague to be useful. Another I recall seeing in a few UK public sector tender documents was ‘Broadcast Asset Management’ – perhaps this is still used by some.  There are quite a few others, a good number were invented by prospective users of DAM systems who adapted the canonical Digital Asset Management term to describe their own specific set of requirements or to make sure that any implementation budget was earmarked exclusively for their own department or special interest.  So, you might often hear ‘Marketing Asset Management’ when marketing managers wanted to ward off IT colleagues.

The whole ‘digital asset management’ term itself has ambiguity issues with the more general ‘Asset Management’ description – which refers to tangible assets like property, machinery or financial assets such as stocks and bonds.

I’m sure I’m not alone with this, but I regularly get cold calls from inexperienced junior telesales personnel from some sector like financial services who haven’t understood what a difference tacking the word ‘digital’ on the front makes to the meaning of ‘asset management’. Having to explain this to them is reminiscent of what DAM software sales was like in around 2002.

People seem to have settled on ‘Digital Asset Management’ as the core term these days, with maybe a small number of related (but definitely unique) descriptions like:

  • Media Asset Management (more video than other content)
  • Marketing Resource Management (DAM systems being only a part thereof)
  • Brand Asset Management (contentious)

The last one is disputable and while many see it as a DAM system for marketing people with some kind of on demand production facility for generating presentations, print etc, it also relates to a more conceptual brand/marketing activity where you view your brand as an intangible asset with an associated impact on the organisation’s overall value.

Many have contemplated replacing the term Digital Asset Management with something else, especially with the unfortunate three letter acronym it carries around (which seems to be an on-going joke that successive generations never get bored of). Even with all the disadvantages I have described, I still think it’s the best description because the asset reference makes it clear that the process and objective of DAM is to add value to raw materials like digital files (or binary data if you want to get even more fundamental). Digital Asset Management is all about making media more useful and valuable to a wider cross section of end users – so the term still makes sense to me as that is the shared objective of everyone in the DAM, even if they do compete with each other to get the opportunity to do it.

With all that said, I have to agree with Henrik that it’s about time the industry starting reaching some kind of proper consensus on terminology and a glossary would not be a bad start.

Since DAM News appears to be read by a reasonably wide cross section of industry stakeholders, we have made the decision to donate the Daydream DAM Glossary to this journal. As a glossary, it is far from perfect and some of the terms in it look like they could also do with being pensioned off too, but it’s intended only a starting point.

Please feel free to review the Digital Asset Management Glossary now on DAM News.  At a later date we will need to provide some more suitable form of editorial control, but for now the comments system to recommend and discuss changes will have to suffice.

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