What Does 2016 Hold For DAM?
This guest post was contributed by By Hassan Kotob, CEO of North Plains
Has DAM’s moment in the sun arrived? That’s a pretty big question and regardless of what analysts say, the exact detail around the future adoption and spread of DAM is pretty hard to predict. However, one thing is very clear, while DAM may have evolved during its first two decades, there are some very specific barriers to overcome if it is to meet its true potential.
Some of those barriers are old news, such as the fact that this is a very diverse market and there is much interpretation and not enough clarity around what a DAM is which continues to create confusion among potential customers. Previously the domain of librarians and IT, Marketers are a more recent direct target audience for DAM vendors, but speak to most marketers and they may well not even understand what is meant by a digital asset management system. Marketers do not call video, art and other content ‘assets’. So, as a first step, the industry needs to start talking the language of its customers, whether in marketing, publishing or another sector.
Another barrier that has been around for a while is the marketing versus IT battle. Marketing may have been the catalyst for DAM, but they have traditionally not had control over the IT budget. The advent of cloud-based systems now available means there is potential for this to change. A brand or publishing team can choose to adopt a DAM without any noticeable impact on the organisation’s IT infrastructure.
That said, it makes a lot of sense to keep IT in the loop and get their buy-in, not least because the DAM may well have to integrate with other technology, such as publishing, CRM, web-to-print workflows or WCM systems. That means having an open, collaborative approach, with DAM systems that have easy-to-use APIs – even ‘out of the box’ functionality and don’t require heavy customisation or coding – but at the same time, we need to be careful not to position cloud-based DAM as ‘off the shelf’.
Successful adoption of DAM requires consultancy and training, so the vendor community needs to take on more responsibility around the provision of true end-to-end services. Let’s not pretend that DAM is ‘fit and forget’; even if it is cloud-based, cultural adoption and integration with internal processes don’t happen overnight. With the growing shift towards companies having an ‘in house agency department in addition to using external agencies, there is a new set of potential DAM users with different use cases who also need to be addressed.
Whilst the proliferation of cloud-based solutions has made DAM much more accessible it’s not an option for every organisation, so on-premise systems will continue to have an important role for the foreseeable future.. There is also considerable growth in hybrid solutions combining both cloud and on premise solutions. It’s all about fitting around the user organisation, giving them what they want, rather than dictating the technology model to them.
DAM also needs to be accessible to a wider range of users. The cybarian or asset gatekeeper will of course continue to be the pivot, but DAMs really need to be designed with other employees in mind, particularly the ‘light’ users across the enterprise, who interact casually with the system and may not be marketing or media professionals. These ‘production workers’ don’t want systems that take hours to work out how to use,they need something intuitive that they can dip in and out of quickly and easily.
That means creating a user experience and interface that is both appealing to look at and is functionally robust.. This continues to be an on-going challenge across the enterprise IT space but one that collectively we really need to crack. People have high expectations, largely thanks to the consumer technology experience, which has led the way in creating an intuitive, highly visual user experience. Across the board, enterprise IT needs to catch up on that wave.
Addressing this broader range of users also means bringing DAM up-to-speed on real-time marketing. As DAM evolves, we will see systems not just suggesting, but perhaps even sending automatic alerts, about up-to-date assets, for instance in response to a set of content that a user has just downloaded for a social media campaign. In today’s 24/7 world, users don’t want to waste time having to search for the right content when they’ve got to respond instantly on social media.
We also have to help users deal with the often overwhelming volume of content that they own. Again, this comes back to being counsellors, not just shifting software: they may need help with retiring or archiving that content. Add in workflow and rights management and DAM can become the pivot or centre point for all content lifecycle management, rather than just another system in the workflow.
The bottom line is that if DAM is to deliver on its promises, then we all need to be more focused on what the user needs. This may sound ridiculously obvious, but martech is on the whole still too focused on the technology rather than the customer. We need to listen to users, hear what they need, react and adapt accordingly.