Open source DAM vendor, Southpaw Technology, who develop the TACTIC DAM platform, have announced two additional products: Media Library and Brand Manager, to compliment the three others they announced in August. Up until now, TACTIC has been a production-oriented DAM platform which might typically be used to automate some markets that make extensive use of workflow automation like film, TV and advertising. These two products appear to be moves to compete with marketing-oriented DAM systems, especially those that might target corporate users. This is the Media Library module:
“Using the newly developed interface from TACTIC 4.3, Southpaw has embodied the core workflow management tools for your media, including ingesting, versioning, downloading and simple editing, along with refinement and new features of the TACTIC 4.3 interface, like the media gallery, into a user friendly and easy to use application called the TACTIC | Media Library. Store image, video, audio and all of your file types in a central location where users can easily search, share and download.” [Read More]
The features are a lot of the usual items that many users would expect to see in a modern DAM now and includes points like LDAP integration, simple searches, media conversion, metadata extraction, web portals etc. The Brand Manager component seems to be more brand control, so you have template-based origination of PDFs (and other media), CRM integration, campaigns and so on, see the brand manager page for more details.
A lot of other DAM vendors might be dismissive about this update and it is true that apps with the same sets of features are ten-a-penny now and a price war seems likely to ensue once the innovation curve begins to flatten out (a process which might have already begun). One key difference is that this is built using the capabilities of their core platform which supports a wide range of other digital asset supply chain features. In other words, this is one of many tools that they have been able to create to satisfy the needs of multiple groups of users. I have seen a lot of DAM-suites where some kind of additional features are included (like branded templates etc) but there are a smaller number that have developed an architecture they can use as a platform to diversify the range of markets they offer. Note there is a subtle, but crucial difference between trying to build some ‘Tower of Babel’ application that includes millions of features and a platform which you could, theoretically develop on top of, but only if someone asks you to – and in a modular fashion that allow you to disconnect a component from the rest of the solution without compromising the overall structural integrity.
There are other vendors (especially those with extensive reseller/partner channels) who have followed a similar path and provide some kind of scripting engine or similar low-level SDK that make it possible to control the core functional components that they provide and then build these features out to meet a range of requirements. The benefit of this architecture is that it makes it possible to enter new markets far more quickly than others who have targeted one group of potential users and built everything around that. The flip-side risk is that the vendor doesn’t acquire sufficient specialist knowledge and while they can ‘skim’ markets, they can’t penetrate them in sufficient depth, which encourages over-diversification and spreading themselves too thinly. This problem often manifests itself via the front-end interface, which on first glance might look suitable, but later with more in-depth use might reveal limitations (arising from lack of in-depth knowledge about what the users will want). In addition, unless there are salespeople available who are specialists in selected markets, they tend not to be able to retain enough knowledge about a given target to represent their products as effectively as others might.
I should stress, these are all hypothetical points, none of them are specifically about Southpaw and TACTIC, but they should serve to illustrate the key themes of this discussion. It’s all in the execution and whether the developers have handled the task skilfully with the required sensitivity to the needs of the end users in question, or if they have over-abstracted and generated a solution which covers a lot of bases, but none of them very well. It should be noted that there are also a number of vendors who specialise in a given segment, yet still manage to produce sub-standard products that are worse than platform-based options which (in theory) should be less satisfactory. It isn’t possible to generalise about whether a given approach is right or wrong without seeing it first.
Last week, I wrote about the Widen interview with three of their staff, a good point made in that article was that demonstrations are becoming more important now than RFPs. If you’re going to be required to hand over a five or six figure sum to a supplier, those who want to tender their services should still expect to need to complete a document to provide the necessary detail with sufficient reference material about them and what they plan to offer. With that said, so much now depends on whether you actually like the experience of using a given software product (of any kind, not just DAM) that it has to be lead by the demonstration – preferably first, before a lot more time is put to the sword on the other more prosaic aspects of the exercise.