Making The Case For Dedicated DAM Solutions And Strategies

Romney Whitehead, writing on her own Borrowed Insight blog, makes the case that organisations should have a dedicated DAM solution rather than seeking to incorporate them into other applications like PIM, WCM etc:

With a PIM, or even a CMS, the clue is in the name. They manage a certain set of assets and the workflow those assets need to go through. However what about the rest of the business that is not product focused? What about the HR department producing assets for posters or communications within a company? How about the UX department who are producing audio and video as part of their research? What about content marketing and the press and pr teams all producing campaigns to drive people to the product? Are those teams expected to stick their assets on an unmanaged server and spend hours looking for them and the pain of not being able to share easily?” [Read More]

These are points which we have also been making on DAM News for a while (as have numerous other people with an understanding of DAM).  Digital assets are more fundamental in nature to your organisation than any of the aforementioned technologies, in fact they depend upon them to exist.  If your assets are not organised, you can’t do anything useful with them. If you try and fold your DAM strategy in with some other requirement, the results will become skewed towards whatever the business priorities are of the sponsor of that initiative.  This is one of the reasons why there are so many different DAM solutions simultaneously deployed inside many organisations, each with a slightly different take based the needs of whoever has just (independently) realised they have a lot of digital assets and now need to manage them.

I suspect a causal factor for the lack of appreciation of the need for a dedicated DAM solutions (and DAM strategies also) is that they do not necessarily yield a tangible product.  Other technologies like WCM or graphics applications generate collateral which acts like marketing materials for the benefits they provide – you can literally see them.  Until you have to find some crucial item for an important, cannot be missed deadline, organised digital assets seems like some theoretical objective which other unknown colleagues will silently and invisibly deal with for you, because everyone else must need to do this too, right?  This is contributory as to why the value of DAM is consistently underestimated and the reason it gets discounted and ‘merged’ with some other initiative rather than treated as an essential item in its own right.  Eventually, enough managers will begin to understand this point and DAM will get taken seriously (especially as there are going to be ever greater number of digital assets in circulation).  Until then, some forward-thinking organisations will be able to benefit from a relatively simple and comparatively cheap opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over their industry peers.

For anyone based in or around London (UK) who wants to discuss subjects like this, in-person, there is a London DAM Meetup scheduled for 6.30pm on 10th March at the Dover Castle Pub in Weymouth Mews, W1 where Romney (and a number of other people who are involved in DAM) will be in attendance.

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  • Ralph and Romney are both spot on…dedicated DAM systems are being eclipsed by other types of information management systems (WCM, PIM, etc.) with DAM “modules” that are sold as “good enough” to people who don’t know any better. I absolutely agree that DAM is more difficult to sell as a standalone software category because it is an enabler, but so are a multitude of technology infrastructure tools. Servers aren’t very sexy either, but we all know we need them. Same goes for the PC, but Apple found a way to make them sexy, which is what DAM vendors are trying to do now too.

    Organizations are looking for one mega-tool to manage the entire end-to-end digital asset life cycle–from creation, approval, management, distribution, and archive–across a multitude of use cases such as production, marketing, communications, archives, e-commerce, and more. The fact is that there is no one tool right now that can do this – and people are getting seduced by a “DAM lite” solution with functionality that most closely matches their own departmental use cases, without understanding the functionality that they are sacrificing in the area of asset management. Because we don’t have standards across any of the tools that purport to “solve” the end-to-end digital supply chain problem, vendors end up recreating the wheel and stealing from Peter in one area of funcationality to pay Paul in the other. Ralph, you are spot on -whoever holds the purse strings dictates which flavor of DAM gets chosen – whether this is a dedicated DAM system or another system with a DAM “module” depends on how much they understand about DAM’s role in the information ecosystem.

    I would argue that the undervaluation of dedicated DAM tools is also related to a much larger issue that plagues not just the DAM industry, but all industries under the information management umbrella (ECM, DM, KM, RM, WCM, etc.). The entire practice of information management is undervalued, and as a result, so are the resources needed to manage information successfully – everything from systems, to standards, to staffing, and the principles of information science itself. There is a huge educational problem right now…organizations are beginning to understand that their data and content are assets, but resources are not being allotted to manage these assets effectively because the very practice of information management is not well understood. And you can’t value what you don’t understand. We need to do a better job of educating people on not just the “why,” but also the “how” of information management, and why it is critical to have dedicated systems to support the functionality needed to support effective management of content. We desperately need to demonstrate the ROI of information science, and dedicated DAM systems.

    I say let DAM systems be the foundational repositories, then create standards around this basic functionality so that other best of breed systems can plug in to them, depending on what functionality is needed on top. Modularity, standards, and extensibility have to be the name of the game in order to take advantage of technological developments in a variety of scenarios that we cannot foresee. If vendors can’t get it together to create standards, then we’ll continue to see failed DAM initiatives and further devaluation of information management in general.

    Semantic technologies can offer a reprieve from having to fix the messy situation we’re in right now in the sense that you can keep your silos and just add a semantic layer on top that will tie all of our information together across disparate systems and data models, but I can’t help but think the underlying problem of not valuing the art and science of information management itself will persist – just with another layer of data and complexity on top of it all. If we don’t value the management of information in the systems we have now, adding another layer of data on top of it just doubles the complexity and resources needed to maintain it all…

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