It's a Digital World, After All: Options in Digital Asset Management

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Understanding Your DAM Needs
For a company, such as Los Angeles-based Sekani, understanding requirements for DAM technology begins with developing a clear, documented sense of what your organization needs from its digital assets. Sekani has long been involved with the licensing and management of digital assets, and has expanded its business to help entertainment companies assess and document their needs for Digital Asset Management (See page 58 for a Profile on Sekani. -Ed.). The first step for companies, says Sekani founder and executive vice President Armistead Whitney is to develop a "blueprint" for why and how they will use DAM. "Companies need an overarching strategy for technologies, such as media asset management," says Whitney. "They need to decide what products they want to be marketing and who their key partners are."

Sekani would argue that the DAM process begins with inventorying and evaluating the assets on hand. Many companies are tempted to plunge right into the digitization process without much consideration of precisely what should be digitized. For an entertainment company or publisher of such an inventory, consideration should be made of the normal parameters of supply and demand, what value an asset may have in digital form, what opportunities there are to market it, and so forth. For other organizations' inventory, the focus should be on how the digital assets can help in core areas like sales, marketing, and customer education and support.

Once such a plan is in place, you would need to begin the technical steps of digitizing and managing the assets. You may well face the need to digitize and manage an array of materials, including text, graphics, multimedia, and streaming media, with a goal of being able to easily access, repurpose, and distribute these assets at any time. End-to-end solution vendors, such as Artesia, with its TEAMS product, talk about the need to have a DAM product that can "ingest, index, categorize, secure, search, transform, assemble, and export" content in as many forms as you require.

Artesia's list is a good one. Once content is digitized, it needs to be made widely available to many people and processes along a variety of workflows, from the simple to the long and complex. An organization may have individual components, such as photos and sound files, as well as compound documents in word processing and desktop publishing formats, and finished goods in formats like PDF. The DAM system should be ready to ingest, store, and index these assets in such a way that they can be later found, modified, reassembled, and eventually exported.

Once exported, the assets need to be distributed, and vendors like ArtMachine focus on the distribution side of the DAM problem. According to Grant Slade, VP of marketing at ArtMachine, while some products are "very deep" in areas, such as storage and management, "We think the point is really distribution." For Slade, the DAM issue certainly involves finding, converting, and managing assets, "but the real goal is to then get the assets in the hands of the people who need them." Slade cited examples like the clothing manufacturer who needs to distribute flyers, point of purchase materials, and advertising with each seasonal turn of the clothing lines. The timely distribution of these materials can be what makes or breaks the season for both the stores and the manufacturer. Eventually, Slade sees the manufacturer moving to a self-service model where the stores will know where to go for all such materials.

So the DAM problem extends to all kinds of organizations, not just the entertainment or publishing company. Investment firm Bear, Stearns, in a report on the DAM market, wrote, "Currently, the biggest users of these solutions are media and entertainment groups, but the technology extends to any enterprise that derives benefit from automation of content-sharing workflow processes. We expect corporations, universities, healthcare organizations, governments, and other enterprises to become a larger market oppor- tunity as the digital transition continues."

Why would these other companies move to DAM solutions? Both Bear, Stearns and GISTICS point to lower costs, faster product development cycles, reduced labor costs, and opportunities for increased revenues through additional licensing opportunities. Indeed, once an asset is digitized and properly managed, it is available for repurposing and reselling in ways not before possible. The enterprising company can develop whole new markets for products that had been effectively dormant or at least under-utilized.

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