At the Intersection of DAM and WCM

Digital asset management (DAM) and web content management (WCM) have a long history together: the partners, the rivals, surviving the big divide between the two, and crashing in unison like two waves in the era of converging enterprise technologies.

If you're managing information in your organization, it is important to understand how DAM and WCM systems intersect, as well as where they should not.
In the early days, there was a considerable divide between DAM and WCM, influenced by the fact that a lot of organizations took a siloed approach, greatly affected by the technology and what it was, and was not, capable of doing. In this clear separation of DAM and WCM, it was difficult for the two to "talk" to each other or for internal users of each system to effectively collaborate on initiatives that required both digital assets (e.g., images, video, audio, PDFs, and Microsoft Office documents) and web-destined content (e.g., content components, interactives, webpages, and web applications).

On the other hand, in the early days, the needs were quite different: Think about comparing the needs of a Hollywood movie studio and those of corporate brochure sites on the web. However, the rise of digital publishing could be smelled in the air even then. At the same time, technology evolution had come to a maturity point when there started appearing some overlap in functionalities between DAM and WCM.

As the two previously separate universes collided, DAM integrations began not only with WCM systems but also with ERP, ECM, and others. As marketers, creatives, and web publishers started working more closely with each other across multiple channels and geographies, DAM and WCM started being more connected through integrations, allowing for data or content interchange, metadata sharing, or exposing DAM assets in the CMS.

Let's not downplay the complexity in any technical integration. It almost always requires sizable budgets and amounts of aspirin. Especially complex integrations may occur as a result of vendor acquisition hysteria, when companies of varying technical lineage need to be baked into something more or less cohesive.

There are numerous examples of this; for example, Autonomy Interwoven and the Virage MediaBin integration that converged the video-focused Virage with the image- and brand management-focused MediaBin onto a single platform. To make matters more complex, there were also developed Virage MediaBin Services for TeamSite (Interwoven's WCM product) so that organizations could browse and search the MediaBin repository for assets, scale them as necessary, and publish MediaBin assets from TeamSite to the web.

OpenText Corp. is another example of a patchwork of integrations largely influenced by the acquisition hysteria in an elaborate intermingling of many products: Video Services (for video transcoding and streaming), Content Server (formerly Livelink for document storage), Media Management (formerly Artesia) and Web Experience Management (formerly Vignette).

Adobe Systems, Inc.; SDL, PLC; VYRE; Nuxeo; Oracle; and others all stand at the intersection of DAM and content management. Some vendors sell separate WCM and DAM systems from under one roof. While we may see even more convergence in the DAM/WCM future, it is important to understand that these two systems were designed to do very separate and very distinct tasks.

While it is possible to a certain degree to do more DAM-like tasks in a WCM system, you need to be careful when trying to use the CMS as a replacement for a DAM system, if your business needs to go far beyond cropping images and into video management, for instance. 

It is important for organizations to start realizing that DAM really is more than just a storage of assets and that WCM's primary function is not media and digital asset management. If your incumbent Web CMS could suffice for your minimal DAM needs, you might be able to avoid the need to invest in traditional DAM technology. But the "how" here is more important than the "what."

The set of DAM-like functions in the CMS needs to be examined carefully before you decide to go one way or the other. Do you need video editing and transcoding for multiple file formats in high resolution? In that case, these needs are not likely to be addressed by any Web CMS. If all you need to do is edit images in the web browser for publishing on the web, many WCM systems will be able to do that. The devil is in the details.