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

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It's hard enough learning a new subject even when it's only a single acronym. But when it comes to the subject of managing digital assets, the industry can't even seem to get comfortable with less than three or four acronyms, starting with DAM (for Digital Asset Management), MAM (for Media Asset Management), and DMM (for Digital Media Management). DAM seems to be gaining the most ground, so we'll stick with that, despite its rather unfortunate pronunciation (in front of my mother you best be saying "Hoover" before that word).

Yet the proliferation of acronyms is revealing. There are many approaches to the problem of Digital Asset Management, and many interested parties, from the giant storage-focused vendors, such as IBM and EMC, to a long list of "end-to-end" and niche DAM vendors specializing in areas, such as video, audio, and graphics management. Many blue-chip customers, including cable and broadcast networks, such as CNN, have partnered with more than one vendor to solve their DAM needs, beginning with the need for high-speed storage and networking and moving right out to the front lines where content is digitized and indexed for storage and retrieval.

Indeed, if you have recently begun looking at the issue of managing digital assets, you will encounter a blizzard of terminology and acronyms on data storage, networking, analog-to-digital capture and encoding, metadata, indexing, and distribution. One research report consulted for this article included a 12-page glossary of terms and a table of over 100 technologies that fit somewhere in the DAM mix. And that is only on the technology side. The other important consideration here is the business case for using such technology, and adopting processes and workflows that will maximize such an investment.

Going from Analog to Digital
The world is going digital, as we all know. The production and management of new text, audio, and video material are increasingly digital, and new media like the Web are constantly raising the question of whether existing assets should be digitized. This is true for companies whose first business is communication, such as entertainment companies, networks, and publishers, as well as any business with a growing need to communicate with customers, employees, and other partners.

If your organization has a need to communicate, educate, promote a brand, or sell (and it probably does several or all of these), it has a need for digital assets that can support these processes. Moreover, you likely have already felt some pain from not having your assets in digital form, or, even if they are in digital form, not managing them appropriately. Consider the last time you had to provide a digitized photo and biography of your CEO, or a product brief in electronic form, or a press release in several formats. Chances are, there was some scrambling to make each of these things happen, some additional manual work, a few phone calls, and, voilá, a few hours or a day or two later, the work was done. Wouldn't it make sense to predict such needs, plan for them, make the materials available in the correct formats, and put them, for example, on a server where the right people could find them and access them?

That, in a nutshell, is the DAM problem and solution. For the average company, it affects such areas as sales, marketing, public relations, and investor relations. It can cut right to issues like the length of the sales cycle and the ability of the company to promote shareholder value. For the company that owns significant creative assets, such as a broadcast company, television network, or publisher, it goes right to topline questions like what assets are available for selling, and bottomline questions like the cost of product development.

Because DAM is right in the middle of such important issues for organizations, it is no surprise that so many vendors are looking to claim this space. The research and consulting company GISTICS focuses on the DAM market, and is projecting sales in this market to grow to over $4 billion by 2004.

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