Digital asset management success hinges on integration, vendor support

Jonathan Gourlay

Editor's Note: This is the final installment in a two-part series about how to choose the right digital asset management (DAM) technology for the enterprise. The first part explained why taking time to determine a precise "use case" is of primary importance when launching a DAM initiative.

You've talked to the people who will be using your new digital asset management (DAM) system and they've helped you figure out the main business reason for taking the plunge. Some claim there are many good reasons for DAM, but zeroing in on that primary "use case" will help focus your efforts and narrow the choices.

In the words of Irina Guseva, a senior analyst at Real Story Group in Olney, Md., once you've established  the precise reasons why digital asset management should be implemented in the first place, the next steps to choosing wisely center on the ideas of "technology fit" and the "partner fit."

According to Guseva, it makes sense to examine how well a DAM product will integrate with existing business systems, and to explore what kind of partner relationship might be expected from a vendor.

"I would put the emphasis on the technology and partner levels," Guseva said.

Make sure that digital asset management is easy to use

Ease of use should be a key consideration when shopping for a digital asset management (DAM) system, according to Rob Boysko, manager of multimedia publishing for MLB Advanced Media, a subsidiary of MLB.com in New York.

MLB.com is the public-facing website for Major League Baseball, and it designed its DAM system in-house, specifically so it could easily post baseball highlights. But the key to the project was keeping the system simple for non-technical users.

"There are three keys to choosing or designing the correct DAM system," Boysko said. "Number 1 is organizational capabilities -- you have to be able to find what you're looking for, then number 2 is usability and number 3 is usability again. It's so important. If it's clunky for a generic user, you're in trouble."

Partner and technology fit make a difference

Deciding what type of DAM vendor to partner with is an important decision -- almost as important as the technology itself, Guseva said.

Some things to consider carefully when picking a DAM vendor include their approach to support, maintenance and licensing and even their geographic location. For example, Guseva said, a company in the U.S. might think twice about purchasing technology from a vendor located in, say, in New Zealand.  

"It seems like it's an obvious consideration, but in this mobile world, you'd be surprised by what considerations are forgotten," she said, pointing out that it can get expensive to fly technology experts across oceans and continents.

The vendor's ability to integrate its systems with existing frameworks -- such as .Net or Java -- is also critical.

"Integration is important," said Anjali Yakkundi, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

Organizations would also do well to consider whether their new DAM system should be integrated with customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise content management systems.

"A lot of companies have implemented DAM as a silo and they're beginning to realize it can be used in concert with content management programs," Yakkundi said.

Customer satisfaction and what kind of partner support an organization might expect is also near the top of Yakkundi's shopping list. She said there were two types of partners to think about: those who provide vendor support and those who provide integration support. Each type of relationship can be significant to a successful technology implementation.

Tim Walters, an analyst at Digital Clarity Group, a content management consultancy based in New Hyde Park, N.Y., said it's important to determine the type of role an organization's rich media and digital assets will play in interactions with customers.

"What degree of integration is necessary to support your customer experience strategy?" he asked, explaining that it is necessary to consider other business systems as well. Whether the DAM system needs to work alongside a CRM, collaboration or customized Web content management system, technology fit is a key consideration.

It's also a good idea to get a handle on the programs end users are already using, said Matt Leopold, the director of customer experience for TE Connectivity, a global manufacturer of communications switches and other telecom equipment based in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

"Find out who works with collateral and websites, and find out how they use that stuff and with what programs," he said.

Delivery is the next big question

Finally, suggested Walters, determining the manner by which the DAM system is to be deployed is the remaining step for choosing a product that will work best.

For more on launching a successful digital asset management strategy

Discover how MLB.com uses cloud collaboration and homebuilt digital asset management

Learn how Hasbro tied its global enterprise digital asset management system together

See what happens when digital asset management is not the right fit for an organization

"Is it going to be installed in-house, in the cloud or are you interested in another approach?" Walters asked, pointing out that the emerging market offers more choices for delivery options, such as Software as a Service (SaaS) and on-premises products.

Figuring out which of those choices will fit best with an organization's particular needs should be part of the "short list" of considerations, along with the scenario, technology and partner fit, Guseva said. "It might be an on-premises model, SaaS or a hybrid approach," she said.

Yakkundi noted that the choice to purchase an on-premises product or use a SaaS provider often comes down to whether an organization is in a regulated industry such as financial services. Among larger companies with security concerns, on-premises DAM still seems a safer bet, while companies who want to manage rich media assets without involving IT will consider a cloud option. A hybrid version of the two DAM delivery models is still emerging, she added.

"The delivery model, though, is definitely one of the first decision points that you'll reach after thinking about business needs and user needs," she said. Whether to go on premises or not is one of the first things you'll consider."

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