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Can DAM software make or break your Web strategy?

As companies try to hone customer relationships online and via other channels, digital asset management software can be central to such efforts.

The turf for building customer relationships has shifted.

Lauren HorwitzLauren Horwitz

As companies have gone increasingly digital, forging relationships with customers has moved from more traditional avenues to new channels and formats, such as mobile devices and video. But creating and maintaining websites that are compelling for customers -- and consumable in multiple channels -- can be problematic. Photos, videos and other rich media assets can be difficult to track, manage and store given their file size and variety of formats. So ensuring that these digital assets are available and consumable are new challenges for companies.

Enter digital asset management (DAM), which creates a searchable repository of rich media through metadata and other means. While DAM was once the province largely of media and publishing companies, it is now becoming standard fare in marketing departments for most enterprises, where photos and video are becoming important currency to entice audiences. Digital asset management enables companies to store rich media, which can be a storage hog on company file servers, develop workflows that reflect their business processes, and manage digital rights and permissions. As companies use an increasing amount of rich media, these have become important aspects of managing enterprise-class, customer-centric websites.

"Eventually, more and more organizations are considering DAM, because rich media is exploding," said Anjali Yakkundi an application development and delivery analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. While many organizations have viewed DAM software as something of a "parking lot" where they can dump their rich media assets as an alternative to file servers, the software accomplishes a good deal more through workflows, digital rights management and tracking.

Ensuring that digital assets are available and consumable are new challenges for companies.

And while Web content management (WCM) or even customer relationship management platforms might seem like logical platforms to house, manage and track digital assets, Yakkundi says that these systems generally offer rudimentary capabilities as far as managing digital assets.

"WCMs don't always support a large amount of rich media assets or rich media features," she said. But they won't offer more advanced functionality such as editing video or asset lifecycle management (e.g., indicating when assets have expired and so forth).

If your company is considering DAM software, there are certain buying considerations you should take into account.

1. Understand your buying scenario. A marketing department's needs for digital asset management software differ vastly from those of a healthcare organization. Some departments or companies may need to apply stringent workflows, while others may use DAM software principally to manage digital rights and create video. So understand how you plan on using the software. Also understand whether a vendor targets your industry and use cases.

2. Evaluate vendor features. Some vendors may not have advanced features such as asset markup or the ability to manage and reuse global renditions of assets. Match the feature set with your buying scenario.

3. Evaluate your company assets. Understand what kinds of files and formats you want to manage, such as video, audio, photos, logos, PDFs, PPTs, InDesign, etc.

4. Research the vendor's integration capabilities. Many of these platforms need to work with other systems such as your e-commerce platform for marketing campaigns or your WCM system for Web publishing. Explore whether your selected DAM vendor integrates with your platform.

5. Consider vendor profile. Get customer references and compare customers' needs with your own. Also consider the potential longevity of the vendor, though this is a niche and immature market.

6. Explore the DAM software partner network. Find out whether the software vendor's partners understand digital asset management or not. Just as you consider the longevity of a DAM provider, consider the long-term prospects for partners as well.

For more on digital asset management:

A guide to DAM software

A flood or rich media pushes DAM front and center

Cutting costs with DAM?

7. Evaluate support options. Understand the DAM provider's support options. Few companies, other than those with substantial rich media expertise, should expect to address software issues on their own.

As with other technology purchases, your business case and your existing ecosystem of technologies will likely play important roles in your choice of DAM software. But don't let these factors sway you completely. With many niche players in the market, keep an open mind and ask vendors to demo their technologies on-site. Seeing them live in your environment with your assets, users and business processes can make all the difference.

If you have customer experiences concerning digital asset management to share or want to comment on this article, do so below or write to me at [email protected].

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