This content is part of the Essential Guide: Guide to implementing digital asset management systems and strategies
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Despite its allure, digital asset management not always the right fit

Before jumping into a digital asset management program, organizations should take a careful look at business objectives and current WCM systems, content management pros say.

Customers who interact with an organization on laptops and partners who gather and share information on their tablets...

and smartphones are forcing enterprises of all types and sizes to reconsider how to best manage all the rich media and digital assets they produce online, collect and store on a daily or even hourly basis.

Many are turning to digital asset management (DAM).

For example, when content like digital photos, illustrations, logos, sound clips, podcasts and videos have to be recalled, resized and reformatted so they can be viewed or otherwise listened to on a growing list of new devices, DAM can become a pressing need. And any opportunity to automate just a part of that workflow can benefit companies and nonprofits alike, so a dedicated DAM system sounds promising.

But does every organization with a website need DAM?

“We often find that separating Web content management from DAM is hard to do,” said Tim McLaughlin, founder and president of Siteworx Inc., a consulting firm based in Reston, Va. “Sometimes you don’t need a separate system; sometimes you do.”

Define business issues
Organizations considering investing in DAM should examine their needs carefully before making any buying decision.

“You need to understand the problems you’re trying to address. … Don’t just assume you need digital asset management,” McLaughlin said, explaining that unless the business has sophisticated video and rich media needs, it might take a second look at its Web content management strategy. “Lots of WCM systems are not being used fully.”

If video content is created but remains just a small part of an enterprise’s workflow, it’s wise to look at standalone video services. “A lot of times one of the reasons to go with a hosted video solution is that you get a content delivery network built in,” McLaughlin said. “It actually helps your performance.”

He noted many of his clients are using hosted video DAM, and not just for delivery reasons. “It’s less complicated and it doesn’t need a lot of customization,” he said, mentioning Brightcove and Calamares as examples of video management service providers. “Video is a big dividing line between different products.”

Specialized requirements add complexity
Aside from video, there are other cases, especially in manufacturing, that lend themselves to DAM. In product development, for example, DAM can help when an update is made to an aircraft engine part if the part is used in multiple assemblies across a fleet.

“When you start getting into the internal aspects of digital assets like PDFs and product information, it becomes much more specialized,” McLaughlin said. “The idea [behind using DAM] is that as you update one piece of information, you automatically update that information in other documentation as well.”

Using DAM like this helps consolidate things such as maintenance manuals, simplifying their reproduction and assuring their accuracy.

“Digital asset management is not an easy project,” he said. “The WCM space is messy but has coalesced in some ways, but the DAM space is even messier.”

“It can be complicated,” agreed Anjali Yakkundi, a researcher at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. Organizations must have a clear understanding of their needs and how the end user will use DAM.

“It depends on what [firms] want to use their DAM program for,” said Yakkundi, who co-authored a recent Forrester report on digital asset management guidelines. “Some want to manage internal content. That’s the minority. A lot want to manage marketing assets and Web content. That’s the great majority.”

The first step an organization should take is to determine its needs and what resources are available, said Faith Robinson, director of enterprise content management (ECM) and DAM at Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro, Inc.

“People often go to the vendor first rather than spend time with either themselves or a third party,” she said.

Once an enterprise determines clear needs and goals, it can better understand the sales pitch from DAM vendors.

Not seeing the forest ...
“Don’t get down into the weeds too soon,” she cautioned. Instead, once those goals have been determined, it becomes easier for an organization to figure out what it needs to pay for up-front and what it can defer to a future date.

There’s a vast difference between a company’s capability to ensure its logo is used in exactly the same way around the world on all different content formats and the means to simply store a collection of JPEG images.

“We have to ask [clients] how fancy they want to get,” Yakkundi said. “Requirements vary quite a bit with DAM.” Within the same company there can be different needs for internal and external content. “So maybe two separate DAM systems are fine, or use a Web content system for one of them,” she said.

It’s not, however, just about installing a DAM product and turning it on. When considering the move to invest in a DAM system, enterprises need to understand that, as Yakkundi noted, “Even if you have all the bells and whistles, if you’re not governing properly, it’s not going to make a difference.”

Governance, Robinson agreed, is key. And for that, she added, you need to “create a biblical type of taxonomy and do the right analysis up-front.” All of it helps support the DAM initiative once an organization determines an initiative is necessary.

“Ultimately, it all depends on how big your assets are, how distributed they are and how much integration you need to do,” McLaughlin said. Yet even if a company decides its Web content management system will take care of its current needs, there’s always tomorrow to consider.

“We like to point out that they should think about the future. You can grow into DAM,” he said. “It’s also good to think about what’s going to happen in the next couple of years.”

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