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Forrester: Companies must weigh needs for digital media management

A Forrester report suggests that managers examine their needs before choosing from a fragmented and complex market of digital asset management options.

Today’s fast-changing rich media management software has content management decision makers choosing from a fragmented...

market. Part of that fragmentation and its accompanying complexity stems from the wide variety of ways both software vendors and potential users define digital asset management (DAM), according to a new report from Forrester Research Inc. of Cambridge, Mass.

As a result, IT managers and other project leaders need to examine their company needs and compare them with the various capabilities being offered by DAM systems.

To sort things out, the Forrester report, The Rich Media Management Mystery, divides the offerings that exist across the digital media management space into four categories. The report identifies the four as high-end production uses, mid-level marketing operations, corporate audio and video needs, and line-of-business general purposes.

Applications developed for the high end typically are platforms used by media, entertainment and manufacturing companies, where high-definition video production, design and modeling of digital assets, format transformation and three-dimensional support have high business value. Costs for such software often approach and exceed $200,000. Mid-level marketing applications are generally out-of-the-box solutions used by retailers and marketing departments and typically cost between $50,000 and $100,000, as estimated by Forrester. Corporate audio and video needs and general purpose solutions are those used across industries and corporate departments. While the cost of systems with corporate capabilities varies, general-purpose DAM software typically costs less than $10,000.

While digital media management technologies were once used exclusively by publishing and media companies, currently one in every four enterprises with a content management system has expressed interest in pursuing a digital media management strategy. That figure was uncovered by a Forrester survey conducted at the end of last year. There’s also been a 54% increase in inquiries from companies asking about the management of rich media and digital assets at the research company over the past year.

There are three primary reasons for that growth. “Number one, it’s much easier to create rich media than it has been in the past. … Two, there’s a greater need for rich media. And three, aside from media and publishing enterprises, a lot of companies don’t have anything in place to manage the rich media assets they have,” said the report’s main author, Stephen Powers. While some companies create digital files or manage for basic library tasks with small-scale applications, many “have reached critical mass where they can’t manage their assets and must start to do that.”

Consumers expect engaging experiences online with high-quality digital assets, whether it takes place on their smart phones, tablets or Web-enabled televisions. And while the costs of rich media content creation have fallen, the costs associated with inadequate management of such assets are high. Poor management of digital assets can lead to increased re-creation costs or risks associated with distribution without the right licensing agreements in place.

Looking ahead to expanding needs
Traditional players in the space will continue to invest in their DAM applications as newer players begin to explore digital and rich asset management possibilities, Powers said. “Partnerships are beginning to form between smaller vendors of rich media products with WCM or ECM vendors,” he said.

Decision makers would do well to study their enterprise needs fully before doing their homework on a product’s capabilities, Powers said. Once that work has been completed, a company’s needs ought to be compared with three differentiating function categories of existing DAM solutions. These are content creation, content management and content distribution.

In that first category, capabilities range from light editing support to more sophisticated tools that offer detailed digital manipulation and integration with other creative tools. Within the content management category, basic library services are at the foundation of enterprise content management (ECM) solutions, but support for rich searches and creating and managing long-form, high-definition video exist at the high end. Finally, the content-distribution category encompasses functions generally supplied by sophisticated solutions and involves such tasks as format alteration and digital rights management.

Playing well with other channels
“Format transformation is important when you might have a high-res image for print, use a lower-res version for traditional Web use and an even lower one for mobile,” Powers said. That’s when rendition management capabilities offered in high-end and mid-level solutions come into play.

Companies interested in managing their digital assets in an efficient way should “understand that DAM doesn’t exist in a silo any more than other content management systems,” Powers said. “Vendor success [in selling software] may depend on how well they play or exist with other channels.” And enterprises moving ahead with developing DAM strategies “need to start thinking about how they support those other channels,” he said.

Once companies understand their needs, a good exercise is to short list the best-fit tools with an eye toward the future. Then, it’s important to consider the tradeoffs from one tool to another before making a choice.

One thing is certain: If companies do not consider how their digital assets ought to managed, said Powers, “they’ll end up with production inefficiencies and branding inefficiencies down the road.”

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