Clutter surrounds the average office environment. Any system that diminishes clutter is a relief. The answer to digital clutter is digital asset management (DAM). DAM creates a central repository for digital assets, making them accessible for anyone within an organization—from public relations to design—with a quick turnaround time.
A digital asset can be a number of things—an image, document, graphic, logo, or template. According to Scott Richardson, president/CEO and co-founder, Longwood Software, an asset is much more than a file. "It is a file augmented by creation and usage information." An asset is the true center of a solution.
In DAM, Scott Bowen, president, Artesia Digital Media Group, Open Text Corporation, believes the "A" or asset is the focus. "At the end of the day an asset is content that has financial or cultural value to a company. It is intellectual property. For our clients, that’s what makes an asset worth managing—the fact that there is value in this intellectual property. Because of the value, you want to preserve, manage, protect, reassess, and re-deploy that where possible."
Depending on the number of assets and number of people who have access to them, things get confusing, fast. Organized assets save time. This is especially true for companies spread throughout a country or internationally. By implementing a DAM solution, simplicity is achieved.
Before DAM There Was ...
"Utter chaos," explains Michael A. Snow, senior product marketing manager, Interwoven. According to Snow, a company without DAM has an "asset management problem" and "acknowledgement is the first step to recovery." Using Interwoven MediaBin, an application-based solution, is one way to prevent the chaos. With this product, employees and partners gain secure, self-service access to the most current and approved marketing materials, avoiding awkward mishaps. One feature of MediaBin is that it utilizes a "core asset model." A single high-resolution asset is stored in a repository and from this asset, alternate file formats are generated on the fly to fit the needs of the user at the time of request. This is all accessible from an easy-to-use Web interface.
There are a lot of opportunities for mismanagement of assets without a DAM system. These include burning files to CDs or DVDs, having a simplistic file server, a rudimentary desktop DAM, or utilizing FTP sites. Note the word files here. According to Richardson, before a company implements DAM, they are managing files, not assets.
Longwood Software’s TagTeam is both an application service provider (ASP) and boxed software product that enables a company to effectively manage and share assets. TagTeam creates a searchable, visual library of all digital assets, marketing materials, sales tools, and print literature. It publishes these assets in a variety of formats to Web sites and enterprise systems.
Brooks Sports, Inc. is a TagTeam user. Before DAM, the marketing department’s asset library had a poor user interface; it was disorganized and it wasn’t searchable. This recipe for disaster was directly affecting the sales performance of footwear, apparel, and accessories in more than 40 countries worldwide.
With TagTeam, Brooks Sports’ marketing department’s files were instantly and easily accessible. Now, they can download images, information, and ads, all in a few minutes. Previously, this process took days or weeks.
Stephanie Dooley, junior Web designer, Brooks Sports’ marketing de-partment, comments on the effective- ness of TagTeam, "I especially like the search function and account log-in features, both of which enable users to take care of their own marketing material needs and which also save me time when I need to fulfill requests. I feel my productivity and effectiveness are very high because of TagTeam."
Actual users, like Dooley, play a large part in pre-DAM office environments. Instead of software acting as a central repository, they do. "Even when a marketing team thinks it has its digital assets managed, often that team is an island or a bottleneck, with the rest of the organization unable to search for those assets," explains Philip Page, offering manager, IBM Enterprise Content Management.
"Individual users tend to be the holder of much of the information about the files, folders, clients, and projects," seconds Cindy Valladares, product marketing manager, Extensis, Inc.
Extensis manufactures and distributes the Extensis Portfolio suite of pro-ducts. Portfolio 8.5 allows users to manage digital assets both on and offline. The Portfolio Server 8.5 creates centralized control for assets through automated workflow tasks like archiving, Web publishing, and more. With the add-on, Portfolio SQL Connect 8.5, Portfolio Server can store assets in Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, or Oracle. All products are designed to integrate with the customer’s existing system while being fully up and running in a few hours.
Lack of a DAM solution equates to loss of valuable time. "A lot of companies waste a huge amount of time and effort doing things that are very simple like trying to find the same document over and over again or having old versions of logos floating around and popping up in documents," explains Scott Seebass, CEO, Xinet.
Susan Worthy, VP, marketing, ClearStory Systems, Inc., agrees, "All this leads to inconsistent naming systems, which presents challenges for finding assets. This is time consuming and costly." ClearStory Systems’ product, ActiveMedia, is a Web-based application available as a hosted service and on-premise system. This DAM manages and automates the digital media supply chain from creation to delivery. It enables users to review, approve, organize, search, retrieve, and deliver digital media and marketing assets.
Are You a Fit for DAM?
Traditionally, industries using DAM include the news/media/publishing industry and corporate marketing. But that doesn’t mean just because you don’t fit into these categories you cannot institute a DAM system. Almost anyone is a fit for DAM.
"A corporation with one logo and who uses hardly any images in their pieces really doesn’t need a DAM system," explains Rich Dunklee, director of product management, Saepio Technologies, Inc. He continues, "Someone with multiple brands and images, or with images that need to be tied together through things like metadata, then they abso-lutely need DAM." In short, determining if you are a fit for DAM is defined by the amount of content you need managed, not the size of your company.
When should you implement a DAM system? "Yesterday!" says David Oldham, VP marketing, Digital Technology International. Oldham’s company provides a client-server CMS and digital content publishing platform, flexible enough to be used as an ASP model. The content management system, Media-Pool, is targeted toward news media organizations. Both publishable—stories, photos, graphics, video, and audio—and non-publishable—contacts, schedules, assignments, etc.—are stored and indexed on the CMS for quick accessibility from various end-user app-lications or browser-based clients.
Bruce Sauls, president, Graphic Detail, Inc., echoes Oldham’s sentiment about the need for DAM before it becomes necessary. He recommends that a company purchase a system "before they can’t locate a document or photograph." Graphic Detail, Inc.’s Thumbs Up WebView prevents such a thing from happening. The software is open source, using MySQL as its database. "[An] open source approach allows the customer almost unlimited custom-ization of the interface," explains Sauls. This newest version of ThumbsUp supports Adobe’s Extensible Metadata Platform.
Generally, any company losing time while managing files should consider a DAM system. With prevention in mind, more industries are interested in DAM. For instance, retail chains, life sciences, and pharmaceuticals all have promotional claims, messages, and logos that need to be managed and distributed.
Surprisingly, an analysis of 2006 spending on DAM shows traditional users of DAM are becoming overpowered. Page elaborates, "Retail, manufacturing, life sciences, finance, and telecom sectors all spend more than the obvious media and entertainment sector. Advertising agencies, government, education, and others make up the top ten industries investing in DAM systems."
IBM offers the DAM solution from partner Ancept as either an ASP or boxed software product. The Ancept Media Server DAM solution can be coupled with either the IBM Content Manager or IBM FileNet Content Manager. The DAM product manages new content, indexes, extracts, and stores metadata seamlessly for the user. Ancept Media Server allows companies to create Web 2.0 user interfaces, integrate with other systems, and subject services to a service-oriented architecture (SOA).
The federal government recently implemented Open Text Corporation’s Artesia DAM. As Bowen sees it, "The media industry led the DAM wave, corporate marking is just coming into the tornado right now, and government is a couple of years out still."
The government’s involvement in DAM comes at a time where there is an emphasis on emergency preparedness. Jay Magenheim, president, IDEAL, elaborates, "There is a greater need for immediate access to structural plans and as-built drawings for buildings as well as engineering and construction drawings for the nation’s infrastructure systems, in the event of an emergency." With a DAM system, large format assets are easily accessible if such a problem occurs.
IDEAL’s MyArchive Center.com is a secure large format document repository. It eliminates rooms of flat files or rolled up dr-awings. The interface creates an easy way to find archives and can view assets in a browser without downloading them. Access is available anytime, anywhere as long as you have a Web browser. Hosted assets are maintained in a secure datacenter and managed by Global Archives. Magenheim describes the site, "It is designed as a disaster recovery center and sits on the Internet backbone. Concurrent operations provide primary and secondary access with automated backup services."
The Cost Question
Many companies may avoid DAM due to expenses. ASP and boxed software solutions range from $99 per user, to $10,000 to $100,000 for a group solution. These costs depend on a variety of things including volume, number of users, capacity of a server, license re-newals, installation, configuration, and training rates.
With such a spectrum of prices, choosing the right product is overwhelming. The choices between an ASP solution or a boxed solution are astounding. Dunklee believes that when considering DAM you need to execute a cost analysis. He explains, "You need to consider and understand the benefits of each system. Once you settle on the product that fully suits your needs, then you do the cost analysis."
In reality, the question to ask yourself is whether DAM is worth spending the money on. It doesn’t come down to when you can afford it, but when you can’t afford not do it. "It’s more that you have to do it. The idea that if you don’t, you are losing money," continues Dunklee.
Saepio provides an ASP solution titled Saepio Enterprise. DAM is built into Saepio Enterprise, so when you get the suite, you also get customizable documents, image transformation, version history, and advanced metadata services. It is common for people to buy this product just for DAM. "Our system really leverages our original core product, a composition engine, that allows for scaling of documents, dynamic document creation, in conjunction with all the DAM features," explains Dunklee.
MMG Worldwide, a global marketing communications firm, incorporated Saepio Enterprise into its workflow when the field marketing division of one of its long-time hotel clients asked them to build and manage an online marketing approval and development system.
"Before the online system was in place, this hotel’s marketing team devoted substantial time to proofing print ads," says Doug Day, VP of field marketing, MMG Worldwide. "When the Saepio system was implemented, they were able to reallocate these resources from ad approvals to strategic marketing," he adds.
Truthfully, the benefits of DAM tend to outweigh the costs. The flow of content, quickly, between multiple people is important in business. DAM can provide this. For ex-ample, in the publishing industry, "it is absolutely critically to have a system that enables the intelligent storage of, and flow of, content between creators, editors, designers, sales staff, advertisers, and consumers," explains Oldham.
Brand consistency is one benefit. Valladares believes that investing in a DAM system caters to brand consistency. "A DAM solution will make it possible for a company to manage and share digital assets without compromising process, security, or brand quality."
Another is the time saving factor. "Analysts estimate that over 30 percent of all digital media created in an organization needs to be recreated because it cannot be found or it is not available readily on a worldwide basis," shares Worthy. She continues, "For many companies this number is even greater. And for marketing organizations faced with multi-channel marketing initiatives, optimizing the use of digital media not only reduces cost, but it speeds overall time to market for their programs."
Mannington Corporation chose ClearStory’s ActiveMedia when it realized it needed a solution to improve the effectiveness of its marketing, sales, distributors, and 16,000 retailers. The flooring manufacturer originally relied on outsourced advertising and marketing service firms to manage their digital assets. They spent time and money to burn and ship CDs to provide both of these groups with their assets. Choosing to centralize everything, they went forward with ActiveMedia as their DAM solution. With it, sales teams, distributors, and retailers have access through marketing extranet to all digital assets. Also, costs went down by not burning CDs and not relying on outside firms to manage its assets.
Achieving Full Potential
If you do decide to purchase a DAM solution, making sure that you utilize the product to its capacity depends on a number of factors.
"Thorough planning will help for a successful implementation and working with an experienced team that has a variety of expertise will ensure your success," shares Snow. This is how Ubisoft, a video game publisher, successfully instituted Interwoven’s MediaBin into their workflow.
Ubisoft was feeling stretched thin when it came to managing its creative, promotional content for their new and existing video games. "When people internally would ask us for the most up to date version of a file for the Web, promotional materials, or packaging, we often had to scramble to deliver it, and our team would lose valuable design time simply chasing files," explains Allen Alder, VP of creative services, Ubisoft.
Adler and his team re-branded the MediaBin solution as FindIt! and created an email teaser to spread the word. Additionally, a core team of people was coached on how to use the product. With this forward-thinking attitude, the results showed. What once took several days to find now takes seconds or minutes.
Precise preparation will help make sure you employ your new system to its full potential. Starting small is another consideration.
"Instead of building the end-all wish list for a system, successful companies quickly identify the minimum set of re-quirements they need to address immediate and urgent needs, and then create a detailed plan to implement as quickly as possible," recommends Oldham.
Establishing a core team of users or one leader who knows the product inside and out is also helpful. "You need a champion who will be responsible for the system and articulate a vision for the system within the enterprise," shares Richardson. And Bowen agrees, "That champion needs to own the initiative and then drive it."
It is important to realize your new DAM shouldn’t interrupt an already flowing workflow system. Seebass explains, "We’ve seen a lot of unsuccessful implementations where people’s systems prevent them from doing the work the way they like to. It’s difficult to use, when it shouldn’t be, and the solution is abandoned."
Big Top DAM
In September 2005, Patricia McGoughran stepped into Feld Entertainment, Inc. for the first time. Her inaugural assignment was to research and find a new DAM system for the company, which was desperately needed.
Feld Entertainment, Inc. owns Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. It also manages all of the Disney On Ice tours, High School Musical The Ice Tour, Disney Live!, and Doodlebops Live! With this variety of shows, the company needed a DAM system that could store and index thousands of promotional images, advertisements, logos, film, and photos of toys given out at the events.
"You would be surprised how many image views you need of one toy. Sometimes we need 20 different views because of a customs requests and legal requirements," shares McGoughran, director of business solutions for IT, Feld Entertainment, Inc.
All the above needed to be managed efficiently, especially since Feld handles these events both domestically and internationally. McGoughran chose Open Text’s Artesia DAM system to get this done. The product, offered as both an ASP and software solution, is built with an appreciation for the needs of the creative professional. It can be integrated with creative applications such as Adobe, QuarkXPress, and Avid, as well as the Macintosh OS platform. With its collaborative workflow, strong natural language, and deep support for images, layouts, video, and audio content types, however, it is built for use in any industry.
Two factors played into the eventual decision. Ease of use and an accessible staff in case Feld had questions. Artesia DAM has a clean interface, the icons are understandable, and terminology isn’t technical, "It wasn’t like you had to learn a whole new language," explains McGoughran. Also, the product’s search and retrieval speeds are significantly faster than its old DAM.
Williams & Partners Studios, a pre-media provider, opened in 2000 and knew from the get go they needed a DAM system to satisfy all of its needs. "We needed to offer new services and deliver files to clients fast. We opened up as a prepress house and grew into a pre-media center, so we picked Xinet FullPress," shares Frank Williams, director of operations/partner, Williams & Partners Studios.
Xinet FullPress is part of the Xinet WebNative suite, a boxed DAM product. The product is built upon visuals. Xinet comes from a production background, so they understand the output of magazines, advertising, and catalogs. Explains Seebass, "We don’t think it is very useful if you can’t get some sort of visual idea of what an image looks like. Metadata is great, but most people in the industry like looking at things."
Xinet FullPress worked so well, the studio upgraded to Xinet WebNative. One of the key features that Williams enjoys about Xinet WebNative is how customizable it is. "We have added new customer branded front ends and stylized views." Additionally, "With ‘Triggers & Actions’ we are building customized workflow for clients that speed the file approval and delivery process."
Since implementing their DAM product, Williams & Partners Studios transitioned from prepress to pre-media. Thanks to all the customization, they created an online pre-media portable called CreativeSafe. Here, they house several image banks for some of the largest agencies in New England.
It seems like a successful solution for Williams and its clients. "We are finding new growth using WebNative as a tool to develop pre-media workflow that allow our clients to prepare and deliver jobs online 24/7. This enables our clients to offer a wider range of services, all while staying focused on their business."
The Evolution of DAM
It’s hard to imagine that DAM could continue to evolve. Achieving a solution for saving both time and money is revolutionary in itself. However, based on a report by Forrester Research, Inc., marketing asset management’s (MAM) full potential has yet to be explored. MAM is similar to DAM, in that it deals with digital assets in marketing communication settings.
In the future, "MAM’s value will move beyond its strengths as a reference library to that of an active database where those real-time messages are stored and deployed." (Source: Forrester Research, Inc, Want To Build A Better Brand? Plan For MAM, September 2007).
Tomorrow’s asset management solutions will link to an intricate Web of offerings to create the ultimate central repository. As these solutions continue to grow, the world continues to shrink. While connecting us at faster speeds DAM is simultaneously organizing all of the clutter.