The Business Case for Digital Asset Management

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Enterprise Content Management [March 2009]


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Digital asset management is often described as a process or a tool for organizing the creation, management, distribution and archiving of rich media assets. "Assets" generally refers to rich media files such as images, photos, video and audio, whereas a "file" generally refers to email, documents, records or scanned images. Creative agencies, publishers, broadcasters and media outlets have long realized the wisdom of applying DAM solutions in the production of their media assets including managing digital rights, handling review cycles, conferring with clients, retouching images and editing photos and videos. Until recently, most organizations have relied on enterprise content management solutions or feature-limited, home-grown DAM tools to manage both documents and digital assets.

The proliferation in demand for multimedia assets has seen the importance of DAM soar. Contributing factors include: the pervasive use of rich media such as Flash and video on Web pages; increased use of creative authoring applications such as Adobe Creative Suite; increases in bandwidth capacity; the complexity and large size of rich media, including video and graphic animations; and the requirement for sophisticated rights management functionality.

As video and other rich media assets become a de facto business requirement, this distinction becomes increasingly important. Specialized video workflow is needed. A recent Forrester report noted, "With technologies like digital cameras and inexpensive authoring tools driving asset creation costs down, digital assets are greatly increasing in number, and these rich media are being used across a wider range of enterprises. Inadequate management of these growing libraries will make reusing and repurposing difficult, leading many organizations to take another look at DAM."

DAM Versus ECM
Enterprise content management (ECM) solutions offer an efficient method to manage a company’s static information. According to Gartner, ECM is really an "umbrella term" representing a vision and framework for integrating a broad range of content management technologies and content formats.

Because digital assets such as audio and video are considered unstructured information, industry experts consider DAM to be a component of ECM. Another point of misconception is the belief that document management (DM) encompasses digital asset management. This unfortunately leads to confusion when selecting the most appropriate solution for organizations. Digital asset management solutions provide deep integration functionality with creative authoring applications such as Adobe Creative Suite 3 or Quark. While it’s true that ECM solutions excel at managing "knowledge," DAM is king when it comes to managing the creation, editing and publishing and is architected around distribution-rich, multimedia asset workflows.

DAM and ECM share many important similarities, and, as noted above, this may lend to the confusion about their best application. Both solutions offer workflows for managing files, and provide audit histories and version control. They both use metadata for indexing, quick searching and retrieval. However, while the preceding functions may appear similar, it is important to note that DAM specializes in managing rich media assets such as video, audio and photographs, while ECM is more suited to manage simple office files such as text and Excel documents, email and scanned images such as faxes.

Maximizing Your DAM ROI
Organizations deploying specialized DAM solutions typically realize the following benefits:

Time, cost and resource savings—Organizations gain immediate ROI by eliminating redundant asset creation; quickly retrieving, editing and redistributing assets; redeploying resources to other mission-critical projects.

New revenue streams—Organizations derive new revenue by converting and repurposing existing content like book covers to promote their ebooks. Consider an image that costs thousands of dollars to create and recreate multiple times. Without DAM, its existence may not be known and the re-creation costs become recurring.

Brand and messaging continuity—Built-in revision control, asset repurposing and approval processes ensure organizations maintain consistent use and re-expression of digital assets, from brochures and corporate videos to Web content.

Digital media management and distribution—DAM systems enable the efficient organization, indexing and distribution of digital assets. Advanced DAM systems provide a distributed architecture and multi-site asset storage, as well as the ability to provide multiple repositories for self-synchronization of both assets and their associated metadata. This means professionals can quickly and easily find and create what they need and distribute it to their intended audience with the click of a few buttons.

Global, Web-based access—Organizations can distribute digital masters and other types of licensed assets via secure Web access. Advanced DAM systems also provide asset ordering and fulfillment modules that can easily integrate with existing ecommerce and transaction servers. Not only can organizations quickly access their files from any Web interface, they can create new revenue streams and "sell" their assets via virtual storefronts.

The Bottom Line
DAM’s capabilities are vastly different from anything ECM vendors can offer. Forcing ECM systems to handle the complexities of DAM systems only leads to frustration and disappointment. While many ECM vendors offer very basic DAM functionality, many have lost touch with the creative and collaborative process integral to the creation of rich media assets. ECM systems may support the ability to attach static images or short video clips, but the proper management of rich media assets requires a more sophisticated approach.

A better approach is to find a solution that best meets each distinct business requirement and ensure that your core digital asset management needs are met with a best-of-breed DAM solution. True DAM systems are involved in all aspects of the creative workflow process, back-end content distribution and revenue generation through the repurposing of existing content. Use your DAM solution to create, collaborate and edit creative assets. Once that’s done, simply select the best way to distribute them. ECM systems can’t do that.

Forward-thinking organizations are choosing DAM solutions that support the creative process while enabling the approval and distribution workflow capabilities they need. Selecting the best DAM solution leverages the expertise of both knowledge management and creative workflow process to their fullest extent—saving precious time and resources while unlocking new revenue opportunities not possible with legacy systems or feature-limited ECM solutions.


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