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PHOTO: Bruce Turner

What to expect from Digital Asset Management in 2016

Finding a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system is easy enough, as there are plenty of systems to choose from. But finding the right DAM system for your enterprise — and then getting it to do precisely what you want it to do — is where it gets tricky.

Do Your DAM Homework

Before you go DAM shopping, do your homework. Start by identifying specific use cases important to your organization today. Now imagine future ‘what if’ use cases. Map those present day and future user stories to the functionality and features you want in your DAM.

How will the DAM system fit in with the rest of your IT infrastructure — do you want your DAM to live behind your firewall, in the cloud or as a hybrid system? 

Do you plan on integrating the DAM system with third-party systems, such as already in place content management and project management systems? If so, it's essential to find a DAM system that has the connectivity you’ll require for ease of adoption and use across your enterprise.

Do you have the expertise in-house to make it all come together? Otherwise, you may need to secure an experienced professional to guide you through the process.

Let's Go DAM Shopping

To help you make your decision, take a look at these important features now shaping DAM:

Cloud-based, Global Delivery of Assets

Large global enterprises are increasingly embracing the cloud to improve the delivery of digital assets — both internally and externally. With image delivery clouds built into your DAM system, end users benefit from the speed, efficiency, consistency and security of uploading or downloading assets that can be viewed or used instantly in different parts of the world 24/7. Whether your digital assets are public facing, earmarked for use by an internal team, or both, having cloud delivery in place translates into a more streamlined customer experience.

Multi-device Support for all Desktops, Servers and Mobile Devices

The mobile world has infiltrated every corner and crevice of the enterprise, including DAM systems. Assess your user’s mobility needs, and select a vendor with corresponding mobile-readiness. When it comes to mobile DAM in 2016: you shouldn’t have to sacrifice function for fashion. 

A clean, tap and swipe friendly interface and/or app are expected, just be sure the core system has sufficient power and scalability to perform the intense metadata searches, file renderings, commenting and transformations needed by your teams. Enterprises requiring secure, mobile access to data will go with a vendor that has taken the time to fully engineer mobile-first capabilities on top of proven technology.

Optimized Digital Customer Experience

The customer experience is coming to the forefront in DAM. Increasingly, enterprises are working to create seamless, consistent experiences across all points of consumption and interaction — the web, smartphone, email, social media, the Internet of Things and, of course, the storefront. Make sure your DAM system can tap into this customer-driven phenomenon. 

The quality of your DAM vendor’s API is key here. Look for an API that enables you to create custom integrations between your DAM and other enterprise systems such as content management systems, project management, marketing automation, ERP, e-commerce, CRM and publishing applications. This will enable all the pieces of the digital user experience to come together cohesively and comprehensively, without the setbacks caused by siloes.

Better Safe Than Sorry

No organization wants to be attacked, much less breached and robbed of vital digital assets. Shop wisely. Find out which vendors have been breached and which ones haven’t. Trust your DAM security to cloud experts with flawless security records.

Out of the Box File Support

Chances are, your organization needs a DAM system that supports multiple file types — video, audio, imagery and text. Before you choose your vendor, see how fully it supports the different file formats you use most often. If the vendor supports PDF, for example, find out if you can search within the PDF text. Can you keep track of embedded images within a document? Preview all PDF pages? Zoom in and out? 

Support is one thing, but you need to know what that means in terms of usability. Read the specs, and do your due diligence. The good news for you, in 2016, is that vendors will continue to add more file format support.

Bringing in Big Data

More and more enterprises are using data analytics in their DAMs to increase the functionality and creativity of their searches and predict and prescript user behaviors. For example, companies are using auto-suggest to encourage their users to search for assets that are similar to the one they initially searched for; to consider downloading a similar asset to the one they just downloaded; and to look at more photographs from the same photographer. Data analytics can also be used to alert users about license expirations for images they have downloaded in the past, providing information on new versions of that image, as well as alternatives.

The Controlled Vocabulary

The use of a controlled vocabulary in DAM isn’t new, but is evolving to become more essential. The way an enterprise describes its digital assets is especially critical as assets multiply in number and complexity over time. Having a controlled vocabulary allows organizations to group various terms, concepts and products under a single word or phrase, which makes it easier and more efficient to label, search and locate assets.

Video Metadata on the Rise

To manage the rising stockpiles of video assets, enterprises need to enrich their video content for search-ability with metadata in their DAM. Not all of the many file formats videos are stored in allow additional metadata assignment. Publishing video requires multiple formats, codecs to support non-universal browsers and devices. Some video transcoders strip out metadata when content is transcoded for playback, thus losing important copyright licensing and other metadata. Organizations are looking to solve this by integrating their DAM systems with other platforms in order to centralize the access and distribution of media files and to control digital usage licensing rights on an enterprise-wide basis. Here again is where a DAM's strong and flexible API capability comes into play.

Cutting Edge Meets Bleeding Edge

Before you jump into buying a DAM that supports facial recognition, hologram images or other cool features, ask yourself — does your enterprise need it now, in the near future or ... never? Don’t jump on the bandwagon and pay for something that won’t deliver any ROI.

Professional Services Go Beyond DAM

Lastly, as you evaluate your next DAM move, recognize that a DAM system doesn’t exist in a bubble inside the enterprise. It interacts with many other systems and interrupts (in a good way) people’s work habits. A business consultant who understands the connected nature of the enterprise can guide you through necessary business process re-engineering to maximize company-wide adoption of your DAM.

The bottom line is that DAM has shifted from a luxury technology to a must-have technology — and vendors are competing hard to improve adoption and usability. The maturation of the DAM market means that new standards are coming into play, such as CMIS4DAM, and along with it, more sophisticated ways of looking at what matters most for successful DAM implementations.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  BruceTurner