Digital Asset Management: Buying Guide

Tuesday Nov 29th 2011 by Jeff Vance
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Tips on choosing a solution that provides your employees streamlined access to the rich video, audio, images and documents they need.

The proliferation of content can be overwhelming for any organization. However, when employees constantly need to access rich video, audio, and images, IT has a problem: how can you help users (either inside or outside your organization) locate and access the exact asset they need, when they need them?

Digital Asset Management (DAM) solutions focus on managing digital assets from the moment they are created on through to the end of their life-cycle. By better managing critical assets, organizations can save the time, effort and resources to search, retrieve, re-create and distribute assets.

However, different organizations and industries have vastly different content needs, different end-user demands, and vastly different feature-set requirements. For some, that means deploying a DAM in the Cloud (whether in-part, or entirely); for others, on-site repositories are necessary. In any case, finding the right DAM solution requires quite a bit of planning, evaluation, and guidance.

Here are just a few questions to consider when starting that search:

1. What types of files do you need to manage (and is a DAM solution a good fit)?

Before perusing the extensive list of vendors that offer DAM solutions, first take a look at the types of files that your organization needs help managing, and how those files will be used in a typical workflow.

Will your organization be using the DAM solution to develop and deliver content to a specific audience? If so, your focus may be on distributing and reusing specific files and file formats.

Or do you need to manage production assets for large-scale rich media projects? If so, your focus might include collaboration/version control tools as well as large-scale repository and metadata management.

If your organization is looking to manage an existing library of assets, you’ll likely focus on structuring, tagging, storing and retrieving documents, videos and images.

David Birnbaum, Vice President of Learning at Coldwell Banker Real Estate, LLC, wanted to provide training and educational materials to approximately 86,000 agents. In an effort to develop their social learning portal, Birnbaum and his team needed a solution to support both streaming video and user-generated content and comments.

Therefore, Coldwell Banker Real Estate zeroed in on Media Asset Management (MAM) vendors such as BrightCove, Kaltura, Ooyala, and Veeple. He focused on the features that supported not only their requirements for streaming video, but also creating a robust social learning portal.

They finally choose Kaltura, because it was designed to manage media assets and had the expertise, support, and features that Birnbaum and his associates were looking for. Additionally, Kaltura integrates documents, images and other training support materials with their existing learning management system (LMS).

2. How are your assets and content organized now?

A 2010 survey by AIIM found that “for 72% of respondents, it’s harder to find information owned by their organization than information not owned by them – i.e., on the Web.” A big part of that is the lack of keywords and other metadata that enables search.

Digital Asset Management (DAM) and other media management systems rely on both metadata (data about your data, such as date created, name, owner, and keywords and tags) and an overarching organizational structure. Without metadata, utilizing content can become nearly impossible.

The disconnect between scattered content and a fully searchable file repository can be bridged, but it takes some effort and some expertise (in fact, many companies look to archival and library specialists to ensure consistent and useful structure and organization). Get a rough idea of how much effort it will take to fill in any gaps.

3. Who are your user and how will they access assets?

When it comes to the large body of files owned by a company, there isn’t just one group or team accessing those assets. There are echelons of users: researchers, sales and marketing, creative teams, project leaders and managers, executives, administrative assistants, partners and customers.

Should an executive have the same level of access as your marketing team? Or should an entry-level creative be able to make changes to the repository? How do you envision that happening?

Also, keep in mind what impact access restrictions will have on end-users. While various internal departments may deal with a learning curve in adopting any solution for managing digital assets, mitigating the impact to end users and customers is extremely important.

4. Which DAM features are most important to your organization?

For Warner Bros. Entertainment, unification was a major challenge. With a sprawling library of entertainment holdings and marketing materials, a large image repository, and worldwide distribution, the common goal was to share digital media both now and in the future.

In looking at various products, they honed in on features that would reduce the need for extensive customization, facilitate metadata customizations, secure and control access for disparate users, and scale to accommodate growth, while also catering to a largely Mac-based development environment.

Warner Bros. Entertainment evaluated vendors based on these priorities and selected North Plains TeleScope to centralize their repository; accelerate the creation, approval and distribution of assets, and increase security and standards.

Your organization may value different features, such as increasing search functionalities, creating increased production efficiency, or more streamlined ingestion and metadata creation. Identifying and ranking those features will help narrow your focus when looking at the extensive list of potential solution providers, directing you towards vendors whose strengths best match your needs.

5. Do you have the manpower (and the know-how) to see a solution succeed?

Implementing a full DAM solution can be a formidable task – one that overburdened IT departments may not have the manpower and resources to accomplish. When evaluating different vendors, take into consideration the time and effort it will take to plan, execute, and evaluate a given solution.

To manage assets for Coldwell Banker Real Estate’s social learning portal, Birnbaum noted that he and his staff consulted various experts and consultants to help in not only selecting a solution, but configuring and deploying their chosen solution.

He stressed that, “there’s a lot of work that goes into customizing, organizing assets, making them fit with a portal or website. Sometimes the focus is on customization instead of just configuration. Customization takes longer. It takes time.”

For organizations like Birnbaum’s, their anticipated needs far exceeded in-house resources. Getting expert guidance early on helped to ensure solid ROI – both in dollars spend and resources invested.

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