Talking Digital Asset Management in Europe

  • 16-Nov-2011

Amidst all the talk of gloom and doom in Europe, we present an article where the words “Europe” and “Crisis” don’t have to be uttered in the same breath...

The Europe edition of the Creatasphere Digital Asset Management conference in the Hague brought together DAM customers, vendors, and consultants for a few days.  Bringing this event to Europe is fitting given that quite a few leading DAM vendors that we review in our evaluations are European.

For those of you who missed it, here are the Top 10 take-aways, culled from both formal presentations and informal chats.

  1. DAM is gaining mindshare in the C-suite.  Historically considered to be a “niche within a niche,” DAM projects are slowly but surely coming onto the radar of the CXOs. In particular, CMOs and CIOs are paying more attention as DAM initiatives shed their silo orientation and get integrated with larger enterprise systems. The times they are a changin’, but departmental implementations still outnumber the enterprise wide implementations.
  2. Big is not necessarily better: Large content management vendors seem to be reluctant players in the DAM arena, so much so that their DAM offerings come off as a kind of step child.  Big ECM vendors don’t seem to sell DAM on a stand-alone basis but always as part of a larger solution.  More often than not, when a large ECM vendor ingests a specialist DAM vendor, the DAM product languishes without regular releases, product enhancements, and well-defined roadmaps
  3. It’s not raining clouds:  This is perhaps one of the few technology conferences where cloud-washing and hype were not present. Neither the vendor presentations nor the customer examples referred to the Cloud in a big way. If any, we heard that the cloud adoption for DAM solutions will be slower than other segments of the technology industry because of security, control, and secrecy concerns. 
  4. Jury still out on Mobile DAM:  The role of mobile devices for content consumption is well understood and such support is currently available in most DAM products. However, when it comes to content creation cycle / workflow, it’s a divided house. We’ll have to wait and watch which of the DAM capabilities (e.g. only approval vs. full blown functionality) users demand and vendors will add to their products. 
  5. DAM is still learning how to be social: There is a lot of client interest in using some “social” functionality in their projects but as of now, DAM products are not brimming with social features. We still have a way to go when it comes to “socializing” DAM products.
  6. Emergence of CollabFlow:  Workflow is linear. Step 1, Step 2, Step 3... Creative work on digital assets may need to side-step this rigidity to let a hundred flowers bloom and thousands sparks fly, and enable multiple, unstructured contributions. You want to hang a piece of art on the wall, invite comments and touch-up based on feedback. Loosely speaking, “collaboration” enables this dynamic nature of creative work. Users want more of collaboration. In the final analysis, it’s not going to be an “either-or” between workflow and collaboration but both will co-exist as the situation warrants. 
  7. Sorry, but the future is not supported: Museum curators and national archivists, tasked with preserving assets for posterity, rightly worry whether today’s formats will be supported in future.  On the other hand, digitization increases access to assets manifold and that in itself may be a compelling reason for DAM projects. As to preserving for the very long term, a multi-pronged approach that involves both digital and analog is a safe bet. The cost of preserving assets through time by continuously upgrading to newer formats is to be kept in mind as well. No easy answers here – only time will tell.
  8. Meta-Meta Data:  Content may be king but Context will be emperor. We can almost think of “context” as supercharged metadata  on steroids – as users expect personalized digital experiences to be served fresh in real-time, DAM systems will have to work with multiple other applications and data residing in them to enable the relevant context.
  9. Search is still singular:  Despite the notions of immediacy of content and personalized contexts, the single most important functionality demanded and used by customers remains search.  Users not being able to find the assets they need, when they need them, is generally the genesis of the business case for a DAM solution.  Search is a key subsystem that we review in our evaluations.
  10. Cool but really useful?  You already know that you’ll use only a tiny fraction of the features available in any software. Do the next-gen search features being added to DAM products like search by shape, search by color, and search by concept fall into this category? Outside of some specialist use cases like crime detection forensics etc, are they really required when good ‘ol metadata can do the trick?  One definite use (for the vendors, of course) is the dazzle factor in the product selection process. 

Welcome your thoughts on other trends in DAM.

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Andy Niemann, Photo/Computer Arts, Royal BC Museum, Victoria

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