Don’t Make Your Digital Assets a Silo


I wrote a piece for CMSWire last month asking if Content Management Systems were Good Enough for Digital Asset Management. I essentially said that if digital assets are the business, then a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system makes sense. If digital assets are part of a broader business need or solution, then perhaps the capabilities of a broader Content Management System (CMS) would suffice.

Ralph Windsor took exception at my conclusion, thinking I was pushing the same old Enterprise Content Management (ECM) story. He couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let me tell you why.

Not Talking ECM

I’m NOT talking about ECM here. Not even close. The reason I am not talking about ECM is because ECM focuses on features. The focus needs to be on the business needs.

Let’s pretend that I run Alfresco’s marketing function, which I gladly do not. I am responsible for the website, brochures, presentations, webinars, and a vast number of things. From a DAM perspective, I need to manage pictures, images, recordings, as well as any number of random digital assets.

These items need metadata extracted, like IPTC and EXIF, for search and categorization, low-res renditions created for publishing to the website and social media channels, and input from leaders and staff. They will be shared with sales staff who might use them in an InDesign layout for a brochure, which itself should also be ingested, while other business users might create a cropped version for use in presentations. At the same time, I am collaborating with leadership, product management, external contractors, and other people throughout the entire company on Content ranging from the messaging for the entire company to a simple product description.

That is a lot. That is a lot of processes, both formal and informal, where Digital Assets may play a part. If I separate my DAM system from the rest of my Content, I will be using multiple systems to perform my job.

A stereotypical ECM system is not needed here. What is needed a collaboration solution that has DAM features embedded that can handle my basic needs. If it turns out that I need more advanced features, then I may consider a DAM solution.

Volume is not a Reason for DAM

When considering a DAM, volume is not an issue. The question is whether or not the system can do what needs to be done. Whether you have one person creating digital assets or it is everyone in the company, it doesn’t matter. DAM and CMS systems both scale. Efficient storage is efficient storage.

The fact that people are now capturing MORE images than ever is not a reason for separate DAM systems. Photos are now part of everyday transactions. Transactions that are tied to customers, suppliers, and partners. Those processes don’t live in DAM systems so why should those images be separated from those processes?

Jane Zupan laid out the case of a car accident in her CMSWire article on this same topic. The photos in her example are part of the accident claim and shouldn’t be shunted into a separate system.

Solve the Problem

The key thing here is FUNCTION. What do people need to get the job done? Do they need those features in that DAM system, or do they just like the flash? What do those that work heavily with rich media spend their day doing? What would make it easier? Where are their headaches?

Just remember, DAM cannot exist in a vacuum. Digital assets might need to be leveraged elsewhere. Weigh the efforts of adding another system to the mix with the expected benefits.

Most people don’t have a DAM problem. You almost always have a business problem that involves digital assets.

Choose accordingly.

Still a Place for DAM

I do want to stress that no CMS can meet the needs of an organization whose purpose is to produce rich media, nor should the vendors strive to build one. There are a lot of needs that are very specific that most people don’t need. Content vendors should focus on the 20% feature set to serve 80% of the demand for DAM.

When an organization realizes that 20% won’t cut it, then they should consider a separate DAM solution.

Just remember to keep it simple. Do not complicate life with an extra system for a “nice to have” feature. People will choose simple over complicated every day when they have a choice.