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The Emperor: Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.

I attended the Henry Stewart DAM EU event last month in London to learn more about the DAM industry including vendors, practitioners, methodology and every other DAM thing you can think of. I was not to be disappointed as I came away far better informed than I arrived. My only concern was whether companies looking for a solution to their DAM challenges are casting the net wide enough when looking for a technology solution. For that reason, in the words of Obi Wan, I can feel a “great disturbance in the Force” coming for some of the more fervent DAM fans – more on that later.

The event was opened by DAM Foundation President David Lipsey who emphasized the growing importance of DAM users or “content stewards” whose role was to enable their content to “go to work and make money for us.” David also pointed out the need to address changes in who the customer is and how their consumption of content is changing. In the ensuing discussion on DAM in Broadcast, Media and Entertainment the panelists covered a range of topics including Metadata as King, the importance of content discoverability and the need for information to be up to date and accurate. These themes continued in other presentations and case studies during the conference alongside the importance of DAM in Branding and the difficulty of understanding the right technology for a particular task.

The event clarified for me that mainstream practitioners largely approach the subject of DAM with a focus on Pictures, Images and Video. The cause of my confusion that I refer to above was that they were also talking about storing text-based documents in DAM systems and documents that include both images and text. What I did not understand was how something as important as discoverability and re-use across that type of file could be truly possible when most DAM systems are based on relational databases. Sam Herbert of 67 Bricks Ltd neatly summarizes this here:

“It is important to consider what you want to do with the valuable content within your documents when you assess how to store those documents. A limitation of using a DAM (digital asset management) system to store documents is that they typically treat the document as a single content object – they do not understand or store the content within documents in granular chunks. Storing documents in this way limits your ability to reuse the content for different purposes: it limits your ability to slice and dice and enrich the content to develop new products and new revenue streams.”

I have talked about the differences between relational databases and NoSQL databases like MarkLogic before and some of our customers have realized that for certain use cases – particularly those around discoverability, re-use and content enrichment – a DAM system in the traditional sense is not the right solution. More succinctly: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”. Take Condé Nast for example whose case study and video presentation show in detail how they are using MarkLogic as their Digital Asset Management system. According to Paul Preuveneers, (formerly a Senior Developer at Elsevier and now Technical Director at MarkLogic EMEA) this makes a lot of sense if you have content re-use and delivery as your objectives and when you consider the alternatives. Here is what Paul explained to me:

“Some of the simpler mainstream DAM products merely incorporate workflow over a document store and even the more fully-featured ones tend to be a container for a complex mix of Search, a File-based Database and an Application server. Why not save money and time by having the managed content already existing on a platform that is geared up for those capabilities? The real benefits of managing your digital content come once the management processes are out of the way and you can get on with using, reusing, monetizing and delivering the content.”

This would truly enable your content to “go to work and make money for [you]”.

Thanks to Mark Davey of the DAM foundation, one of the longest lasting impacts of the event will be that I have a seriously catchy tune on what seems like endless play-back in my head. Mark adapted the Metro Trains “So Many Dumb Ways to Die” campaign video to fit his view that there are “So Many DAM ways to ROI”. In other words that DAM is foundational to content, to brand identity and to a strong ROI for each. This notion is certainly representative of the view of many attendees and DAM evangelists and for a number of use cases an off-the-shelf DAM system is certainly going to deliver at least part way on that promise. A word of caution however when considering what type of DAM solution your organization needs:

He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some DAM[n] fool idealistic crusade like your father did.

There are other solutions out there to support DAM that may be a better fit if you are starting from scratch or that can complement your existing DAM system if you are already on the journey. To provide a new hope for your organization start by asking what your customers need from your content – how do they want to use or interact with it – rather than just where and how you want to store it. Watching this animated video may give you some good ideas about where to start.

May The Force Be With You”.

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