November 24, 2008

Making the Case for Digital Asset Management

We field many questions from various companies and organizations about why they should look into purchasing or implementing a digital asset management system. Other companies and organizations know that they want to integrate a digital asset management system, but have a hard time justifying the expense and the change in workflow to the executive pocketbook.

I'd like to try and make the case for digital asset management by reviewing "10 Reasons to Get a Digital Asset Management system." I've compiled this list based on my own knowledge as well as reasons I've observed clients having for working with DPCI to implement a digital asset management system. In addition to my list, many other good and creative reasons for implementing may exist and I welcome you to share them in the comments below.

1. Centralized Repository

Digital Asset Management systems can help eliminate the scattering of files across different shared server folders, user desktops, CD/DVD and Tape libraries. Centralizing the storage of all assets in a repository gives one version of truth and takes the guess work out of where to look. Backup strategies can also become more effective - backing up one location is easier than trying to backup data from multiple sources.

2. Metadata

The ability to tag any file with metadata is a primary function of most digital asset management system systems. Metadata can be used to apply keywords, descriptions, taxonomies and almost any other important information to a file. Think of the different properties that would make the process of searching for an image or file easier; these properties could be defined as metadata fields in a digital asset management system and used for search and organization.

3. Versioning

V1, V2, Final. Most digital asset management systems eliminate the need to rename and version files manually, as version control is built in. The system takes care of the hard work by automatically versioning the file on check-in. The current or most recent version of a file is presented to a user whenever the file is searched. The user can then check-out the file for modifications, and when the user is done the file will be checked-in, thus creating a new version. Version history controls make it possible to revert back to a previous version of a file if needed.

4. Search

Searching the desktop for images and documents can be a clumsy process. Hunting through multiple server volumes lacking clean organizational structure can be even harder. Assets tagged with metadata in a digital asset management system's centralized repository, combined with the ability to perform compound searches and full-text content searches, can drastically reduce the time taken to find a particular image or document.

5. Asset Relationships

Asset relationships can be defined and used in many different ways. For instance, say defining a relationship between a model's contract and the photo shoot with the model is necessary for a company to keep track of usage rights. Also consider how relationships can be built to show catalog documents and the product assets contained within them. Movie clips can display related image galleries or articles. The more asset relationships defined, the richer and more useful the system will become. The ability to create new content packages and mash-ups from various sources of assets is possible and highly available through the use of asset relationships in a digital asset management system.

6. History and Usage Tracking

Knowing who changed what, when and to which assets is a huge benefit when tracking document modifications. Usage history tracking for assets can help keep track of assets set to expire in the near future. Some agencies, design houses and publications may choose to track the "freshness" of an image, analyzing the number of times and places an image was used to make sure that it isn't "played-out."

7. Digital Rights Management

Digital Rights Management is a hot topic these days. With the ease of distribution and the increasing number of sharing sites available on the Internet come the need to closely track copyrighted content and images. Implementing a digital asset management system, defining DRM fields and tagging all copyrighted materials can help prevent unlawful usage of images and content. Content and image creators can also use digital asset management to embed their own copyright information to prevent others from unlawful use when distributed.

8. Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose

It may sound like a campaign for recycling, but the model holds true when using a digital asset management system. Reduce the number of new photography purchases by having quick access to search your company or organization's library. Reuse content as reference material for new content, or as part of a larger book, magazine, news article or ad campaign. Repurpose that old photograph of the wallpaper as a new Photoshop pattern.

9. Transformations

Most designers and photographers will know how to use different image utilities to create batch actions for file conversions. That said, most digital asset management systems have the ability to offer self-serve transformations on the fly. File format, resolution and dimension transformations such as TIF to JPG at 72dpi or EPS to PNG at 320px by 240px can be created through the asset management system and used by anyone. These types of automatic transformations free up photographers and designers from ad-hoc requests from other departments (marketing, sales, merchandizing, etc.).

10. Distribution

Emailing large file attachments is never a good idea. Files can become corrupt and inboxes can clog. Setting up a new FTP account merely to transfer a handful of files to someone that you may only work with once can also be a pain. Many digital asset management systems have the ability to send assets to an FTP location or create temporary external download links to ease the frustration of distributing files.

Many different flavors of digital asset management systems exist, from personal use to workgroup to full-scale enterprise. While most will have the features listed above, thoughtful evaluation and careful planning, including change management, will ultimately be the key tools to a successful implementation.

I'd love to get your feedback on these 10 reasons to justify implementing a digital asset management system. If you have others, please use the comment function below and post your thoughts. Thanks in advance.

Posted at 05:51 pm by Ivan Mironchuk

Sweet post, Ivan! Nice job, -JB

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