DAM Navel Gazing… missing the excitement

DAM has really reached its maturity. There are lots of people writing all kinds of articles about it and the evangelists and consultants who used to be fixtures, have moved on to more cutting edge disciplines. While I like the fact that there is more to read, as often happens, a lot of it is the same. A good portion of it is also remarkably negative navel gazing which is surprising considering much of it comes from within the vendor community. It seems there is too much emotion for so little information.

I think where DAM is at is extremely exciting. At this point, a new buyer can pick any of the more common systems and be relatively guaranteed of a successful implementation. Sure there are subtle improvements to come which better tie in use of assets with different applications, social media and websites. The truth is, any DAM system not nourishing dung beetles has a decent UI, a great API and is robust enough to run in almost any organization. Furthermore, the API has already been used to integrate it with multiple CMS, ERP, PIM, publishing, e-commerce, productivity and cloud systems. There are many DAM systems which fit this description and have competent people to implement them. This is very exciting. You don’t have this much choice in Office software or creative software. You can’t implement a CMS, ERP or PIM as easily.

Vendors can say what they want, but success of the system is up to the client. That is why it is so important to get the client excited about the possibilities and also let them know about the commitment that will be required. As is expected, the more sales focussed vendors could care less and just want to complete the sale and collect the money. This is why, when you look at the client list of each vendor, they seem to be the same. Do all of these large companies really own multiple DAM systems? Sure they do. In fact, we had one client we sold into twice and in between these sales – to two different departments – we demonstrated to all of them how they could work on the one existing system together. Functional silos, different departments and… we had a new sale to another department. Obviously, this is DAM gone wrong, but the point is, the client makes the DAM system successful, not the software company or integrator – we can only make it fail.

Why systems fail at the client is no mystery at all. Change. You take a group of people – for example the ones most affected by the introduction of DAM to their environment – content creators. They have their files all over the place but they basically know where to find them. They are always creating new places when they need to. But like my dad, an engineer by trade, he could thrust his hand into an apparent stack of recycling and pull out the relevant article to his point at hand. Creatives can do this quite well. The problems is, they are only part of the entire process. These assets get touched by up to 10 or more roles during the creation process (legal, approval, CSR, suppliers, project managers…) and most of these people need to find the assets and then they need to be changed and returned. After it is approved and final, it gets published to web, print, mobile and potential mail/POS/packaging. If you want to control your brand you need to control your assets and, you just can’t leave that hanging on my dad being able to pull it out of his stack. So, you have to tell all of these roles (including the creatives who favour folder names like :Direct Mail Piece for Mother Tucker’s Restaurant with the guy in red overalls standing out front) that what they done for the past n years is going to change. And even worse: they’ve been told this before. They had a DAM system and it didn’t work out at all so you better just sell your damn system somewhere else.

That’s the part that is depressing about DAM. The technology side keeps racing ahead and all the technology people can tell you how we can improve all sorts of things. Web technology alone is changing the face of integration with other systems – even old web services look passe. Integrators have all the technology tools to implement a good working system. It is building the excitement for the clients which will make it work. This is a great part of the success of SaaS or so-called cloud solutions. It already exists so the client really already knows it is completely up to them to make it work. The opportunity to blame the implementation team has passed as soon as the sale is made. SaaS isn’t a one size fits all so many companies either have to implement in-house, or it just makes more sense. If you have to integrate your DAM with ECM, ERP or PIM, you really need to have a lot figured out and blessed by lawyers before you commit to anything externally hosted.

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