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Blog about Digital Asset Management


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Ten Core Characteristics of Digital Asset Management: Is it really a DAM?

Some people mistaken other types of systems as Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems. Vendors are sometimes guilty of this to be in the ‘catch all’, ‘we do everything’ and ‘me too’ categories. Since some claim the DAM Market will quadruple in the next few years, everyone seems to want a piece of the pie. This has caused market fragmentation which a number of DAM professionals have noted earlier.

In order to counter this issue and establish a standard, the DAM Foundation (DAMF) has released the Ten Characteristics of DAM. This is also known as the “10 Core”.

In full disclosure, the author was a board member of the DAM Foundation at the time of this blog posting and was directly involved in establishing these 10 core characteristics among other DAM professionals.

You can now test any Digital Asset Management system to be sure you have all ten (10) of these core characteristics. DAMF certifies DAM vendors whom have passed the 10 Core and lists them publicly.

What are the Ten Core Characteristics of DAM?

The Ten Core Characteristics of Digital Asset Management (DAM) according to the DAM Foundation, and since “…ratified by the DAM Foundation Board in Q4 of 2014…” are as follows:

  1. DAM systems ingest assets individually or in mass sets, and allow for the manipulation of those assets and their metadata individually or with mass actions. This is accomplished in part by assigning a unique identifier to each asset on ingest.
  2. DAM systems secure the assets they contain. Security in a DAM extends to defining access control lists (ACLs) for assets and defining roles for users accessing the system.
  3. DAM systems store assets as both binaries and metadata. A DAM system can store multiple file types, and allows for the customization of metadata fields and the metadata in those fields attached to the stored files.
  4. DAM systems render/transform assets on ingest into new forms, such as thumbnails or proxy files. The new forms generated on asset ingest via transformation should all be stored as asset parts of the original file uploaded.
  5. DAM systems enrich assets through the extension of metadata and metrics regarding the use and reuse of the asset throughout its lifecycle.
  6. DAM systems relate assets by tracking the relationships between and among an original asset and versions/variants of the original. Versioning and version control tools are central to an asset’s life in a DAM system.
  7. DAM systems regulate a structured process in the management, creation, and review of assets with workflow tools. Via programed workflows, DAMs allow for a decentralized workforce to collaborate together in a centralized system.
  8. DAM systems allow for users to find assets and to retrieve those assets by facilitating search through metadata, collections, workflows, and access control tools. By increasing the discovery of assets that may not have been easily accessible before ingest, a DAM assists workers in leveraging existing content for maximum work potential.
  9. DAM systems have a preview function that allows users to view assets before downloading or opening a file on their own device. By allowing users to take a look at assets in search quickly, without download, DAM systems reduce the amount of time users must spend in search.
  10. DAM systems produce/publish content by providing methods whereby assets may be shared, linked to, or otherwise be distributed outside the system. This DAM function may be as simple as generating a URL on ingest or as complex as allowing users to build collections of items for sharing with a work group.

You can find more details about the evolution of the ten core characteristics of DAM here.

Which DAM vendors have passed this basic test so far?

Does your DAM system of choice have all of these core characteristics? You can find out here since the DAM Foundation has made a public listing of all qualified DAM vendors “…who have demonstrated the 10 characteristics so far and have passed…” and received “…certification from the DAM Foundation…”

DAMF only lists the DAM vendors which have already taken, passed and are now certified. Note there are over 190 vendors claiming to offer DAM, as of the writing of this blog post.

If you do not see a DAM vendor listed, contact the vendor directly and ask them why they are not listed.

If the DAM vendor passed, congratulations. You have a DAM system. Now that you have the technology part, make sure you have the people, process and information necessary to have the quadfecta (yes, four parts) as described in the DAM Maturity Model. These four parts are seemingly obvious for success with DAM, however all-to-often discounted/forgotten/ignored until failure occurs and then realized some parts are missing from the equation.

A number of DAM vendors have already passed the 10 Core. Many vendors have yet to take and/or pass this test to certify their system(s) as a DAM. Not simply self-describing themselves as offering a DAM system. Not just offering ‘DAM like’ features nor ‘DAM lite’. A DAM that actually meets a standard established by DAM professionals for DAM professionals and the businesses which choose to use it.

Do you have a real Digital Asset Management system?

Did it pass the 10 Core as mentioned above?

If you need vendor neutral assistance or advice, let us know.

UPDATE: DAM Foundation is no longer active of as January 5, 2017. Regardless, the 10 core characteristics still hold true.


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Elegant Workflow

One year ago today,  Dave Ginsberg released an interview with this blog’s author on his podcast called Elegant Workflow

You can listen to this podcast interview here

In the past year, Dave has produced some great podcast interviews with people in the audio, movie and television world, including some Digital Asset Management professionals. I would encourage you to listen and subscribe to his podcast. Dave continues to deliver more great podcast episodes at http://www.elegantworkflow.com

The length of the interviews on Elegant Workflow are a bit longer in time than Another DAM Podcast, however these are often released as a multi-part series to bring you back for more. These are well worth the time to listen and learn from what is said. Of course, he asks every interviewee what is their definition of an Elegant Workflow. The answers are different every time.

When will I find the time to listen to all these podcasts?

Ever wonder when you could possibly have the time to listen to all these podcasts? These are often released weekly, but they are recorded so you can play them anytime, anywhere and as often as you need them.

Here is how I am able to listen to over 1000 podcast episodes on a variety of topics every year. I realized a few years ago that my ears are more available than my eyes and hands.

Ever wonder what you could do with all that time you spend:

  • traveling (even to/from work/school)
  • doing certain types of tasks that do not take any concentration
  • walking around town
  • exercising
  • waiting in line
  • waiting for your significant other

Now that you have discovered all this free time for your ears, what are you going to do with it productively?

Here is an idea: Listen to podcasts or even audio books. There are plenty of online libraries that have audio content to suit your interests. Now that bookstores are going the way of the dinosaur, your local library may have some free resources such audio books which may be of interest to you as well.

How do I listen to this?

If you live and thrive in the 21st century, you likely have at least one mobile device (such as a smart phone) that can store and play MP3 audio files. Most podcasts are available in this universal audio format, among others. Podcasts can be subscribed to, so you are automatically aware of them and downloaded (via WiFi) upon release of new content. If you have a mobile device, you likely carry it everywhere you go (the idea behind being mobile anywhere). Once these audio files are downloaded and if you happen to go places that do not have full coverage (such as subway or train tunnels among other places), you do not have to worry about getting cut off as if you were streaming these audio files online nor over use of your data plan for your mobile device. Every time your ears are idle, use your mobile device to play your favorite audio podcasts and continue learning every day.


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How mature is our DAM and other ECM solutions?


Once we implement a Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution, we are far from done. Unless we want another shelf baby. Our organizations are likely just getting warmed up (some faster than others) when comes to managing their digital assets. This holds true regardless of where we stand with many Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions when an organization comes to the realization that they need to manage their content as they grow up, scale up and move forward into the 21st century. There is a way of measuring this level of maturity within any organization, seeing what needs work and follow a specific roadmap through a maturity model.

This was developed by and credited to several groups of subject matter experts including Wipro, The Real Story Group (formerly CMS Watch), Smigiel Consulting Group, and Hartman Communicatie over the past few years. And it is free to use.

The Enterprise Content Management Maturity Model  is exactly what it sounds like. No matter what level of maturity our organizations have today, ECM3.org is in fact “… a hidden gem.” It is ready-to-use and available to all as a PDF download. Once downloaded and reviewed, it is easy to find out what needs improving based on each of our organization’s level of ECM maturity.

According to ECM3, there are five levels of ECM maturity:

  • Level 1: Unmanaged
  • Level 2: Incipient
  • Level 3: Formative
  • Level 4: Operational
  • Level 5: Pro-Active

This model dives into “thirteen maturity dimensions across three categories”:

  • Human
    • Business Expertise – Employee and executive education and understanding of core ECM precepts
    • IT Expertise – Ability to properly take advantage of incumbent and new systems
    • Process – Extent to which enterprise has analyzed its content-oriented business processes
    • Alignment – Extent of effective Business – IT collaboration, understanding, and synchronization
  • Information
    • Content/Metadata – Extent to which enterprise has analyzed its content and metadata
    • Depth – Completeness of content lifecycle management
    • Governance – Extent of policies and procedures addressing information management
    • Re-use – Extent realization of content re-use opportunities
    • Findability – Ability to find the right content at the right time
  • Systems
    • Scope – Relevant range of ECM functional capabilities (DM, BPM, DAM, etc.) adopted
    • Breadth – Evolution from departmental to enterprise-wide management systems, where necessary
    • Security – Extent to which actual content access reflects enterprise entitlements
    • Usability – Application fitness to purpose

Every organization has room for improvement, especially if the organization is unaware of any of the parts listed above. An organization that is aware of its own ECM maturity has one big step ahead of the rest in knowing where it stands among its competitors and what it needs to focus on going forward.

In my opinion,  when trying measure their level of maturity across all these dimensions many organizations will find themselves in level 1 (unmanaged with no progress) or level 2 (the beginning of progress) of ECM maturity, with a long road ahead.

Why? The causes are:

  • A general lack of awareness.  This has been, is and still will be a growing issue regardless of when we face up to it. If all thirteen points listed above do not ring any alarm bells, look into them. Do not assume the organization is aware of this just because we happen to know about it.  Survey your own organization and find out why.
  • Mistaking age for maturity.
  • The rapid growth (kind of like an avalanche) of digital content including a vast number of digital assets (being created and/or getting acquired) by the organization. Do we know how many and how often?
  • Little or no focus on managing digital content and assets until that realization comes too late. Are we ready to pay more later on? Are we ready to start prioritizing?
  • Organization find themselves scrabbling to ‘do something.’ Repeat.
  • Organizations are often unsure exactly what to do nor how nor when. Are we comfortable with this? We should not be comfortable with the lack of a plan.
  • No staff  regularly working on any/most of these issues. Yes, that may often mean dedicated, knowledgeable individuals. Not simply adding tasks to someone’s endless list of things to do.

As time passes, some people ignore the facts hoping these issues will go away. Their days are numbered because those times are already over. ‘Pay me now or pay me later’, you will have to pay for this cost of doing business today. If we ignore the first estimates of what DAM and other ECM solutions may cost an organization today (including the possible ‘fixing’ costs for any legacy assets/content), wait until we see the next (likely higher) estimate.  Once these solutions are implemented and actually being used, that only marks the beginnings of the ECM maturity process.

DAM professionals and other ECM professionals have their work cut out for them. It may even require a few diaper changes as well tears wiped from a quite few faces within some organizations. Or the organization will simply fade into history.

While the roadmap to maturity may be long and winding, this road has been paved thanks in part to ECM3. To go further down into the rabbit hole, take a look at the Mike 2.0 Methodology

What is your organization’s level of maturity?