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Blog about Digital Asset Management

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What do you know about your integrator?

Recently, some people asked me to look into software integrators because they were having issues with their present one. Sadly, this is far too common. A client saw the integrator at a conference. They had a good relationship with their preferred vendor. Integration and implementation of a solution like Digital Asset Management (DAM) was not the clients’ core competency. Why not leave it up to experts to do this work? Hear this story before?

The integrator said they were experts in the integration and implementation for this specific DAM system. They would not lie for the business, would they? Salespeople lie? Misrepresentation? Say it ain’t true.  Hear this one before?

Turns out the “experts” in question had not completed a single implementation nor integration with this DAM system. Ever. Guinea pig client number one getting billed for the integrator to learn about that DAM system on the client’s dime. Sadly, the client learned this after the most basic of all DAM implementations was running late. A project running late is not a new story for most people either, but remember to ask why.

A DAM is a DAM is a DAM, right? Wrong. The DAM concepts are the same. The DAM systems are different. There are many subtle difference in how different DAM systems are architected, how they handle assets with  metadata and how they integrate with other systems. Or not.

Here is what you need to look for in a DAM integrator:

  • How many solutions have they completed for other clients? With these systems? Be specific.
  • What kind of assets did they work with? Does that match the asset types you work with? DAM is not just about photography.
  • How did they handle use cases for their client?  What about metadata? workflow? Rights and permissions? Whose eyes are glazing over now?
  • Is there an SDK along with a clear set of updated documentation provided by the vendor for the integrator(s) in order to work with their tool? Is there a certification process by the DAM vendor for integrators? Are the integrators certified for this solution or are they partners with vendors? Or do we need to reverse engineer a solution to figure out how it works?
  • Can you see real case studies of real organizations with real people’s names stating satisfaction with that integrator and vendor combination? Why is that page blank on their website? If there isn’t anything posted, you might know why. “We have not had time to post it yet” is a very poor excuse for the often more truthful “we do not have anything to post yet.” Care to guess why?
  • If this is too much for you to handle, hire a DAM consultant that is truly independent of all vendors and integrators. Not one that just recommends the same one or two vendors each time. Those are the ones that often do the “recommendation” for a nice, fat hidden commission from the vendor and/or integrator. Then, they collect from the client as well. Impartiality is not part of the available vocabulary when it needs to be.
  • Word of mouth by the user community. Anyone heard of them?
  • Just because the vendor recommends an integrator or they hang out with the vendor means…nothing. Someone is expecting a check someday though.
  • Do the Project Managers have a clue? Can they keep the project on budget, on schedule and within specifications in a phased approach?
  • Will you have weekly meetings with the parties to discuss clarifications,  decisions, expectations, issues and progress? This is called staying informed. Are you?

If you need vendor neutral assistance or advice on integrators with Digital Asset Management, let us know.

What do you know about your integrator?

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How many vendors have owned your DAM system?

Does your vendors’ ‘roadmap‘ consist of a single dot?

Or are the only lines on that ‘roadmap’ coming from that dot consist of the words “acquired by…”?

Is change, innovation, update and upgrade not part of the vendor’s vocabulary? And is it part of yours?

Has your DAM had more vendors owning it over a handful of years that:

  1. You lost count how many owners it had? (This may take two hands)
  2. The vendor can barely assist you on their ‘new’ system let alone navigate around the system themselves?
  3. An update from the vendor simply consists of a delayed email notification of new ownership and/or new management, after you read about it a month ago through another online channel?
  4. The vendor only ‘innovates by acquisition,’ but updates/upgrades not a single system?
  5. The present vendor has no clear record of what product(s) and/or service(s) you use? (How do you spell CRM?)
  6. You as a client feel forgotten by today’s vendor? (Helpful service trumps a branded pen any day)
  7. Personalized service from a person who speaks your language would really be helpful as long as they can actually deliver what you need as far as assistance is concerned?
  8. SLA might no longer stand for Service Level Agreement? (Support might seem like a foreign concept as well, but still paying for it)
  9. The most technical documentation available is their sales brochures regurgitated with [pick one] vendor logo/name?
  10. When you call/email/send smoke signals to someone who might still work for the vendor(s) requesting some technical support, but the only reply you get back is “Oh, we need to hire someone again to answer your question”? And then you wait. Ask again. And wait some more. And then social security finally becomes available to you… and then you are seeing the writing on the wall. Retirement is looking real good. So, the only question remains… who goes first? You or the vendor?
  11. Migration to a more stable DAM vendor and system is looking better, more efficient and/or more effective every day?

How many vendors have owned your DAM system?

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What is the best DAM solution?

What specifically is your organization going to do with Digital Asset Management?

For those of you who have not read this blog before or did not realize it, I am and remain vendor agnostic. Everyone should realize there is no one DAM fits all solution. Many DAM vendors will claim their solution is the best for you and they may try to sell you a solution even if it does not meet your needs.

I have looked at 90 DAM solutions in the past. Someone claimed there are as many as 150. Which solution is right for your organization?

The right DAM solution for your organization will depend on the following:

  • Your business needs
  • Your organization’s particular use cases
  • The types of assets you are dealing with in the past, present and near future (Are they all supported?)
  • The file size of the assets (can that solution deliver your assets or is there a bandwidth issue using one model versus another?)
  • Usability of the DAM system
  • Your potential users, their geographic location(s) and their available bandwidth
  • What features you need, want and/or would like to have (not just because it is shiny or sounds cool, but is proven to work)
  • How many users, number of assets and fields of metadata can the solution scale to
  • Internal IT support (Got any?)
  • Your budget (Cost is not the only factor, unless you only want to pay for something that does not meet your needs)
  • Your schedule (make room)
  • Your organization’s adoption of change
  • And many other factors

Again, there is no one-size-fits-all DAM solution. There is not one DAM system that could monopolize the whole field of Digital Asset Management. Of course, there are bigger vendors than others, vendors that only do DAM, some open source solutions and some systems which will work together with other systems you may have.

Each DAM system and solution is different. Some upload differently. Some handle file names differently. Some have more strengths in some areas than others. Some have more weakness because they are less developed or updated less often. Some DAM systems are constantly updated, versioned, changed and/or bug fixed. While others are not so much.

What is the best DAM solution? There is no one answer. It depends. What are you going to do with it?

First, research within your organization what your organization has in place now and what it really needs going forward. Where are the gaps? This includes researching the people, processes and technologies you have now. In case your organization has no idea how to do this, look into using a consultant. Select a consultant that is not tied to any specific DAM vendor(s) unless you have already made a decision on using a particular system. Hopefully, it will meet your organization’s needs.

What are the goals of the organization (not just one person) for the DAM? Which systems meet those goals?

Which system meets the business needs as described early on?

Which DAM system is scalable? (scalable for your assets, metadata, users and workflow)

Which DAM vendor and system can your organization work with? Is it too complex with too many features? Is it too simplified with not enough features? Is the vendor available before and after the commitment to using their system/services? Or is all outsourced?

Which DAM system make no sense to your engineers nor  IT department?

Which DAM system can work with your organization’s use cases?

Which DAM vendor can tell you how it would work and then show you a working example from start to finish using your assets?

Which DAM vendor is friendly to you just for your business, but has no existing support for you after you sign up?

Which DAM vendor can not show you anything that works, but will promise you the moon and stars? Which DAM vendor should you run (do not walk) away from?

Which DAM vendor, integrator and system will deliver what you need? Which will/can not?

Which DAM vendors will offer you a white paper to download and have 5 different reps call you about the exact, same thing? (This would require them using a CRM system properly)

Which vendors will invite you to a webinar which you attend and you ask some questions by typing them in (which can be captured), but they ignore them and then call you a month later asking if you had any questions? Then, you ask what was the topic of the webinar, but the person calling you does not even know. (If you only knew how many webinars I attend per month)

Which DAM vendor is financially stable? Many DAM vendors are private companies while some are large publicly traded companies which have DAM as part of their available offerings.

Which DAM systems has had so many owners and different names and different development teams that barely anyone knows how to manage it or use it even on the vendor’s side?

Would you pick a DAM solution without consulting your IT department first? Not a good idea.

Would you pick a DAM solution based on a game of golf with rep or sitting in a sauna with them? What does either of these have to do with selecting technology that meets your organization’s needs? Analyst Theresa Regli warns us about this. Heed that warning.

Did you really think I was going to mention one vendor? One product? One service? Seriously? No.

Be wary of any vendor (or anyone for that matter) saying they have the right solution for you without them knowing anything about your organization, the people, the technology you use, your use cases and your specific reasons for seeking a DAM solution.