On Choosing a DAM Consultant

by Kai Strieder

I’ve been working in the DAM space since around 1996 – long before the term DAM or even MAM was coined. I loved and still love to help clients to make a sense of the technical, organisational and legal challenges of handling media assets, creating value and ensuring that content, stories, emotions can be shared, communicated, and set in place.

DAM has come a long way – databases for media content have started as pure systems for media companies.

News, agencies, editors, the occasional photographer. At that time even FileMaker solutions were prevalent – as were simple catalogs with a pure text-based slide catalogue: some keywords, a slide number, the drawer or cabinet where the slide resides.

What part of DAM – Digital Asset Management has come a long way?

Digital Media has come a long way. Remember drum scanners? Slide scanners? Waiting up to 90 seconds for a slide to scan in a Nikon desktop slide scanner with automatic feed? Remember the batch of 50 files named up to “Unnamed File (#49)”?
Remember the first digital SLR being a really big deal? The IBM micro-drive — a thick CF card with a spinning hard drive inside it? (I still have the 1 Gig version sitting on my desk).

Digital media has evolved in a infuriating speed: 22 years where resolutions have exponentially grown on a regular basis. Doubling the resolution of a screen, CMOS or CCD sensor isn’t even big news now.

How has the management part evolved?

The output of assets — files — over enormously over time, mostly because the availability of devices that now can take a photo or video is now ubiquitous. “The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You” is the title of a book from Chase Jarvis, containing photos taken only with his iPhone. It perfectly illustrates how prevalent today cameras are and that’s one of the points why the amount of “available media” has skyrocketed.

Available media – photos, videos, audio recordings that can be shared, referenced, used, curated – that is why the Management in DAM is really challenged. Making media available was a significant effort 10 years ago. You chose which photos to upload into a dedicated database, creating a scan, retouched it, compressing the file, uploaded it – that was a major project. Think before you shoot, be selective in what you scan, check what you upload.

Today, every shot is synched into the cloud, apps help to curate stories – a timeline of media assets made available in seconds.

Mature DAM vendors have evolved their solution or suites along. Alongside clients they accompanied for ten or even 20 years, they have stayed focused. The purpose of DAM for any organisation is to create the most value from a digital asset and then stay out of the way.

While individual users might argue that an approval process isn’t exactly “staying out of the way” – for the organisation it is a necessity to ensure that value is sustainable.

Same goes for tediously crafted mandatory metadata, where on might argue that’s way over the top for just the web page illustration. Again, the purpose is to create most value over the lifetime of the asset and reduce single-use cases. These DAM solutions have matured to a point where sharing, enabling, integrating, fitting, transcoding, have evolved up to the point where a DAM itself provides CDN capabilities.

So is it all ponies and rainbows now?

Unfortunately, in a lot of conversations with enterprise clients, I have learned that there is a huge maturity gap. And it’s neither the vault of vendors and the capabilities of their products, nor a lack of interest (read: budget) of clients to get beyond the obvious.

It’s a lack of maturity in DAM consultants.

DAM Consultants can mostly be divided into two categories:

The experienced old dogs whose rinse-repeat approaches that have been successful the first gigs. Old dogs, new tricks – you get the point.

The fresh domain-driven consultants that usually are coming to DAM from an adjacent angle, be it SEO, product and e-commerce, social media, apps — and are more or less ignorant to the whole rest of the DAM potential or the value cycle of a digital asset.

Both types are either implementation-driven (read: rinse-and-repeat a specific integration), or vendor-selection process, helping their clients navigate the path to the best tool.

When you chose a consultant, or a consultant choses you, decide wether you are perfectly clear on what your immediate goals and criteria for success are, and what your asset roadmap is – before you decide who should help you along the way.

Kai Strieder

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