On Choosing Your DAM Consultant

I’ve worked 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 Pro solutions were prevalent – as were simple catalogs with a pure, text-based slide catalogue: some keywords, a slide number, which drawer or cabinet the slides resides in.

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 microdrive – 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, twenty-two 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) per time created has exploded, mostly because the availability of devices that now can take a photo or video is now ubiquitous. <i>The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You</i> – the title of a book from Chase Jarvis, containing photos taken only with his iPhone – perfectly illustrates how prevalent cameras are today, and that’s one reason 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, retouching it, compressing the file, uploading it – that was a major project. Think before you shoot, be selective in what you scan, check what you upload.

Today, every image is synched to the cloud, apps help curate stories – a timeline of media assets made available in seconds. Mature DAM vendors have evolved their solution or suites along. Along sometimes clients they accompanied for ten or in some cases 20 years, they have stayed purpose driven. The purpose of DAM for any organisation is to create the most value of digital asset as possible 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 not single-use. 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 their product’s capabilities of their products, nor a lack of interest or budget of clients to get beyond the obvious. I offer that it’s a lack of maturity in DAM consultants.

Consultants divide mainly in two categories: The experienced old dog who use wash-rinse-repeat approaches that have been successful in their first gigs. Old dog, same trick.

The other is the fresh, domain-driven consultant that is, too often, 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, repeating a specific integration, or help their clients with a vendor selection process. When you chose a consultant, or a consultant choses you, decide wether you are perfectly clear on what your immediate goals are and what your asset roadmap is – before you decide who should help you along the way.

Kai Strieder

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