The opportunities afforded by DAM systems are so numerous and diverse that it is impossible to make a short list of all the benefits. They vary by type of organization and size of organization and whether DAM is used as a stand-alone system or part of a MRM, MAM, or ECM system (see glossary). As DAM systems vary in their features and functions, this also makes it difficult to specify a ‘hard’ list.
The following are not meant to be exhaustive but act as a catalyst to the reader in terms of awakening him/her to the enormous potential of the latest generation of DAM systems and acting as a spur to move into action.
Benefits by discipline
The marketing department
- Brand consistency. With all marketing assets stored in a central site, including ‘the brand book’, and always up to date with the latest versions, companies can distribute material and brand guidelines across all global markets via the internet to authorized personnel whether they be employees, agency staff or partners. This ‘new consistency’ significantly reduces or eliminates ‘brand’ errors/arguments. No longer the typical situation where a whole campaign in a foreign country may be produced with the colours not right.
- Distribution cost savings. Brand books – either in hard copy or on CDs – no longer need to be distributed to outside agencies. Costs of materials and associated administration, removal of errors all result in savings. Companies frequently send out hundreds of CDs and a brand book can typically consist of 100 pages – all eliminated at a stroke!
- Greater asset utilization. Re-use of existing materials will greatly cut down the cost of commissioning or buying new artwork and will begin to get payback for all the millions of pounds already spent over the years on all types of media.
- More effective multi-media campaigns. The modern marketing trend is towards smaller, more focused and personalized campaigns – which encourages the re-use of collateral. DAM helps make this happen.
- Reuse of assets. More effective marketing by repurposing assets such as videos and producing lower resolution versions for the web – YouTube, webcast etc – or slide extracts for PowerPoint training presentations, client profiles etc, etc.
- Faster and more secure. Organizations can distribute digital masters and other types of licensed assets via secure global web access. No lost CDs or brand books which could result in confidential marketing information getting into the wrong hands.
- Eliminate cost due to losing brand images. Brand images consist of the most visible and, therefore, the most important type of brand resources to manage. These images may include logos and watermarks, product photos, and illustrations—any of which may cost £500 to £20,000 to recreate if lost or misplaced.
- Reduce search costs. Cut down the time and expense of finding digital assets – and knowing that you’ve got them in the first place! Marketing people tend to say ‘I want this image, and I want it now!’ Now you can give it to them!
- Cut down the number of agencies. By pulling back control of all marketing assets into central control, some companies have been able to reduce the number of agencies they use and thereby make big savings in administration costs.
- More flexible marketing staff. Because marketing staff can access marketing assets via the internet, they can work from home or indeed any office anywhere in the world. Even more relevant today where companies outsource marketing staff and wish to reduce office space.
- Avoid copyright problems. By building in copyright details such as ownership and expiration dates into the metadata accompanying each file, companies can better monitor and control potential copyright issues.
- Copyright protection and costs. Cut down copyright and retrieval costs from agencies. They can claim copyright on the material. Typically agencies hold the masters and charge for storage and retrieval. Especially when you change agency!
- Speed up product launches and improve time-to-market. The demands of a global launch can quickly become a 24-hour process management nightmare with multiple country teams working in different time zones across the world. Team members all have to complete their allotted tasks within defined timeframes and much time and effort is taken in coordinating and double-checking tasks. The instant availability and automation of the distribution of digital assets can greatly contribute to eliminating the pain and ensuring a smooth and successful launch on time.
The Sales Division
A DAM central library can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of sales and support staff and give them more face-to-face time with customers and prospects.
Typically such a library would contain such collateral as: product brochures, corporate overviews, annual reports, product data sheets, case studies, customer success stories, industry data and analysis, training materials and policy documents.
The availability of these digital assets helps in –
- Increasing ‘face time’ with customers. Rather than spend hours searching for the latest versions of presentations, brochures, financial statements and the like, sales staff can spend more prime-time on strategic tasks and, most importantly, with customers.
- Better quality presentations. Sales staff can spend more time on honing presentations than finding them. This helps in increases their chances of winning the business and increasing your revenue.
- Faster development of proposals. Whether you have a formal ‘Proposal Centre’ or you rely on your sales staff, the ability to find all related documentation will help you prepare proposals faster and with better quality, thereby contributing to speeding up the sales pipeline.
- Improved partner relationships. You will be able to send your partners – or better, give them access to your library – all the latest versions of sales and support literature as soon as it’s available. This will improve relationships and help them make more sales.
- Better trained sales and support staff. It is not always easy for training staff to keep up to date with all the latest product information, white papers, case studies, company policies – or even knowing whether some exist or not. Dam systems can fill the gap and help new hires and experienced staff all get educated on the latest developments, products and policies, best equipping them to attain sales targets.
The PR department
And all organizations are seeing increasing use of digital media as part of their daily communications and marketing activities, including PR. DAM is an increasingly important tool for organizations that are serious about protecting and growing their brands and capitalizing on web opportunities to expand their market reach.
- Improved brand visibility. Any file, anytime, anywhere. The files are available 24/7 with our DAM system. This means, for example, journalists can find pictures and files on your company at any time and use them in articles. Both journalists and picture editors are far more likely to use your material if they can find and use it rapidly and easily.
- Improved relationships with industry analysts. Management frequently call on the Investor Relations Department to prepare presentations to industry analysts or the latter request information direct from the PR/Investor Relations dept. The instant availability of crucial material such as financial statements/presentations, annual reports and customer profiles greatly enhances the perceived efficiency and therefore image of the organization.
Glossaries could be 100’s of pages long, we’ll keep it short. The technical amongst you don’t need it, others only want a few basic terms but it’s often worth reading through to help your understanding of DAM.
Digital Asset Management (DAM): It is called an asset because it has value. It cost money to create – your time or the cost of purchasing it from a designer, writer or photographer. It can be sold by the owner, as in a stock library or by a photographer or it may be used (and reused) by you or your company. It is the management of these assets using software and workflow that adds further value.
Overview: You are dealing with digital files, say an image. In its simplest form, there are two scenarios. Think of the file as a sheet of paper.
By having the metadata embedded into the file you make that asset portable – send it to a newspaper and their system can read your data. Sure, you can send the image and a text file with the caption but when they become separated they are worthless. Upgrade your DAM system in five or ten years, no need to sort or re-enter data. If one image is corrupted the rest are OK, if the database becomes corrupted … a bigger problem.
Bandwidth: The peak capacity of your ‘connection’ to transfer your files – graphics consumes more bandwidth than text does. If your office has a maximum bandwidth of say 2Mbs (Megabits per second) and you host your own DAM server you will be in trouble if lots of people log in and download images at the same time or worse – start trying to view videos. Data Centres have connections of 1000 Mbs or greater, which is why hosted DAM solutions can make sense.
Brand Asset Management (BAM): Brands are among a company’s most valuable assets and BAM software pulls together more than simply displaying the brand image. It will include everything connected with that brand from a usage approval requests, approved suppliers, designers, media placement, rights by country, reports, trademarks etc.
Broadcast Asset Management (BAM): Video and audio
Captioning: Adding data to a file can be covered by simply calling it captioning.
Client Application: Software that is a client application simply means it runs on your desktop / laptop as opposed to a server. Some DAM systems require the user to buy and install a ‘client application’ to actually view the library or add captions (metadata). So it could become both expensive and restrictive. Nowadays DAM viewing and adding metadata should be web accessible.
Controlled Vocabulary: The management of how you ‘caption’ a file – adding metadata – such as Keywords, Categories, etc. to ensure both relevance and consistency, particularly when you need to make sure different people all use the same word during captioning.
DAM Software: Essentially there are two types of DAM software, the cataloguing system and the browser system. In the early days there were really big differences, nowadays there is very little between them, the catalogue system creates a database, the budget browser system can simply browse, the superior systems create an index.
Data Migration: Don’t try this at home. This usually refers to matching up the database records of your old DAM system to your new DAM database system. A goldmine for the new software provider. TDAL would hope you were migrating the database records as metadata to the individual files. TDAL have a dozen programs that cater for most eventualities, migrating records in a trice.
Digital Rights Management (DRM): Put simply, have you the right to use this digital file? The use can be download, copy, reproduce, purchase, etc. The management of protecting the rights in a DAM system is complex, not least in having a secure system with access control and auditing together with other specialist options. The DRM – the protection of copyright – particularly in the music, film and electronic games sector is big business.
Dublin Core: The international XML standard of the 15 key sets of fields for captioning digital files. The new IPTC. Dublin Core is what is known as a namespace and the one most DAM systems use. [Named after a meeting in Dublin, Ohio, USA]
Embedded Metadata: See the overview
EXIF: [Exchangeable Image File] Simply more metadata but provided automatically by your camera and embedded into the image. Date, time, camera used & serial number, lens setting, flash used, which way up was the camera … and on and on. Tons of information, some cameras even record where they were in the world and which direction they were pointing. However, embedded EXIF information is very useful and often the starting point in sorting out images for a library.
Flash Video (FLV): This was normally the type of video that is used to play the preview – let you quickly see the video – on a DAM site before you download in the format(s) offered. The software you need on your computer is free and 95% of users will have it installed already anyway. Your browser had to be capable of playing Flash videos, during 2016 most browsers stopped supporting flash and offered alternative player platforms.
IPTC: [International Press Telecommunications Council] Thank goodness for IPTC, simply the first ‘international standard’ for the way – and where – metadata is written to digital files. It was adopted worldwide. This is how you can write metadata in say, a MediaFiler DAM system and it can be sent and read in a VYRE DAM system. While a new standard (XMP) has been ‘invented’ to cater for the digital explosion, the DAM system you buy must read and write IPTC so you can continue to communicate with older DAM systems.
Keyword: A search word that links asset together. They may be pictures of London, Edinburgh and Cardiff but a keyword could be night. Ideally give every asset as many keywords as possible. A project name or reference number can be a keyword too.
Licences: DAM systems are not cheap and once up and running are the life blood of many organisations. Check how much a second licence will cost you to allow you to test and plan new configurations and integration prior to deployment.
Marketing Resource Management (MRM): Included in this glossary because it is presently one of the fastest growing ‘solution’ sectors. This term is generally used by marketing automation (software) providers. MRM typically encompasses and combines a group of software solutions supporting marketing operations activities such as product information management, marketing operations management, event and campaign management and of course … Digital Asset Management.
Media Asset Management (MAM): All media, such as Video, Audio, Images, etc.
Metadata: Also look at the overview at the top. It’s simply digital captioning. The who, what, where, when, why and how. Answer the questions that everyone may ask. Because it’s digital and some information such as EXIF data is provided automatically you can cram in as much information as you like. Why? So you can search and find this one file in a 1001 ways, now and in the future. When you ‘TAG’ your social network pictures, you are simply adding metadata to that image. It’s that easy.
Mobile: The never ending explosion of mobile phones and devices that access the internet now requires that any DAM system can deliver in a format for mobile web browsers. We’re told 2010 will see more calls from mobiles than landlines in the UK!
Ontology: Captioning in a way that links, say images or items together but not as in the structured manner of taxonomy. In its simplest form; linking by concept, idea, event etc.
Really Simple Syndication (RSS): Web syndication is a popular method of making content available to other websites simultaneously. Often called an RSS feed. Will your DAM system provide an RSS feed, if so you can link into other DAM systems, provide a RSS feed to a social network site or even into a window (or screen saver) on your computer so you can monitor what is being uploaded / downloaded to your library in real time.
Repurpose: A useful feature of a DAM system, the ability to change the use of an asset, either on upload, within a workflow or prior to download, automatically or on demand.
Image size is a prime example. If on upload it is far too big, it is automatically downsized to say, A4. Then a user wants to download it for a PowerPoint, so just for that user, it is further reduced to exactly PowerPoint size. Saves the user having to spend time resizing and speeds up the download time.
Search: Finding the file fast is the whole reason for having a DAM system. Depending on your target users and size of library you will need to check out the search capabilities. Speed is essential but has it an auto fill search box, predictive search, fuzzy search, open search, advanced search facilities, etc.,
Security: While there are lots of DAM systems in the market place, one of the the reasons some are pricier than others is the security. Lots of horror stories of entire collections being downloaded because the owner thought that cheap library software was a great deal.
Sidecar files: Not every single type of file invented can have embedded metadata. So the metadata is put in a separate file, a ‘sidecar’ file. If you send off the main file it grabs the sidecar by the hand and drags it along with it. The New Generation of DAM systems handle this in their stride.
Stemming: Part of the search facility of a DAM system, the ability to take a search word, identify its stem (root) and return answers for that stem word. For example: search ‘fishing’ and the results are fishey, fished, fisher etc. and the root its self ‘fish’. Just another way to make searching a DAM system easy.
Streaming Video: Is your DAM system able to stream video. As a user, you want to click on a video and watch it straight away, nice and smooth as if it was television. How often do you click on a video and it says “Buffering” and only when it has fully downloaded does it start to play. If you are delivering video you would want a DAM server that delivers streaming video. The recipient must have a good connection too. Some DAM systems allow for a separate ‘streaming’ server. That is, you search and find your video in the DAM library but as soon as you click play, you are transferred to another server and because video consumes bandwidth, this ensures there is no diminished access to your ‘main’ library.
Systems Integration: The ability of different software (and by different suppliers) to link together and work together. Never an easy task in the computing world. For example, you want to link in some smart color management for images as soon as they are uploaded and some sort of distribution manager to handle file delivery or transmission. A payment system and e-commerce are common requests for integration.
The ’hub’ is going to be the DAM software, to link into you need some access point or code set to an international standard. Some DAM suppliers never allow access unless it is by another of their products or charge a small fortune offering a bespoke solution when all you wanted was to simply add a perfectly good bit of ‘someone else’s’ software to your DAM system. Make sure your DAM supplier is vendor independent.
Tag, Tagging: The social networking name for adding what DAM professionals call (Keyword) metadata.
Taxonomy: Organizing the way items are classified and the order in which they are classified. Something that you sort out before you start captioning for your DAM system. Scientific libraries in particular will be able to access international Taxonomy standards but all libraries need to decide how to handle captioning. See how it works in this simple example, say an image of London:
UK > England > Capital > City > Greater London > London. Six key words.
Well planned taxonomy can save hours for the caption writer, click London and the previous 5 keywords are automatically added.
Thesaurus: Just because a DAM system says they have a Thesaurus don’t think it’s pre-packed with all the synonyms you find in the books. Most likely it means it works like a Thesaurus but you have to fill in the words to meet your particular subject range yourself.
Usage Approval: Another way of asking permission to use the file. Police, Local Councils and even Universities are classic users requiring usage approval built into their DAM software. For example, the keyword ‘child’ could trigger a usage approval system, anyone wishing to use an image clicks the download link. If that particular image needs approval they fill in a form and an email is sent to the person who can approve use and activate the download. There are other ways of achieving the same outcome.
Video Asset Management (VAM): What it says.
Watermarking: The easiest form of protecting or identifying ownership of an asset being viewed (so possible to copy) on the web. DAM systems simply electronically add a visual watermark to the image that is displayed. No change or damage is done to the original.
There is also digital watermarking. From a code number or identifier within the metadata to more complex methods within the image. Commercial companies provide specialist software, which you would use on the file prior to upload or build into your workflow.
Workflow: Workflow is KING. The way a file travels to, through and from a DAM system. Workflow reads and acts upon metadata. Workflow can add captions, convert colours and handle distribution. It saves time and errors.
This is probably the most important aspect of DAM, often least understood by the client. It should be top of your agenda. The perfect workflow makes the system easy to use, can save seconds, which over a week or year becomes hours or days, to say nothing of the monetary savings which can run into the hundreds of thousands.
XML: [eXtensible Markup Language] An international standard, particularly for the new advanced generation of DAM systems, that sets the structure of data and thereby also instructions. It allows the same or different software to ‘talk to each other’ or carry out a command on receipt of an associated file or a web instruction.
XMP: [eXtensible Metadata Platform]The metadata standard for adding data to assets such as images and documents. XMP is widely regarded as the successor to IPTC, not only allowing a wider range of fields but the fields may be customised and ‘extended’ as required, almost ad infinitum. For example it is very easy to have your caption data in various languages. The users DAM system recognises their native language is available and presents the caption in that language. You have to input the caption in that language, it does not translate it for you, yet!
Every day, PRs create or receive a growing mountain of digital press releases, podcasts, presentations, pictures, PDFs, video & audio files and assorted documents. A mere Picture Library is no longer the answer to controlling all these files, known as digital assets. But a customized Digital Asset Management (DAM) system from The Digital Asset Lab most certainly is.
If you’ve got the right Digital Asset Management (DAM) system, you can easily store, search, retrieve, manipulate and reuse this exploding mass of material, however enormous it gets. Deliver files where they need to go on time, knowing they’re accessible to whoever needs them 24/7, worldwide.
But if you haven’t – or your system doesn’t match your current needs precisely – all those digital assets can quickly get out of control. Hard to find files cost valuable time to locate. Are they the latest version? In the required format? And if they can’t be found, they have to be recreated. That mountain can become an expensive volcano.
This is where The Digital Asset Lab (TDAL) comes in, promising you anything but the same old DAM formula and total control of your digital assets. Unusually, TDAL harnesses decades of experience from not just the technical but also the creative industries. Our core team wasn’t just present at the birth of digital media, they helped create and develop it. Expertise they’ve applied to producing solutions that store millions of files for companies such as Marks & Spencer, Getty Images and Kier Group.
We’re seasoned systems integrators, recognized pioneers, here to offer you a truly informed choice. Not tied to one product, we won’t box you into inflexible, off the shelf software. Instead, we’ll examine your situation, recommend the most appropriate solution from our portfolio, then customize it to meet your DAM requirements exactly.
We call this approach DAM SMART. Because it is.
A tailored solution from TDAL can be quickly designed and installed on your own hardware. Or, if you’d prefer us to take care of all the IT worries and need to move really quickly, we can host a solution for you which can be up and running within days. Minimal disruption, rapid ROI. Deployed on Windows, Mac or Linux, whether you require a private intranet / extranet or a public facing solution. Robustly secure, accessible via the internet. With local training and support.
Why do some companies prefer to use TDAL to host their DAM system rather than run it in-house using their own resources? Well, for a start, many financial directors love the idea of saving a potentially large outlay on new IT equipment and software licences, not to mention the fact that they can predict their monthly expense and not have to worry about the cost of future capacity increases.
But for the users, the main business reason is more dramatic; namely, you can spend all your time concentrating on your work and maximizing the business benefits rather than being distracted by involvement in all the IT issues of a comprehensive system. And we make it easy for you. Here’s a host of reasons why TDAL customers, large and small, have chosen us to manage their DAM system:
- Fast ROI. We can get you up and running within days – you don’t have to wait weeks or months before your IT department rolls out an internal implementation. This means you can start gaining the business advantages of your new DAM solution in the very first week.
- Building your library faster. We can convert and upload your files for you saving you effort and specialized staff costs. Typically we can upload up to 1,000 images per hour, enabling you to quickly start reusing your new digital assets throughout your organization.
- Quality digital assets. We can check and convert media to ensure it meets PPA (Periodical Publishers Association) and press standards. The better the quality, the more your marketing, sales, PR, call centre etc staff will want to reuse them. The more they reuse them, the more money you save. This also applies to partners, dealers and journalists; the better the quality, the more they will use them thereby enhancing your brand image and visibility.
- Speed and ease of use. We use the latest DAM technology founded on the MediaFiler platform. According to our users, this is probably the world’s fastest DAM system, providing lightening speed in viewing, archiving and distributing all digital media formats. Most significantly, it has specifically been designed to mirror the ease and familiarity of such popular websites such as Google and YouTube so that users very quickly understand how to use the system and make the best use of it. No need for complex user manuals.
- Instant access for everyone. In the very first day we link your new library into your website. It just looks as if it’s part of your system. No matter if users are working from home, in your offices or even abroad, as long as they have access to the Internet, they can work with your library via your website.
- No penalty for multiple users. The norm for in-house systems is for the supplier to charge you a licence fee according to the number of users. Not with our hosted systems. It does matter if you have 5 or 500 users. The more you have, the more cost effective our charges are….and the more benefit you get from your DAM system.
- Security. Users only see what you want them to see. We work with you to agree the security levels to ensure that access to files is only permitted to authorized users. This helps protect your company files.
- 24/7 availability. You don’t need to rely on your IT department’s systems. Your library is run on dedicated media servers by professionals who ensure its permanent availability. As one of our users once said “If the people involved in the design of the software are the ones actually running it, wouldn’t they have an easier time fixing it if something goes wrong?”
- Painless growth. As your library expands, you don’t need to get involved in extra hardware costs. You have no issues regarding scaling up the system as we handle it and it’s completely invisible to the users.
- Software upgrades are automatic. Again, no painful conversions. We will simply advise you of automatic enhancements to the system and what new tools or features you can use as a consequence.
- Your IT department will love you! You won’t need to ask them to set up and manage a new IT system and they won’t have to train or even employ new staff to support it. They don’t need to worry about what operating system it works on. They won’t need to worry about bandwidth, i.e. handling the typically sporadic large files sizes associated with media which can easily ‘clog up’ a company’s network and email system.
- No painful approval process. As you don’t need to apply for capital expenditure and can process this as an expense (Software as a Service), it should enable you get authorization very quickly and get on with setting up the library.
- Low cost – your Financial Director will love you! Not only will he see low and predictable monthly expense and no initial capital outlay, but will welcome the fact that our charges reduce after the first year. And it won’t take a big slice out of your departmental budget!
- Dramatic reduction in distribution costs. No longer do you need to produce CDs or post images and files to agencies with all the associated risks and costs. No more posting photos and press releases to journalists.
- Comprehensive Reports. Simply log in to view and export (email or download) a wide range of reports. Already built in is a web statistics suite but more importantly a complete set of management reports, drill down and display in a number of formats to use in Excel or other applications.
- A boon for smaller companies. Using our hosted service you can use our most sophisticated software which you may not otherwise be able to justify buying outright …and no need to buy a server! So you can reap all the benefits listed above as if you were a major organization.
The Digital Asset Lab provides hour presentations; full day and half day instructor lead courses on understanding and managing digital assets. Training for users, administrators and IT specialists.
The courses are tailored to the audience but can range from hour long presentations on digital imaging, planning a digital archive to asset migration or Administrator training on DAM software.
Training to assist in the collection, scanning, photography and OCR of digital collections.
Please contact us to discuss your particular requirements.