From my experiences in the last year, I have seen that a lot of companies and consultants don’t really know the difference between a Web Content Management System (CMS), Document Management System (DMS) or a Digital Asset Management System (DAM).
It is all about using the right tool for the Job
One of the main differentiators of a DAM is that it is not merely about meta-data, but also about storing and retrieving the assets. A DAM system will mostly include transforming and transcoding. Meaning, you will be able to store a movie in its own format (WMV, MOV, AVI, etc.) and will be able to convert it to other formats automatically or on demand. If you need a image in a certain format, again the DAM system will be able to convert the image to the needed format.
On the other hand, a DAM system will help you to find assets quickly. Researches have shown that employees are wasting 1/3 of their time looking for the assets instead working with them. Multiply this by days, weeks and months and you will quickly justify a DAM system that will find and track your assets instantly, handles your digital assets meta-data (correctly), converts assets on demand and much more (well, you won’t have to justify costs with our open source Digital Asset Management System).
Speaking of meta-data
Meta-Data is being used to tag an asset, in order to identify it. As an example, within Adobe Photoshop you can call up the “File Info” Dialog. Within that, you will be able to enter keywords, descriptions, license information, locations, URLs and for photos taken modify the place where the photo was being taken, time, date and much more. Adobe itself, established a meta-data framework called XMP, which then stores the meta-data within the image. Since the XMP meta-data framework is freely available, DAM system vendors are able to leverage the XMP framework and integrate it into their DAM system.
Why is meta-data important?
If you are not using meta-data to declare your assets, then I encourage you to do so? Why, you might ask? Well, for one your current operating system (MacOS X, Windows, Linux) is probably able to scan your digital assets and find the assets you have meta-data in. MacOS X comes to mind, with the Spotlight search engine. Spotlight is able to scan you digital assets, extract the meta-data from them and thus you are able to search for them. Same functionality, thought a bit different, is offered by the Google Desktop Search Engine and probably other tools as well.
But meta-data gets much more relevant when it gets to online media. If you store your license information within the images and put those images on the Internet (say a Blog, Website, Flickr, etc.) the information within the images is contained and other systems will make use of it. Most prominently the Google Image Search will make use of your meta-data. I am not talking about protecting your assets or on DRM (that would be a blog post on its own), but simply on tagging your assets. That said, let’s see how a DAM system can help you and your team collaborate on those precious assets.
The DAM system will help to collaborate
In the above paragraph I talked about meta-data. Now, DAM system will (should) be able to read the meta-data of your assets, store them and also will (should) be able to write meta-data back into the asset. Thus your DAM system will be a fully integrated into your current design/publishing workflow. Most companies I have come upon, use tools from Adobe like Photoshop, InDesign and/or Illustrator. Also, they make use of “Bridge” that tries to tied the know between their products and your content.
Thus if your DAM system is able to read/write meta-data and additional meta-fields then it will blend in with your working environment and will not be an alien to your infrastructure and most important employees.
Furthermore, DAM system will be able to aid you in your preview/review process. Mostly you can collect a bunch of assets, drop them in some sort of basket/collection and then be able to publish this collection to selected persons in your review process. In turn they will then be able to comment on the assets, make changes and approve the process. DAM systems allow organizations to manage compound assets as a whole, or in pieces.
Target audiences of a DAM system
DAM system, by their nature of managing digital assets like videos and images, are mainly targeted at the “creatives” audiences like Designers, Illustrators, Media Organizations, etc. But we see, that a lot of other organizations take to a DAM system in general. Especially, in these “Social Media times” where more and more content is being published in video form a professional DAM system (which has streaming and video support built in) makes a lot of sense.
From our own experiences and from our customers we see that all kinds of different organizations use our open source Digital Asset Management offering. Some of them are agencies, non profit organizations, design studios, bloggers, to only name a few. But what they all have in common is that they were in need of a hassle free DAM system that takes the job seriously, integrates into their current workflow and is intuitive to handle.
Of course, one DAM system does not suit all requirements. That said, I recommend that you take a good look at the current offerings on the market. But, please, have a requirement paper ready and know what you need. I have seen many times, that vendors and consultants will tell you that this and that system will do what you want, only to find out later that it will be added in some future version, will be added by extra costs or worst of all, does not fit into your current infrastructure or workflow (Guess, that goes for any project not only DAM systems).
If possible also evaluate the systems within your company. The beauty of open source Digital Asset Management System, like Razuna, is that they are freely available on the net and can be downloaded and installed on your own. In our case, we made it very easy for you to evaluate our offering. All you do is to download Razuna and run it on your machine (Windows, MaxOS X, Linux, etc. supported). There is nothing else you need to do, other then start mananing those DAM assets with it, that is.