Four Things Your DAM Should Do Beyond Simply Managing Your Assets

How to reimagine digital asset management as a dynamic content staging engine to drive personalized experiences at enterprise scale.

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by Mike Carley

posted on 07-13-2020

The RFP rabbit hole. We’ve all been there, especially in digital asset management (DAM) purchase processes. One minute you are jumping into an exciting vendor search to help supercharge your digital transformation. Three weeks and seven email strings later, you’re suddenly on a two-hour call with the vendor engineering team trying to understand the minutiae of entering keywords in Cyrillic.

If you’ve ever been through this process yourself, you realize that all RFP requirements are not created equal. And while it can be tempting, endlessly drilling into granular, hyper-specific use cases will move you no closer to truly understanding which DAM is best suited to transform your digital marketing initiatives.

This is a trap I’ve seen occur in far too often when selecting the right DAM, mainly because many people (and more disturbingly, DAM vendors) believe the ultimate goal of a digital asset management system is to simply manage your assets. I’m not here to suggest that’s an incorrect goal for DAM, but it’s an incomplete one, especially in 2020.

That begs the question: what’s the right problem for DAM to solve, given the charter of simply managing assets is quickly becoming obsolete? Customers today are both digital and savvy, and they expect highly targeted, relevant messaging when interacting with your brand. These segment-specific experiences are content hungry, and your marketing initiatives will fail if you can’t deliver enough content to meet and exceed these customer expectations across every channel and device.

A content warehouse — in every sense

In 2020, your DAM cannot simply be an organized card catalog. It needs to be a staging engine that dynamically distributes content to upstream creative users, to external users, to partners, and even directly to consumers through channel-optimized experiences.

To help illustrate this point, let’s look at a company I’m sure most of you are familiar with: Amazon. In 2017 alone, Amazon delivered upward of 5 billion individual items through its Amazon Prime shipping service, and the backbone of their operational success can be found in their fulfillment warehouses.

Amazon devotes millions of dollars to streamline the ingestion and organization of goods within the warehouse, allowing a product to be instantly located when ordered. However, after an order is placed and an item is located, can you imagine if Amazon left the actual delivery of that item to somebody else? And even if that delivery experience seemed seamless to the end customer, would that extra transfer point really be something worth managing given it represents yet another point of potential process breakdown?

That’s why Amazon invested not only in how to get items into their warehouses efficiently, but also in how to get items out of their warehouses — and to their intended destinations — even more efficiently. The same should be true of your content strategy when it comes to DAM.

Too many DAM vendors approach customers with promises of fantastic asset management capabilities but see no problem in requiring several third-party integrations to get content where it needs to be. It’s this myopic view of DAM that leads not only to RFP rabbit holes, but to unwieldy technology stacks of bolted-together solutions that become far too resource and cost intensive to actually deliver the marketing agility they originally promised.

DAM as a dynamic content engine

In a time where even more physical interactions are turning digital, your DAM cannot simply be an organized lockbox for your content. To meet consumer expectations of highly relevant, personalized experiences, your DAM needs to be reimagined as a dynamic content engine that provides stakeholders and fuels experiences with the content they need — at scale.

Here are four important areas where your DAM should drive value outside of simply managing your assets:

1. Better DAM living through automation

It is important to understand the unique asset management challenges involved in scaling labor-intensive processes like metadata tagging. Your DAM should eliminate countless hours of manual metadata entry by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to recognize and automatically tag content with relevant keywords. Ideally, these algorithms should also be trainable to recognize and tag content with business-specific keywords that would be missed by other generic algorithms.

But AI in DAM shouldn’t just stop at keywording. There are many other intelligence-powered services that DAM users should be able to leverage, like automated image and video cropping, automated color profile-based metadata tags, visual similarity search, and the ability to automatically keyword video assets. By effectively deploying AI-driven automation in the world of DAM, you can not only deliver a best-in-class search experience across your organization, but also automate many of the manual asset manipulations necessary to get great-looking content to all screen sizes and devices.

2. The DAM is a cool place, but not everyone can get in

Every organization has external users and partners that need access to content but don’t need access to the core DAM, either for security reasons, user experience reasons, or both. Think distributed sales teams, channel partners, and creative agencies. That’s why your DAM should provide a portal-like experience where you can publish a subset of approved content to empower these external users to log in and download as needed — freeing up your teams from hundreds of ad hoc asset requests throughout the year. This portal should also serve as a location to source new content from creative agencies, allowing users to upload newly created assets that can be reviewed by DAM admins and ingested.

3. Get creatives in your DAM business

Your DAM should provide your upstream internal creative teams with the access to the content they need, directly within their tools of choice, like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and XD. The more time a creative spends switching between applications to find content, the more time they need to get that piece of content optimized and delivered to market. Ultimately, the value of even the most organized repository begins to unravel quickly if you can’t supply your creatives with the content they need, where they need to use it. To supercharge your creative operations even further, you should select a DAM that can combine AI with APIs from those same Creative Cloud applications to automate the refinement of work in progress assets, leveraging capabilities like auto-straighten, auto-sharpen, and auto-color correction.

4. From idea to experience

Lastly, your DAM should be able to deliver content directly into the hands of the consumer, either by seamlessly integrating with your CMS or by leveraging dynamic URLs that optimize content for screen size, bandwidth, and device. There are even customers using their DAM to deliver experiences via what market research companies like Forrester call “content atomization”: the ability to generate a modular experience template, and then leverage AI to automatically populate that template with segment-optimized images, videos, and calls to action to scale personalization far beyond what manual efforts can achieve.

So with that in mind, how can we avoid the dreaded RFP rabbit hole when it comes to DAM? Prevent your selection process from being hijacked by fringe use-case requirements by focusing on choosing the DAM best aligns with the goal of your marketing initiatives: deploying engaging, personalized experiences at scale. And if it can also add keywords in Cyrillic? Even better.

Want to learn more? Join me for a webinar on July 28 to hear about the innovative ways Adobe Experience Manager Assets delivers on these next-generation DAM requirements. Register here.

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Topics: Digital Transformation, Personalization

Products: Experience Manager, Photoshop, Creative Cloud