This White Paper was conceived to provide an overview and road-map for the evolution of Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems. DAM is fast-becoming a critical component for many enterprise-level marketing and media producers. Today it is used to manage digital assets and prepare them for distribution to the explosion of digital devices on the market through new and existing channels. The tools required to communicate effectively in this multi-channel world are developing rapidly and look set to become the cornerstone of a new age of marketing where Marketing Execution Platforms (MEPs) manage and intelligently deliver content that consumers desire by responding to user profiles and social network behavior. It remains an open question as to how far this evolution in the interaction between consumers and marketing/media can go, but it seems likely that the systems that provide these capabilities are going to occupy a critical place in many enterprises and so will need to integrate with business systems every bit as well as they interact with consumers.
For many years, Digital Asset Management (DAM) was little more than a file management tool for picture databases. It was perhaps a better alternative to a file server, but it did not allow you to preview your graphical files, there was no rendering between file formats, and there was only a limited set of functions for managing taxonomy. Beyond that, security features and metadata tagging were practically non-existent. Then in the period between 1990 and 2000, Wave I of the first modern DAM systems began to emerge as the high-end answer to the perceived issues of file management. This first wave provided new ways of handling metadata, rendering of files, taxonomy, order & delivery, security management, versioning of files, and much more.
As DAM grew in popularity, maturing markets made users curious as to how they could build extensions to existing DAM systems. Extensions were built on Cumulus, for example, and other early-stage DAM systems. But in spite of this, the DAMs remained what might be called “premium file systems” and were pretty much closed to development by the outside world. What extensions and plug ins did exist were produced by die-hard evangelists prepared to do a lot of IT-stitching.
One could draw a comparison here to the early days of accounting systems. In the initial IT phase, accounting systems were monolithic, silo applications just like early, Wave I DAM systems. They held their accounting data in a well-protected manner and only registeredusers could log in to this monolithic system and use the data according to their needs. Perish the thought, however, that you might scale or extend these systems to your particular needs. The API just wasn’t there.
Today, in DAM at least, the “monolithic, Wave I period” definitely lies behind us. DAM is on the verge of becoming business critical and, in this maturing market, the leading players are differing from wave to wave. Those who led in the early years of DAM (Cumulus, XINET, etc.) lost their position to new players (NorthPlains, Mediabin, Artesia, etc.). And today, these market players are being challenged by a new wave of enterprise players who are pushing DAM into business critical workflows, and are even promising to leave the DAM-buzz far behind in the coming years. We may eventually see the demise of the term “DAM” altogether as these new platforms emerge. Perhaps the coming decade will see the rise of MEPs or “Media / Marketing Execution Platforms” as DAM is eclipsed by more capable systems. It is clear Wave II has begun and Wave III will soon start to develop.
DAM Trends for the decade to come
The DAM-industry is fundamentally changing and it will continue to do so. DAM as the buzzword for the industry will probably disappear as software vendors are pushed by their customers to offer systems more akin to the idea of a “Marketing Execution Platform” (MEP), “Marketing Process Optimization Platform” (MPOP) or something of this kind. The archiving functions of DAM will, of course, remain hugely important, but it will be only a minor part of the value that DAM can bring to an organization.
To perceive DAM as an archive system is now decidedly “old wave”. This previous phase might be dubbed “DAM as a silo system” – a glorified file server admittedly, but one that is still very isolated in its functionality. In the decade to come, Metadata and Taxonomy, although still key terms, will become fairly obvious and minimum criteria when discussing DAM as it grows into the cornerstone of media content strategy or marketing and media process execution.
Trend I: DAM moving towards open architectures: APIs & web services
The increasing insertion of DAM into enterprise systems has pushed DAM vendors to open their architectures and deliver modular components that allow enterprise scaling, load balancing, cold & hot standbys, integration into existing architectures such as ERP-back bones, authentication engines (e.g. Active Directory integration), indexing mechanisms, and more.
Accompanying this is the need for a powerful API that allows direct access to all kinds of system functionality, and, of course, a complete and full documentation to assist in programming with the API. This has been the first step for DAM in moving away from the older silo approach: DAM has opened up its silo content towards enterprise architecture, and has made itself ready to be integrated into other systems.
The trend has now come to maturity, and it looks like most vendors have made the choice as to whether they are targeting enterprise architecture or not. Opportunities still remain for systems that are closed in their architecture, but these are provided now in easy-to-install, boxed solutions, suitable for off-the-shelf sales as departmental solutions. There is,however, no longer any opportunity for these solutions to become business critical at this point in time. They will remain an appropriate solution at departmental level.
Trend II : the business critical character of workflow in DAM
Enterprise-ready DAM systems that have proven themselves capable of incorporation into enterprise architectures have unleashed huge potential. And not only have other systems in the architecture been improved by this new arrival, but, more critically, the new wave of DAM systems have proved themselves very capable business process management systems (BPMS) for the use of digital assets in enterprise business processes.
As DAM has become a key component in enterprise architectures, BPMS has quickly become a strong value proposition in the enterprise DAM world. Today, no enterprise DAM system is capable of defending its position without a full BPMS offering allowing control of assets in an end-to-end workflow.
From status-driven workflows in the early 2000’s, rules-based engines quickly became the easy “next step” before finally arriving at today’s design-driven BPMS systems that allow you to draw complex business workflows in Microsoft Visio and ingest them into the DAM system. Digital assets are now capable of being entirely controlled and processed in enterprise workflows. This is the first real step for DAM in becoming truly business critical.
DAM is therefore entering Wave II: powerful workflow management, beyond the typical status-driven workflows of a decade ago. DAM is now demonstrating that it has the potential to become business critical and business relevant.
Trend III : the Olympic Game of Marketing Technologies
The combination of DAM with BPMS creates a very strong candidate that is likely to become the cornerstone of all media and marketing automation architectures.
Any media or marketing process requires intensive delivery and retrieval of files, and Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) have repeatedly expressed their need to gain complete end-to-end control of their media workflows – something that will require a strong architectural unpinning to all media and marketing automation systems. An examination of the full portfolio of existing systems suggests a subdivision into five major categories:
– MEDIA-systems: to organize assets/media of all kinds. DAM would be the typical buzzword in this segment.
– BPMS/Workflow-systems: to organize workflows and allow business managers to set up any kind of process-driven execution, from simple status-driven workflows to complex design-driven and enterprise-scale workflows.
– PRODUCT-based systems, such as PIM or PIMS systems, PDM systems, MDM-systems, etc. These manage product information in the enterprise workflow and allow the production of catalogs, feeds towards e-commerce/catalog systems, etc. Some product-based systems already embrace digital assets; others need to be integrated with MEDIA-systems to handle digital assets.
– CAMPAIGN-based systems, such as MRM-systems, or campaign management systems. These allow the definition of projects that use “resources” be they media or budgets, time, machines or people. The role of campaign-based systems is clearly to deliver a campaign within a predefined workflow, while controlling the resources needed for the campaign.
– PUBLISHING-based systems, such as WCM, editorial publishing systems, catalog publishing systems, packaging systems, web-to-print systems and many other variations of the same usage: expressing a brand or a message
in/on a given medium (print, web etc.)
At this moment in time, there are no obvious marketing automation systems that function outside these five pillars (excluding the analytics and reporting side of things). All five of these pillars integrate to a certain extent into the other domains/functionalities.
It seems logical from the current state of play that hybrid systems will arise first, with a lot of IT-stitching to keep them together. This will no doubt engender a debate about independent and specialized “point solutions” versus “all-in-one platforms”. However, it’s probably true to say that the best architecture will ultimately consist of both: a platform presenting a single version of truth intimately linking this single version thru workflow, with a decentralized business layer containing logic/applications/functionality on top, for products, campaigns and publishing business applications.
Consolidation of the five pillars into a platform-based Marketing Execution Platform (MEP) is a question of speed and need in a maturing industry. The more pressure that is put on CEOs to make their marketing investment more cost effective, the more they will require better control of the marketing workflow, hence automation and control of processes.
Trend IV : DAM’s appearance in business critical processes leading to industry-specific solutions
As the five pillars consolidate into a more closely functioning system, one can expect that horizontal business workflows will start to crystallize above them: that is, industry-specific solutions will start to arise, from cross-media based publishing systems, through brand localization execution systems to fully integrated customer experiences for products, with packaging to mobile technology experiences (e.g. driven by QR-codes).
Once the competition between the five Olympic Rings is clear and creating new leadership in the market, one can expect that partner ecosystems will make choices as to who are the market leaders producing these platforms so they can begin to build industry-specific solutions on top of their architecture. In a short to intermediate term, it doesn’t look like Microsoft, IBM, Oracle or SAP are going to dominate this market, so second tier players will take the lead for a while. But in the end, this will represent a billion dollar market when it comes to maturity, and the Top 4 players in the IT-market are clearly going to take positions in this market fight. This market will be too attractive not to trigger their engagement. This phase of DAM development can be called “Wave III” – where Media Management and BPMS provide the architectural underpinnings. Marketing Execution Platforms (MEPs) will quickly become a reality and will result in industry-specific solutions. Industry-specific solutions, although very technology-based, will soon become consultancy-driven. The idea that systems and technology vendors are no longer the best-suited parties to re-engineer and drive business process changes will gain ground quickly. Business consultants will therefore take the lead in this MEP market, which will lead to industry-specific approaches, be they business propositions or use-case scenarios.
Trend V: DAM goes “MULTI” – meaning multi-media, multi-channel and multi-device
The proliferation of new channels sending media to new hardware devices is going to bring a major challenge to DAM.
It’s already fairly apparent that the convergence of devices (TV, PC and Telephone) will create a multitude of hybrid hardware devices that will require a crossover and evolution of channels in order to get media to all the different kinds of new devices. Phone calls will no longer exclusively be made on telephones; broadcast will not remain a TV-only affair etc. The cross-combination of channels and devices with their respective file formats will become a daily fact of life, and will lead to a vast complexity of assets and channels to be managed. File formats will exist for channel-specific content, channel-specific content will flow to specific devices, etc. A huge range of combinations between media (format), channels and devices will arise and this will naturally require a new level of asset and process management.
DAM systems configured as part of the Olympic Game will need to make a strong business proposition in the MEDIA and PUBLISH pillars of the MEP. The CAMPAIGN-management pillar will be required to direct campaigns to certain channels and influence the interaction with users depending on the capabilities of the chosen device.
Trend VI: MULTI-trend and device convergence leading to PROXIMITY & UBIQUITY
Trend V – the move to “MULTI-” will engender Trend VI – PROXIMITY & UBIQUITY management. By this is meant that there will always be a device close to the customer, and this device will also always be close to an existing campaign. Campaigns will therefore be directed to the customer with a level of granularity never seen before. The driver for this will be more “local” than “personal”.
Trend V will therefore engender this new regional complexity and the management of proximity. Wherever you are, you will be carrying or interacting with a screen. Persuasive content will need to be adapted to proximal (read “local”) interactions and this will make the management of regional complexity key in the roll out of content.
Ubiquity – or the concept of everywhere, anywhere, any time, by-anybody – already exists as a result of the explosion of devices. But it is not only devices that have created ubiquity. Networks and the availability of networks have also driven this trend, as has the use content providers make of this ubiquitous availability of content. So ubiquitous networks, and content and device availability lead to what can be called an “ALWAYS ON” environment: we become constantly receptive to communications and expressions from one or another device.
This will prove one of the most fundamental disruptive forces in the history of marketing. Campaigns will become instantaneous, personalized, and will interact and modify themselves through customer input, feedback and customer analytics. What will become prevalent then will be customer-generated content – where the MEP’s ability to interact with the customer’s profile will generate tailored content.
Trend VII: Mobile multi-channel marketing – with UBIQUITY and PROXIMITY as drivers – will lead to customer-specific expressions of assets (media, customer, and market)
The mobility of devices and ubiquity of networks will bring the user closer to their media experiences: the number of interactions will grow in frequency as will the amount of time “exposed” to interactions. This will trigger an explosive attention from marketers towards mobile devices and proximity management as they seek to further personalize messages. We will therefore first see proximity management, and second personalized interactions, for the simple reason that we will need a growing number of one-on-one interactions before we can build a local and personal profile of each prospect or customer.
The number of interactions between customers and vendors through mobile devices will grow explosively, and, as a consequence, this will lead to a growth in the level of information known about each customer which will add to their “loyalty” profile.
The current level of personalization is based on personalized text, but there is no reason why one couldn’t expect the expression of other personalized assets, even up to a personalization of the composition of the asset itself.
– Personalization of the assets: if, for example, a customer is know as aMaserati driver, instead of a Citroen driver, s/he would be targeted witha new movie from Maserati for anything they want to sell to that person. The customer interaction would be with a Maserati movie, not with a Citroen movie.
– Personalization of composition of the asset: in a more developed scenario, the Maserati movie might exist in different colors with different landscapes. It would render on the fly according to the customer’s profile. If s/he isknown as a “conservative Italy lover”, it might display the latestGran Cabrio in Blue, cruising around in the Tuscan hillside. For a colleague, who is more “metropolitan and speed oriented”, the message would display as a rendered movie on the circuit of Monza with a Gran Cabrio in red. Assets will therefore be composed and rendered on the fly and will correspond to the profile of the customer.
Trend VIII : Customer-specific expression will drive the consolidation of CRM and Web analytics
As we enter the final stage of proximity and personalization, CRM will join forces with web analytics. To date, CRM has been based on individuals as the single entity, while web analytics proceeds from a starting point of content and composed content.
Content and Individuals, however, will come to be tracked, both separately and in association with each other. To this will be added Proximity and Channels as the four cornerstones of future transaction-based analytics: content-channel-region-user. Every single transaction between a user and content will add to their footprint. The shift will be pretty fundamental, since these new analytics relating to customer foot-printing will not be linked to a brand, as are most CRM’s at the moment, but will be available instead in a SaaS model to be ingested into offerings made available daily. Customer footprints in a CRM are “single brand” only. The value of this new foot-printing will be to open it up for other brands and add value on all four of the pillars thus increasing sales for every brand.
Big players such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and others will possibly see sufficient enrichment from analyzing their own transactions. But other global brands, such as Adidas, HP, Nestle, Procter, etc., will not have sufficient levels of data when compared to the top-of-the-cloud platform players mentioned above. One can therefore anticipate a service will arise that will sell these cloud-footprints at commercial rates to enterprise brands in order to facilitate and improve transaction efficiency.
Trend IX : the customer will become the largest source of content creation while campaigns will merge into the social network
With interactivity growing, with ubiquity and proximity growing, and with personalization growing, campaigns will become more and more effective, have a bigger impact, and will solicit new levels of interaction with the customer. The customer will become the hub for the viral progression of the campaign, and will adapt campaigns for their friends. Content will no longer be created by professionals, but will erupt from hi-profile individuals with great brand loyalty. The individual will become a hub in campaign management and will move beyond the typical User Generated Content (UGC)-profile. The “Chi-profile” of users “CAMPAIGN – HUB – INIVIDUALS” will come to predominate.
One of the opportunities this will provide is for campaign managers to start directing campaigns in a modular fashion. “Chi’s” (see above) of the first trust level will have more rights to adapt campaign blocks than Chi’s further down in the network. Campaign managers will allow Chi’s to interact directly on the content, adapt campaigns, create their own audiences, etc. The will create a powerful allegiance of the VIRAL, the SOCIAL, CAMPAIGNS and customer ANALYTICS. Campaigns will spawn thousands and millions of expressions of the same campaign. The effectiveness of each sub-campaign will be fed back into the analytics system and will allow for the development of better campaigns, better customer profiling, better effectiveness and greater impact.
Trend X : MEP will not only blend persuasive, business & transactional content; MEP will also ultimately blend into ERP.
As we have seen, platform trends are pushing the momentum away from silos, and it will be very difficult for these to continue to exist at an enterprise level.
With platforms arising, silo-style systems such as e-shops, document management, web content management, etc. will start to blend together into more functional entities (there is no essential difference, for example, between archiving a web page, an admin document or a picture). As a consequence, there will be no need for three systems to perform BUSINESS, TRANSACTIONAL and PERSUASIVE content management. The architectures of the systems will blend together and no platform is better suited than a DAM-platform to handle graphical complexity such as video, 3D, etc. DAM will therefore become the power glue between the systems because of its highly adaptable and powerful architecture. The same will happen as ERP platforms develop : MEP and ERP will start to handshake at different points in time and through different nodes in the architecture. There will be new connections established between the Marketing/Media Supply Chain and the Product Supply Chain. Some examples:
– PRODUCT: their descriptions by SKU number and short text strings, as well as price etc. will remain in ERP, but marketing text, picture information, 3D and image rendering, cross-linking of products etc. will become MEP-based.
– STOCKLEVELS: will remain in ERP, because of the number-driven character of the information.
– BUDGETS: this is not expected to become part of MEPs either, although it remains very important in the CAMPAIGN-ring of our Olympic Game.
Looking at this highest level of information architecture, there is apparently still a model of File versus Record, or of Production versus Communication, and this was essentially the same model 10 years ago. ERP was in the production corner as a record-based system. DAM was in the media corner with a file-based system. But with their continued growth, the Production Process and the Marketing Process have left their respective corners and must meet somewhere.
Where does it end?
It never ends! The trends are in place and it may well be possible to already make a prediction about what will happen at the top of the DAM food-chain, at least in answer to (1)What consolidation will be happening at the top 10 years from now? And (2) where will consolidation take place in the next 10 years thereafter?
Top consolidators in the end will be SAP, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. Although the position of each company might differ in time, this “best guess” is based on current facts. To name one key competitor however, Google will perhaps not play a role in this consolidation. Google is a consumer-driven company, and may well become a channel- rather than a software-provider. Microsoft will be pushed towards the enterprise segment, and will need to confirm its position in this area with acquisitions/investments in ERP, CRM and other enterprise specific software.
Finally, from a functional point of view, perhaps a model that can be usefully dubbed the “four-leaved clover” model will arise based on user, process, file and number. A business system might be said to be complete when it can handle all of those four components, where the platform translates user into CRM, process into BPMS, number into ERP and file into MEP.
So, most likely, the DAM market is about to see a move from DAM to MEP, and from MEP to complete business integration with BPMS, ERP and CRM. In a fast-emerging market, it’shard to say with precision when all this will happen and whether it will happen in precisely this manner. Nevertheless, it is important to have some vision of where the future is going otherwise we can only second-guess who will ultimately be the lucky one holding this four-leaved clover.
About the author
Pieter Casneuf holds a PhD in chemistry and biotechnology, and has an MBA from the Vlerick School for Management, Belgium.
In his first job, Pieter was appointed as Financial Officer in a media company (OFUP, 1990). After three years, he managed a buyout then sold the company five years later. In 1998, he joined ADValvas as Business Development Manager and later became the CEO of AdValvas Group (2000), a venture capital company active in the IT and internet sector. In early 2002, Pieter joined DOMO Group, a major European carpet mill, where he worked as General Manager, responsibile for four production units in Belgium and Germany, and worldwide sales in more than 80 countries. Pieter also became a member of the executive committee of the group.
On leaving DOMO Group, Pieter looked around to set up his own business. He met Dirk Noppe of ADAM Software, and Dirk and Pieter joined forces to roll out ADAM as a digital asset management system worldwide.
Pieter Casneuf is now partner and shareholder of ADAM Software NV and is responsible for worldwide business development and commercial rollout.For more information followPieter Casneuf on LinkedIn
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