24 MAY 2006
Digital asset management
Formulating a digital asset
Is your organisation getting maximum value from the images, music, video and software distributions
that it owns and uses? If not, it’s time to think about putting that situation right.
THERE IS a common misconception By Nigel Atkinson and Giles Blackburn A digital asset is an asset that exists
that digital asset management (DAM) only as a numeric encoding expressed in
is only of concern to certain types of binary form. Or, to be slightly less
company: publishers, broadcasters, You will increasingly find yourself abstract, as computer storage files.
record companies, film studios and other reading about digital asset management Images, music, video and computer
‘media creators’. (DAM) as it transitions from a system software distributions are all examples of
That may have been true at one time, add-on to a strategic IT solution. This digital assets.
but these days, many non-media workshop introduces digital asset It is important to note that, in
companies are also benefiting from better management as it applies to the enterprise enterprise DAM, we are only concerned
management of their digital assets. In and offers a strategic review framework with managing the finished product,
fact, we’d go as far as to argue that any for establishing and meeting the needs the asset. Works in progress are
company that uses graphics or media that your organisation has in this area. better managed by domain-specific
needs at least to be thinking about DAM. management solutions.
As analysts from IT market research Defining DAM Enterprise digital asset management
company Gartner point out: “Enterprise We shall begin by clarifying what we is about gaining maximum value from
DAM is for everyone who uses graphics mean by enterprise digital asset these valuable resources, with the key
or media at all, and every web page uses management. But before we can do aims being to:
graphics. Such organisations are not so we must first define what we mean
necessarily engaged in the creation or sale by a digital asset. maintain a record of ownership and
of graphics or media as a product; they Investopedia.com provides location of digital assets;
include nearly all those with a web the following definition
presence or any investment in brand or for the word ‘asset’:
corporate identity assets in any medium.” “A resource having economic
In fact, the Gartner analysts argue, a value that an individual,
lack of focus on managing digital assets corporation or country
can quickly become costly for owns or controls with the
organisations that have substantial hidden expectation that it will
investments in web graphics and design. provide future benefit.”
Photography and graphic design are This definition clearly
expensive, and audio or video production highlights the three
more so. Although many corporate core attributes of an
workers have the skills and responsibility asset: economic value,
to create corporate text documents, media ownership or control;
creation is a special skill that is often and the expectation
provided by expensive contractors or a of future benefit
limited in-house staff. (see figure one). Figure one: Anatomy of an asset
JUNE 2006 25
protect the economic value of digital studios. This type
assets and rights; of organisation
maximise the future benefit of digital creates new assets
assets and rights. and feeds them
into the eco-
Digital asset management infrastructure system. Digital
should be distinct and complimentary to assets are often
related systems, such as web content the core business
management, document management of this class
and publishing systems. Integration of organisation,
between systems can, in many cases, so DAM may
optimise the value of an enterprise DAM be a business Figure two: The enterprise digital asset management landscape
solution (see figure two). critical function.
Is this something that you should be Asset creators are likely to focus on these Storage management;
considering for your organisation? The areas of digital asset management: Disaster recovery.
answer to that question is certainly yes,
if your organisation: Syndication; Asset consumers use content: marketing
Rights distribution tracking; agencies, broadcast production companies
Cannot say for certain that it is not Access control; and movie theatres. This type of
paying a number of times for the Version control; organisation is an end-point in the asset
rights to use a particular asset; Metadata management; value-chain within the eco-system. Digital
Does not know if it is breaking Storage management; assets are critical to the core activities of
licence agreements by using assets in Disaster recovery. this class of organisation and the ability
ways that it does not have the right to; to quickly locate assets is essential. Asset
Does not know if its own assets are Asset agencies, meanwhile, broker content. consumers are likely to focus on these
being used by others without These include stock image agencies, areas of digital asset management:
agreement/payment; online retailers and film distributors.
Does not keep track of where This type of organisation manages Rights ownership management;
particular assets are stored; and distributes assets within Asset acquisition management;
Is not able to easily find digital assets the eco-system. Digital assets are Asset access;
that it owns or has rights to in order the core business Access control;
to re-use them; of this class of organisation, so Version control.
Does not know how much it is a centralised digital
costing to store and manage the same asset management
assets many times in different places; system, integrated
May lose valuable digital assets in the with commerce,
event of a major systems failure. procurement and
If any of these statements apply to your is vital to cost-
organisation, then you should consider effective operation.
whether there is a business case for DAM Asset agencies are
through a DAM strategic review process. likely to focus on
There are four stages to this. these areas of digital
Phase 1: Classify your organisation
The first phase in this review process Asset acquisition
is to classify your organisation according management;
to its interactions with digital assets. Rights ownership
The digital asset ‘eco-system’ is made management;
up of four different classes of Access control;
organisation. However, a single Syndication;
organisation may fall into multiple Rights distribution
classifications (see figure three). tracking;
Asset creators are content producers: Metadata
design studios, record labels and film management; Figure three: Digital asset ecosystem
26 JUNE 2006
Infrastructure management stakeholders responsible for IT, business
Syndication: The mechanisms and legal functions.
through which assets are syndicated A helpful and tangible starting point
in digital form; for this review is to perform an inventory
Storage management: Management of existing DAM systems or system
of storage requirements for the components used within the organisation.
digital asset archive; Many content management systems
Disaster recovery: Tracking of offer asset and image libraries; design and
assets to ensure that they are branding agencies frequently provide
recoverable after planned-for online brand books; and there are
disaster scenarios. probably numerous intranet or shared
drive based resource libraries deployed
Archive management across your organisation (see figure five).
Asset acquisition: Management of It is important to make this inventory
the addition of assets to maintain as comprehensive as possible; the
archive quality; organisational DAM strategy can easily be
Metadata management: Ongoing undermined if it is not capable of
management of asset metadata replacing or integrating existing systems
to support external processes and processes. The inventory should
and systems; describe the capabilities, users and
Asset access: Systems, such as contents of each existing system.
search engines and taxonomies, The output of this review is a
Figure four: Key functions of enterprise digital facilitating access to support people comprehensive set of needs that must be
asset management and systems seeking specific assets met by the DAM strategy. These needs
for re-use; should be quantified in terms of direct
Finally, most enterprise organisations Asset version control: Maintenance benefits, such as potential cost savings
consume assets. However, asset of multiple versions of assets, and new or enhanced revenue
consumption is generally a function where required. opportunities. Less easily quantifiable
of secondary activities, such as use benefits, such as licensing compliance and
in promotional materials. This type Compliance the enforcement of corporate guidelines
of organisation deals with low volumes Rights ownership tracking: should be prioritised and, where possible,
of high-cost and high-value assets. Tracking of rights to managed a monetary value attributed to each.
Enterprise users are likely to focus on assets to ensure that they are not
these areas of digital asset management: used in a manner inconsistent with Phase 3: Detailed business
rights owned; requirements
Asset acquisition management; Rights distribution tracking: At this stage, having defined areas of
Corporate guideline enforcement; Tracking of rights transferred to need within the organisation, we begin to
Asset access; third parties to ensure that assets build a picture of the detailed business
Access control; are not unlawfully exploited; requirements. The process of defining
Version control. Access control: Ensuring that business requirements must be driven by
assets are only made available to consultation with the personnel who will
Classifying your organisation according authorised individuals; ultimately interact with any resulting
to this simple scheme enables you to Corporate guideline enforcement: DAM implementation. The requirements
focus your review on the most Helping to ensure that corporate will not address technology issues at this
appropriate DAM functions (see figure standards and guidelines are stage, but should detail key functional
four) and to determine the most likely adhered to by centralising control requirements, interactions with existing
asset related external interactions for of corporate assets. systems, soft issues, such as the technical
your business. competence of staff, and use cases for
After all, each of the classes of Phase 2: Identify needs key tasks and processes.
organisation within the digital asset eco- The second stage in the strategy review is The complexity of business
system has slightly different DAM to examine each of the DAM functions requirements for each function should
requirements. These requirements may be suggested by the classifications into then be weighed up against the value
satisfied through a combination of these which your organisation falls. This should projected earlier in the process. This
key digital asset management functions: be a consultative process, involving provides a useful ‘reality check’,
JUNE 2006 27
time. For most rates of change and levels of innovation
organisations, this in technology.
is best looked at The conclusion of this strategic
over a three- to review process is a business case for an
five-year period. investment in DAM within your
Asset agencies organisation. The business case will
and some asset clearly outline the position of your
creators may also organisation within the digital asset
wish to take a ecosystem; define DAM needs,
longer term view. requirement complexity and value to the
The study will business; and provide a forecast for
quantify rates of future requirements.
Figure five: Common digital asset repositories and creation, and
detail any Nigel Atkinson is a director of NeoWorks, a
highlighting functions that require a high expected changes in asset usage and software development and consultancy company
degree of complexity while offering little syndication requirements over the that has worked on content and collaboration
value to the business. selected period. Ideally, this review should management projects for such clients as Channel
The outcome of this phase is a value- be performed with reference to the 5 Broadcasting, Royal Doulton, Levi’s Europe
prioritised list of detailed DAM organisational IT plan for the same and Walkers Snack Foods. He can be contacted
requirements for the business. This report period. While this review is unlikely to at email@example.com.
is one of the key inputs into any future forecast major new technical
system design process prior to the requirements, it can be helpful for Giles Blackburn is head of the digital media
implementation of a DAM solution. capacity planning and may help inform consultancy practice at CVL, a business
integration options. development and technology delivery company.
Phase 4: Planning for the future When making forecasts over this CVL has undertaken projects for a range of
The final phase of the strategy relatively long period, it is often helpful to large retail and media companies including
review examines how organisational perform a review of a similar historical Argos, Entertainment UK, the BBC and UKtv.
DAM requirements will change over period. This can give an indication of key He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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