Despite my lifelong love of writing and erstwhile career as a researcher and report writer, I’ve never been an avid blogger. Part of what blocks me from enthusiastically blogging (besides being too busy with things that actually earn my income) is that I find a majority of technology industry commentary to be a lot of “insider baseball,” consisting of consultants and analysts engaging in crystal-ball gazing, commenting on each other’s commentary, often requiring such a specific knowledge about what’s being discussed that the nuances are not understood or appreciated by those outside of or new the DAM world (I have been guilty of this in my past lives, for sure). But nowadays, I’m usually spending my time showing and explaining my “What is DAM?” slide for the 10,000th time to people for whom this technology and practice is totally new and confusing.

This is not to diminish the excellent commentary out there about more future-looking DAM-oriented challenges (I thought Magan Arthur’s recent article was excellent for example, as did many in our industry). But the majority of my clients are trying to solve far more basic challenges than the very insightful and forward-thinking approach to data management that Magan describes. I honestly wish I had more time to think about or comment on the future of DAM, but solving the present and basic challenges are far too in my face. Also, I’d always prefer to not hide behind a screen, and to discuss and debate the future with people in person, at a conference or over a gin & tonic.

But, in honour of my new web site, I had to create some new content! So here it is. I’m currently working on three DAM procurements and several broader digital strategy and data projects that include a DAM component. Here’s the state of DAM in mid-2018 as I’m experiencing it, in three points:

  1. It’s not really about the product anymore. As I see time and time again when I help my clients pick products, DAM products are very similar to one another. I’m admittedly quite dismayed (cynical?) about the lack of real differentiation among DAM products; selections tend to boil down to team chemistry, price, and specific vertical / industry experience for this reason. There are many vendor rankings out there; most of them are based on marketing B.S., “positioning”, and sales acumen of the vendor rather than implementation realities. The procurements I run for clients tend to fall into two buckets: large enterprise with heavy integration needs, or SMBs just getting started who want a simple OOTB product with the option for a simple data or asset push-and-pull. That’s how the market has bifurcated, too. The products have matured; our practices have not. That’s not to say the products have been perfected — far from it — but like the whisk in your kitchen toolbox, a DAM product is what it is and it’s not going to to make the soufflé for you.
  2. Given DAM product sameness, other factors are far more critical to success. We’re still solving very basic DAM problems. For example: overcoming organisational and silo paralysis, just getting our assets into a single repository of truth. Justifying the budget for DAM. Investing in taxonomy creation. Hiring a DAM Manager. Migrating from shared drives to a DAM. Getting assets tagged so they’re findable (AI / auto-tagging isn’t enough). Mapping data from one system to another. Defining the boxes and arrows. So while yes it would be nice to be running fancy semantic web projects or undertaking predictive targeting of our assets by leveraging data from amazing mashups of data from downstream systems, well we are just not there yet. If you are, please let me know. Some of my Fortune 500 clients are working on such projects, in the same way I’m working on my retirement. It’s still a ways off, and requires a lot more investment.
  3. Assets are on the move, and we must plot every stage on their journey. My keynote presentation at the Henry Stewart DAM events in New York and London this year is about The Great Migration. DAM has long been an industry about storing and managing assets, primarily for findability by human beings. But now assets must be found and used by intelligent software, and all our DAM planning should be centred on this very elemental point. DAM is a critical part of the enterprise technology stack, in particular for marketing. Our assets are undergoing a constant migration. So while what a DAM system does is still fundamentally the same, APIs have become as important as the usability of any tool.

Enough of my rambling, I have to get back to work. I’m hoping to become a more regular blogger — so watch this space, my friends, and keep me honest.