For Brand Creative Production Teams, It Doesn’t Matter What Enterprise DAM Tool You Pick.

In Brand organizations, DAM projects are often born in the Creative Services departments because the shift to ‘digital centric’ marketing has overwhelmed the  creative production team.

Brands have growing ecommerce focus, along with many other digital channels including social media.  Costs are lower, reach is more efficient, and customers are demanding a direct relationship with the brand.

Many organizations have moved from a print catalog engagement model to a digital engagement model.  This shift has had a huge impact on Creative Services.

Instead of having weeks and months to create, approve, and deliver creative content such as photographs, graphics, InDesign files, and videos for an up coming “season”, content turn around times have shrunk to days and hours, even minutes.

The most critical process to enable digital engagement is the “product driven” creative production workflow. This encompasses defining creative assets that need to be produced based on merchant line plans, getting the product samples in-house and scheduled for photo shoots, approval of the newly created assets and delivery to to digital channels.

Any product sitting in a distribution center waiting for supporting creative assets to be delivered is basically “lost money”.  This puts tremendous pressure on Creative Services to gain velocity without sacrificing Brand creative integrity.

Recognizing this business “imperative” most organizations will search for ways to improve the efficiency and reduce cycle time through Creative Services.

Generally this results in a budget request submission to C-level for a DAM solution that can help manage this complexity.

Since a DAM solution is usually perceived first as software infrastructure, the next step is to involve Information Technology (IT).

In my experience, there are few groups that are as different in culture and outlook as Creative Services and IT.  Sometimes it’s as obvious as Creative uses Macs and the rest of the organization uses PCs.  Culturally, these two groups are total opposites. IT loves standardized processes and measurement; Creative Services loves being different: new ideas, flaunting conventions and freedom from all those ‘unnecessary’ corporate restrictions and rules.

But IT will usually take control because, after all, it is software and they have a responsibility to implement corporate systems that meet key compliance criteria.

Requirements will be gathered by consensus and a long, long list of “required “ features will be generated for an upcoming RFP for a DAM.  I have routinely seen spreadsheets with 500 or more rows of “required features”.

The real reason for such a long list is because IT inherently does not understand the “creative process”.  By including every possible feature, IT is being careful not to “leave anyone out.”  Sometimes these RFP processes can take a year or more.

The next step is to send these requirements in the form of an RFP to a short list of vendors which usually include Adobe, North Plains, ADAM Software, Open Text and Media Beacon – the “famous five”.  (Full disclosure: I have worked for two of these five enterprise DAM vendors).

The vendors dutifully fill out the RFPs and send them back with most items checked “Out of the Box” “or “Configurable” because to declare something as “Custom” is the kiss of death.

And truth be told, most of the features customers are looking are “Out of the Box” or “Configurable” because theses features were commoditized years ago.

HTML5 based ease to use user interfaces, security and access control, version and rendition management, workflow, integration with third parties, etc. – all “available”.

The point here is that none of these features and requirements are going to have anything to do with the success of the DAM as it relates to creative production velocity. If all you look at are consensus-generated requirements, it won’t matter which DAM you pick – the chances of significantly increasing creative production velocity are low.

For Creative Services, the critical factor in the success of the DAM will be how effectively you create efficiencies in the creative process workflow, where the asset is created and tagged, approved, and finalized. The “Velocity” of approved assets delivered to the ecommerce system is measured here… and in this new “digital centric” world, velocity is king.

So instead of worrying about commodity features that are mostly equal across all the vendors, you should focus on really important things like how assets are programmatically tagged from sample bar code scans and PIM and other data feeds.  These are the things that are going to make a real difference in “Velocity!”.

One of the great killers in DAM success is the reliance on manual tagging of digital assets.  The basic problem is that no one has the time to manually tag assets especially the creative team who are typically the most capable to tag assets since they created them.  The inherent problem is that the people whomost benefit from well tagged assets are people searching for them, typically in marketing or ecommerce operations looking for assets to support a particular campaign.

But the people who “pay with their time” for efficient tagging are the creative folks. So the users that benefit the most are the ones that “pay” the least.  Not a recipe for long term success!!

The critical success factor in digital asset management is rich meta tagging. The reason for this is simple: A DAM is only useful if people can find assets in the system. Assets are “found” by entering search terms and getting results. The more metadata that exists the more assets can be found and, also, the more refined are the search results.  If your users are screaming “I can’t find anything in the DAM!”, you know that your organization is not tagging digital assets effectively.

At this point, many organizations decide to “bit the bullet” and hire a few interns to enter metadata for the DAM.  So now you have people absolutely zero knowledge of what the asset is and why is was created, trying the tag assets so they can be found in Search.  Don’t bother  – it’s not going to work.

Often this leads to management “throwing in the towel” on best practices and declaring, “Just put them minimal amount of metadata on the asset and get it to ecommerce or marketing operations NOW!!!”

Over time, the richness of the metadata degrades, Search results degrade, users can’t find what they are looking for and the DAM becomes shelf-ware.

The proper solution is to use a DAM that was created specifically for automating creative workflow integrated with approval and uses automated data feeds to programmatically tag assets.

Again…in digital content marketing, Velocity is King.

So unless you are working with a DAM vendor and implementation team that have intimate knowledge and experience with the creative workflow, it won’t matter which enterprise DAM you choose.  Most enterprise DAMs and IT centric implementation teams don’t “get” creative and the most important component of “Increased Velocity” will be lost.