DAM – What does it mean and do I need it?

29 11 2011

Digital PeasDigital Asset Management (DAM) never really took off in NZ. Part of the problem is that it’s one of those terms that seems to mean different things to different people. It seemed to segment itself before it really got started .

To most, DAM simply means, an on-line website or library to store all of your digital assets (images, document files etc). However, my mates in print production would refer to DAM as a  process (including software) that manages the ” digital asset” from creation to proof to press and then into storage. Our designers and agencies have even more definitions to share with us.

Around 10 years ago many DAM solutions sprang up due to the need for customers to manage their ever-growing digital assets. Many of these software solutions allowed the customers to manage files on their own servers. This started a shift from all assets being stored and owned by agencies to in-house file management and hosted storage. This was a (potentially huge) revenue loss for agencies who responded by developing even more sophisticated DAM systems. Tools that could provide collaborative on-line file editing and proofing, video and audio file storage and file format conversion. At the same time Google, Microsoft, Xerox and other giants have been developing document storage solutions that act as a DAM tool.

There is no doubt that ” digital asset” storage and administration has fast become a must for most businesses. Almost everything seems to a have a visual component now. With the rapid growth of social media through smart-phones and tablets (% of mobile phones in use that are smart-phones hit 20% last year. Australia is now at 37%) it seems that everything points to a website, You Tube video or just an image. This has led to a whole new need and term – re-purposing.

No longer are images required just for A4 printed pages and websites they are needed for smart-phone compatible websites, wide-screen displays, low resolution, high-definition displays, wide format banners and thumbnails. Images may need to be reformatted to suit the device they are being displayed on (or the purpose of the message). Some DAM software systems include conversion tools so that you can sent a provider the image in whatever format they require (Native, PDF, EPS, TIF, Gif etc). The alternative is to store different format versions on file – exponentially increasing the size of your asset list and the time required to admin.

DAM systems have generally proven to be difficult to use (if you don’t use them regularly), they are also fairly expensive. Many have a license fee for users and a monthly storage-space fee per Gig of data storage.

If this all sounds complicated – you can see why many customers still prefer their designers and agencies to manage their assets for them. So whats the point of DAM software if we can just leave it to the designers and agencies as we did in the past?

Well speed for a start – if you can handle the assets yourself you can save a lot of time and effort. From a printers perspective, we often get less time to print the job than it takes to get the finished file signed off (and into our eager hands). A customer may give us a heads-up on Tuesday that they are hoping to get us a file on Thursday and would like to take  delivery, of the finished product, on the following Monday. Most often, final sign off, proofs and delivery of the file to the printer  takes longer than expected and we get the file on Friday afternoon. So any tool that speeds up file delivery to us could, potentially, double our lead time.

Cost is also important in the current economic climate. Most designers and agencies need to charge fees of between $30-200 per file download depending on format, and amount of re-purposing required. This can add up to a lot of money over 12 months.

There is some good news though. There has been some development of open source DAM software recently. It will take a while to become really robust and bug free, but it will come; and will be particularly useful for smaller businesses when it does arrive. These open source software systems will also help drive down the cost of existing DAM solutions. The increasing acceptance of software and storage in the “cloud”  will also mean reduced bulk storage costs are just around the corner.

There is also a global move towards a standard file format. Adobe has always led the way with their PDF and JDF formats and I think it is logical to assume that we all move to complete file standardisation eventually.

Wickliffe has had fun over the past few years  developing a Digital Asset Management tool. Its called Digital Peas. We started off with a vision of developing a modular system that could be sold to customers in modules as best fitted their needs (including on-line proofing, advanced editing and complete agency style file converting )………then we ran out of money.

In a way, that was a good thing. Technology, the market and our customer’s needs have radically changed over the past two years. The Digital Peas that we have recently released is now a PDF based asset library. Best of all, it is free to customers who have awarded Wickliffe Solutions (or any other member of the Kalamazoo Group) preferred supplier status.

The main features of Digital Peas are

  • Simple hosted storage of assets in a library – keeping all your assets at your fingertips
  • Super easy Version Control and archiving administration
  • Category, attributes and tagging controls to easily find, track and group assets
  • Versatile user and asset permission controls to ensure strict control of asset sharing
  • Automatic Publication of images to our ECOS ordering site to link with print on demand ordering
  • A platform designed to easily adapt to the future

Who would benefit from using Digital Peas? Well the answer to that is easy; anyone who is asked to supply files to staff, suppliers or partners on a regular basis. Even small businesses would benefit from using Digital Peas for storing assets. You would be surprised how much time is wasted hunting for mis-filed files or arranging for someone to forward a particular file on.

If you want to have a look at our at our DEMO site (http://www.digitalpeas.co.nz/sign_up) – just send me your email address in the comments box and I will return the demo user id/email address & password.

Give me a call if you would like me to pop in and take you through Digital Peas in more detail. You are more than welcome to come into our office in Kaikorai Valley if you would like to see it on the big screen……….I’ll even make you a coffee and let you in on the secret of how we came up with the name.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to follow my blog to auto receive new posts.

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