DAM or ECM: A False Choice

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The last decade has seen a rapid rise in the need for both Digital Asset Management and Enterprise Content Management. The reasons are clear. On the push side there have been enormous strides in technology, in particular CPUs, storage, bandwidth, compression, user interface, and displays. On the pull side, businesses are competing in a global marketplace where brand and product messaging are key components to competitive advantage while regulatory, compliance, and governance mandates have now fully focused on digital workflows and associated content.

Vendors have responded -- first with proprietary systems to archive and manage important digital content, but now increasingly with systems that stress interoperability, flexibility, and speed of deployment. In much the same way that the Internet's greatest value is not in the speed of its pipes but in the simple and standard manner in which the pipes connect and communicate, this simple, even subtle evolution from focusing on performance of standalone systems to focusing on standards and modularity, has transformed the nature of all communication, content, and increasingly media with far reaching consequences for every sector of economic activity.

Integration imperative

Today, the question vendors face with their DAM or ECM systems is not what they do, but how well they work together. Certainly ECM systems have challenging and unique requirements in terms of volume, complexity, and timelines, just to name a few metrics. And DAM systems must adapt to new formats, creative tools, and business models. But there is no question technology can meet these challenges today. The questions are how fast, cost-effective, convenient, and extensible are the solutions?

The experts at CMS Watch put it this way: DAM is an important part of any organization's content management strategy. Whether it's used to support web content management or ECM, the requirements for a DAM solution have gone far beyond just a solution for storing digital assets.

Rarely can any one vendor provide a single holistic solution to an enterprise's needs. All organizations have content that should be managed. And all organizations are seeing increasing use of digital media as part of their daily communications, collaboration, and marketing activities. The focus today is on integrated solutions.

For example, a marketing campaign with its associated print layouts, website graphics, images, and photos, as well as presentations and perhaps video, does not exist in a vacuum. There are schedules, participants, and processes that accompany the rich media content from concept ideation through creation and distribution. The ability to directly reference proxies of the video or images that make up the campaign in resource planning can be a significant productivity enhancement.

Another more specific example is the overlap between Web Content Management and DAM. Today many web publishing units within organizations have a broad and deep amount of content that represents dozens of product lines, multiple geographies, partner programs, as well as standard corporate information relating to financial, management, and community activities. When such information encompasses rich media, as is more and more typical today, such breadth in itself argues for a full-fledged DAM integration with the WCM solution.

The case for DAM/WCM integration however is even more compelling when groups outside of the web publishing unit have a need to access the web content repositories for their own purposes. For example, local field marketing may want to ensure that their activities make use of the most accurate and up-to-date version of corporate online content. Or the creative services group creating print collateral may well have the need to re-use and re-purpose the graphics found on the corporate web site.

The future: ECM and DAM

Separate but not apart is the future of ECM and DAM. This can be seen in the plans of no less a technology leader than Microsoft and its SharePoint platform. Already a hugely important and popular content management system, SharePoint's roadmap includes better integration and handling of rich media, especially video. For Microsoft, the idea that rich media is somehow above and apart from other corporate content such as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations does not represent the way organizations work today. Most Office documents already have images. In the not so distant future, most will likely have video or other time-based media integrated to help convey a story or information. Content management systems must recognize and work with all forms of media.

Systems that stress integration -- not just integration, but modular integration that enables rapid and flexible deployments -- across the content ecosystem from creation through management and distribution are surely the future of both ECM and DAM.

About the Author

Damian Saccocio is Vice President, Product Marketing, Open Text Digital Media Group. His two-plus decades of experience in media, technology, and policy education includes large media companies and small technology startups. Saccocio is also an adjunct professor of Management at the Georgetown McDonough School of Management. His educational background includes a PhD in Management (Strategy and Technology) from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an MS in Political Science from MIT, and a BS in Computer Engineering from the Ohio State University.

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