What is DAM (Digital Asset Management) Software?

by | Jan 30, 2023 | DAM, DAM Connectivity, Digital Asset Management, InDesign Automation, Uncategorized

Digital Asset Management (DAM) is a critical part of the publishing process for organizations around the world. DAM software has been evolving since the early DAMs of the 1990s, and has in the past decade attained maturity.

What is a DAM?

Expert Theresa Regli has put it:

The management of digital media throughout its lifetime is the general domain of digital asset management (DAM).

Theresa Regli | Vox Veritas Digital

Theresa Regli is one of the leading DAM experts in the world. From a user perspective, a DAM is a place that members of an organization can find their digital assets. DAMs typically have web interfaces allowing for finding the assets you need.
Theresa Regli

But what is a real DAM?

When she goes into more detail, Theresa identifies 10 core ways that a robust DAM system manages digital assets. A real DAM does at least ten things with assets. It must, at a minimum:

Ingest, Secure, Store, Transform, Enrich, Relate, Process, Find, Preview, Publish… the digital assets that it manages, according to the 10 core DAM characteristics by Mark Davey. Most current DAM software meets these requirements.

DAM luminary Mark Davey pioneered the art and science of defining metrics with which to evaluate DAM software. Theresa referenced his 10 core DAM characteristics in her seminal book, Digital and Marketing Asset Management.

Metadata: the engine of DAM

Central to the management of digital assets is metadata, or data about data. By itself, an image file won’t support a “real” DAM workflow. How could you find an image, without first knowing something about it?

DAMs go beyond the limitations of basic file storage by managing the information (the metadata) associated with individual assets. For example, when you take a photo on your phone, a fair amount of metadata about each image is automatically captured (date, location, etc.). In some workflows, the rights to an asset are the most critical piece of metadata: where did it come from? who can use it? how can you use it?

Advanced DAM software lets organizations “tag” content, which is the crucial first step in effective content management. As DAM technology advances, AI is increasingly used to automatically assign metadata, or to intelligently manage the interrelationships among assets.

Dimensions of DAM

Yet there are very different types of DAMs, and different perspectives can help determine the right type of DAM for a given organization. Consider different perspectives:

Hosting of the DAM system

One perspective is where the DAM is hosted: on-premise DAMs will reside on physical servers connected to a local network within a building, while cloud-based DAMs live on virtual servers in a cloud infrastructure. There are also hybrid implementations, where the DAM is replicated, cached, or archived between connected physical and virtual servers.


Asset lifecycle focus

Asset management has a natural lifecycle, and while most DAMs support the entire cycle, some have more focus on a specific phase in the lifetime of an asset. Consider creation vs. publishing: at the authoring, or creation phase, there may be complex review and approval workflows that make sure assets are created in conformance to corporate guidelines. At the point of publishing or delivery, however, the DAM serves as a repository for current, approved content, simply enabling internal or external clients to access current assets in their publish-ready state.

Content type focus

Another angle still is the type of content being maintained. The lowest common denominator tends to be images, but there’s no reason that a DAM can’t maintain text content, perhaps structured content such as XML or JSON, and there is a trend towards multi-media, with video becoming a ubiquitous file type, with augmented and virtual reality content pushing the boundaries. Some DAMs include robust features around things like image processing, video encoding, and server-side graphic rendition.

File storage vs. DAM

Finally, there is a continuum between file storage solutions, like Google Drive, SharePoint, Box, and Dropbox with DAMs. You wouldn’t have considered Box a DAM solution when it came out, but every year it gains another feature that blurs this distinction.

DAM has finally come of age

There are literally thousands of DAM solutions out there, and the good news is that they trend towards greater capability at less cost. The technology has generally become mature enough that there is a solution appropriate for the needs of any organization. Like all software, DAM software can benefit from advances in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and Big Data. This is an exciting time to work with the management of digital assets.

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