We are very proud that Cumulus has been evaluated by the international DAM Foundation and successfully passed the test for all ten core characteristics of a DAM. Our CSO Thomas Mockenhaupt is happy to show the certificate that now decorates our office.
Mark Davey, founder and president of the DAM Foundation, explains why the organization started to evaluate DAM providers and what the challenges are to actually become certified as state-of-the-art Digital Asset Management System.
The DAM foundation decided to evaluate vendors to make sure they fulfill the 10 core characteristics of a DAM. What was the fundamental reason to start such an evaluation?
The basic idea of a standard is to force the industry to up their game. I suppose you can link it back to the initial idea of the DAM foundation which was looking at standards and best practices within digital asset management (DAM).
When we first started in 2009 we focused on metadata. But given the complexity of metadata standards, we shifted our focus and started to look at ways to encourage people within the industry and help them understand what they need to get from their “as is” state to the desired “to be” state.
So we got together with some thought leaders and put together the core characteristics of a DAM – or better said – the characteristics you need to get from your “as is” to your “to be” state. The 10 core characteristics formulate what we believe a system must have in order to be called a digital asset management system.
The subsequent idea was a formal protectionism – meaning we wanted users to be sure they were buying a DAM, not just a file repository. I got the idea when I attended an exhibition a few years ago – and I saw a lot of companies calling themselves DAM – and clearly they were little more than file repositories.
Here we are 6 years later – and we all agreed on a basic core. And now we have started to evaluate vendors that call themselves a DAM to see whether they actually fulfill these 10 core characteristics.
Can you tell us a little more about the evaluation process? How many vendors have been evaluated so far and how many of those have passed?
We initially evaluated all vendors that were on the Real Story Group Media and Digital Asset Management report. At the moment, the DAM Foundation is running an outreach program contacting vendors, asking them to look at the characteristics and if they believe they can pass the characteristics we ask them to do a one hour demo. It is not a canned demo because we use our own digital assets – the vendor gets the assets during the demo. At the moment we have evaluated some 20 plus vendors. Within the next 3 to 6 month we hope to double that and throughout the year we hope to get to the magical number of 100 in the next 18 months to two years.
It is hard to set a standard failure rate – but currently we have around 15-20% failures – still surprisingly high for an evaluation process that is voluntary.
During the evaluation, which characteristics where the most critical ones?
The most consistent failure rate is based on version control. A lot of vendors say they do version control, but they actually fudge the way they do it and it is not a true version control, which starts at the single version of the truth, especially with the requirement of UID’s (a unique identifier).
The second highest failure rate is on embeddable metadata – or more precisely the ability to read and ingest metadata out of the box without any configuration. Then we also test vendors on adding metadata, embedding the metadata and sending the asset back to us – so we see if the metadata has actually been embedded.
Another critical characteristic is asset analysis – for example how many people have looked at an asset, or shared an asset, or the analysis of the interaction with assets – internally and externally. Here we have seen large differences. A couple of vendors passed, but the analysis or the way they allow the analysis to happen is not as sophisticated as the options other vendors offer. The more we move the needle towards visualization of data, the better DAM managers will be able to improve the user experiences, through metadata and workflow tools.
What were some of the more qualitative insights that you took from evaluating all the systems? Was there something that surprised you?
What surprised me the most is that there are vendors we all know and have been professing to be DAM actually failed the evaluations.
They have been classified as a DAM considering what was needed some years ago. But the industry has moved on – customer requests have moved on – digital workflows have moved on, the internet has moved on and therefore the industry needs to move on with it. DAM is the foundational point for the journey of digital assets from creation to archive.
What can be done / what are you planning to do to further establish standards in the DAM industry?
The 10 Core is only our initial approach. We are talking about a 12 Core and a 15 Core – which will take into account more of these changes that are taking place. I am not able to talk about that at the moment – but I think for this year we will try to get as many vendors in the pass or fail so we can categorize them – and then we will add a few more cores and test them against those cores in the future.
Where do you see the danger of having so many systems that call themselves a DAM, but do not fulfill those basic requirements?
The DAM Foundation is an industry body focused on free education and oversight. So if you don’t have 10 Core – you can’t really call yourself a DAM. You might be a sophisticated file repository – but you will not help your clients achieve what they are trying to achieve. If you still call yourself a DAM – and people don’t do the necessary research – they will have a system that will fail them – and end up thinking that DAM cannot help them solve their problems. In our industry there is still way too much failure. As a side note, this is not all down to DAM vendors. Successful DAM is as much about people and processes as it is about good clear strategic approaches to digital assets.
You have long expertise as a DAM consultant – why do so many DAM projects fail – and what do you do as a consultant to help companies prevent that failure?
It is an industry-wide problem and I understand it at many levels. As a consultant, my first point is to help the client, their stakeholders, the sponsor and anyone involved in the initiative to understand that DAM is not about a technology. It is about a strategy. And that strategy involves people, process and technology. And lately I have added the analysis as a fourth dimension.
So the 10 Core are relevant to that in terms of the analytics, how you are able to visualize the data in a way that helps you in your business intelligence, in your marketing campaigns, in your product strategy.
It always goes back to the issue that companies have to understand that DAM is much more than technology – and they actually have to invest time and resources. I am finding that often only on the 2nd or 3rd failure do companies invest the time to plan their project out correctly. Then they have success with it – because they understand all the complexities that come with it and they are willing to invest the time to make it successful.
In Germany for instance, the term DAM still is not well established – so we always run into the issue of explaining what digital asset management can do for an organization. How do you explain digital asset management to your kids?
For my kids, there is no DVD/CD drive – when they want their music they just go to the service that has their music – they don’t look at it as an asset – even though it obviously has value – they have it everywhere – on their mobile, on their laptops.
They understand that this is coming somewhere from the internet – but that is where it ends.
DAM is not just about delivery, it is about the organization of the information that gets delivered. My kids use services that have this metadata already embedded. So if kids ask me what I do, I talk to them in terms of Youtube and i-Tunes – rather than talking about assets and metadata.
Thank you very much for the interview!