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Digital asset management: What’s old is new again

15 Jun 2016

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll probably remember the 80s as a decade of less than impeccable taste. From popped collars, to boat shoes, to those large, round eyeglasses, this wasn’t fashion’s finest hour.

That’s not to say I have particularly strong opinions on such things, as evidenced by a wardrobe made mostly of fleece.

But, despite apathy toward the length of hemlines and tone deafness to what’s au courant, it’s still mildly disorienting when familiar fashion history repeats itself so conspicuously. Today, collars stand upright, boat shoes are back, and eyewear is, once again, quite large and quite round.

What’s old is new again.

Of course, the same is true in technology, which is subject to its own fads and fashion. Most recently, the familiar blast from the past that has dated my career to the waning hours of the late analog age is digital asset management—or DAM, as it’s almost explicatively known.

Now DAM isn’t exactly the IZOD alligator and I’m certainly not suggesting that it’s something you ought to appraise with the judgment of bad fashion on the rebound. But, truthfully, it has taken me by mild surprise to see this category—probably a quarter century old now—suddenly back in vogue.

Judging from our ramping volume of client inquiry, DAM is undergoing a bit of a renaissance, albeit a quiet one. The truth is that the requirements for DAM never actually went away, and neither did the category itself. But like so many mature technologies dutifully doing their jobs in the background, it quietly slipped below that boundary of active consciousness—like any other infrastructure that we learn to ignore.

And now here comes DAM, this old school blast from the past, suddenly awakened from its long slumber. What’s old is new again. It begs the question: Why? What, exactly, has brought DAM back to the fore? Truthfully, I’m still pondering this myself, but I do have a few theories:

Content, content everywhere—that content has exploded in volume, velocity and variety is of no surprise to marketers today, who actively contribute to and bear the brunt of the glut. Truth is, multichannel marketing is a content-hungry beast, subject to factors of combinatorial complexity as content explodes into many channel-specific and specialised formats—images, videos and the like—across many languages and variants on a global scale.

On the supply side, content is now sourced from all manner of first-, second- and third-party contributors, which means understanding the lineage, provenance and associated usage rights becomes almost unthinkably complex. Managing this mess requires more than spreadsheets, shared drives and e-mail.

Re-platforming abound—marketers are running fast from their legacy content management systems to modern platforms that can power websites that are richer, more personalised and more responsive. While CMS platforms generally offer lightweight DAMs of their own, these replatforming projects often bring more sophisticated DAM requirements than native CMS capabilities are designed to handle.

Additionally, many marketers are seeking to swap out older marketing resource management (MRM) systems (which often have DAM capabilities) with something better suited to the continuous cadence of marketing planning and accelerating pace of marketing execution.

New content use cases—to earn the attention of audiences, marketers know they need to deliver content that’s often personalised and always contextually relevant. This means serving up targeted content on demand. Increasingly, DAM is less about the human user than the programmatic interfaces that allow it to operate “headless,” where content is discovered and automagically rendered across websites, mobile apps and other content-consuming applications.

Each of these scenarios, of course, depends on DAM. And I’m sure there are others.

I still recoil slightly when I see popped collars and pastels on the streets these days. And I’ll admit I’m still warming up to DAM’s second act. But there’s no mistaking that what’s old is new again. I’ll get used to it.

Article by Jake Sorofman, Gartner Research VP.

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