Helping Corporations Track Digital Content

Companies large and small now rely on digital content. They download brochures to salespersons, ship video clips to employees, and plaster their logos in front of consumers. As more information takes digital formats, corporations need tools to monitor the use of their assets, which freely move in and out of their networks.

A number of vendors are trying to deliver such functionality with Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems. While the fledgling tools are gaining acceptance, who is selling them and how they are being packaged is rapidly changing.

Despite those uncertainties, customer interest in DAM products has been on the rise. “Even small companies understand that their digital assets are an important component in building up their brands and want to manage those assets effectively,” said Joshua Duhl, research director at International Data Corp. (IDC), which expects worldwide revenue for DAM systems to increase from $241 million in 2003 to $1.2 billion in 2008.

One challenge for vendors is delivering tools that can manage the wide variety of information formats found in today’s enterprise. Traditionally, companies were concerned with paper assets, such as business proposals, spreadsheets, and brochures. As firms move to multimedia applications, they need to manage sound clips and video transmissions as well as traditional data.

Pushing Assets

In addition to being flexible enough to work with different types of information, DAM systems need to be able to monitor who accesses these items and how they are used. “Firms want to leverage their digital assets to maximum advantage, and that means providing ways for third parties to reuse and repurpose existing digital content,” noted Todd Chanko, an analyst with Jupiter Research.

Companies in the package goods business, such as Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive and Pepsi want to make sure their digital assets are used throughout their distribution channels to enhance their brands. But these companies have to maintain a delicate balancing act.

They want to ensure the most effective downstream usage of these marketing materials, while also maintaining usage restrictions across countless iterations of these assets. With materials being created, used and updated on a daily basis, ensuring their consistency across thousands of products represents a critical challenge.

It’s the Law

In addition to logistical concerns, a rise in compliance issues is also fueling interest in DAM products. With laws becoming stricter, companies need to put checks in place and make sure that they are protecting important corporate data.

In the health care market, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 requires that all patient healthcare information be protected to ensure privacy and confidentiality when electronically stored, maintained, or transmitted. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act mandates privacy and protection of customer records maintained by financial institutions. In the wake of recent financial scandals, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires public companies to validate the accuracy and the integrity of their financial data.

The tools perform four functions that help corporations maximize use of their digital assets and ensure compliance with an ever-widening array of regulations. DAM systems enable employees and third parties to search, retrieve, view and analyze various forms of digital content. These products’ brand asset management features control the reuse of the digital media elements internally. They streamline the distribution of digital media as it flows through the supply chain from business partners to consumers. The tools track content reuse as companies launch various types of advertising campaigns and develop different marketing materials and then ensure that those items are used properly, both internally and externally.

DAM systems feature central repositories that store information. Users can search for and select any asset via a variety of criteria; format, edit or refine the asset for additional usages; and distribute it for print, broadcast and Web-based applications from their desktop. The products automate the distribution process by embedding information that defines the asset, such as the specific product being showcased, usage restrictions and native formatting, directly within the assets so they can be automatically delivered in the appropriate format to the proper parties.

The Bottom Line

As a result, the tools can save companies money. “A number of firms have small departments with half a dozen or so employees whose sole responsibility to help ensure proper use of brand items” IDC’s Duhl told TechNewsWorld. “Rather than have employees download a logo and ship it to a partner, a firm can allow the partner to access the information on a self-service basis.”

As interest in these products has been rising, the market has been changing. “There was a lot of hype a few years ago about how quickly these tools would gain acceptance, but that has not turned out to be the case,” said Lou Latham, a principal industry analyst with market research firm Gartner Group Inc. Initially, the tools did not work with all types of information, leading to complaints about the difficulty in implementing them.

As start-up vendors addressed those problems, sales rose and attracted established suppliers. “There has been significant consolidation recently with many of the start-up DAM vendors have been purchased by large companies,” Gartner Group’s Latham told TechNewsWorld. Interwoven purchased MediaBin, Open Text acquired Artestia, and Stellent bought Ancept. Many of the purchasers offer enterprise content management systems, which monitor digital assets from inception through delivery. “Bringing DAM under ECM would simplify asset management for many large companies,” said Gartner’s Latham.

So DAM tools stand at a crossroads: they are gaining interest, but it is unclear whether they will remain a stand-alone product category or be bundled in other systems. “I anticipate that many large companies will eventually bring DAM systems under ECM, but there will still be small firms and select types of companies that will prefer the stand-alone products,” concluded IDC’s Duhl.

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