Asset Management--The Search Is On
A Fortune 100 company was conducting an assessment of how it uses digital assets. Management discovered that a single stock photograph had been purchased by some 50 departments at a cost of $500 per purchase. With just this one image, the company could have saved approximately $24,000 if technicians had placed the image into a company-wide digital asset management (DAM) system!
Now think about the cost savings if the company had done the same with 100 or more images. The cost is staggering, not to mention the time and employee productivity lost finding, purchasing, receiving, then finally using the image in each project.
Time and capital are the costs of having no digital asset management system. So any form of image management must be a step in the right direction, right? Not necessarily. The wrong system could be just as costly, as it could drain not only time and capital required to purchase the system, but could cause a company to invest in a technological infrastructure it may not need or may soon outgrow.
Digital management of digital files is essential to an efficient print production workflow. FLM Graphics, based in Fairfield, NJ, realized this when it acquired New York City-based Access Images in 1996. The purchase moved FLM, a 24-year-old printing company, into the realm of technology-based graphic communications services, including asset management. One of its first clients in this new world was automobile manufacturer Volvo International.
With a huge database of graphic images and other digital assets, Volvo needed a way to make those assets available worldwide for various printing and marketing purposes. The company turned to FLM, which employed Access Images' Media Asset Management (MAM) solution to drive a custom Website.
Now, Volvo employees, ad agencies, local dealers and others with approved access, can enter Volvo's MAM site to view, extract or replace updated images, recent jobs (of the past two years) and Volvo-authorized fonts and logos. Also available is an interactive CD-ROM for an off-line tutorial of the site and how to maximize the assets available on it.
FLM's MAM solution is modular; it can be customized for each client, installed and maintained at the client site or maintained on FLM's servers. Built with an open architecture, the solution is platform-independent and accessed via intranet, secure extranet or a Web-based browser.
This solution is one of more than 60 currently available to aid the printing industry, and others, with the digital management of digital assets. Each solution has its own set of features and capabilities, custom options and service packages.
Among those 60-odd players in the DAM arena are the following:
Canto: Perhaps the granddaddy of all DAMs is Canto Cumulus. With a market share of 7,113 client/server systems at the end of 1999, Canto Cumulus 5 is the latest version of this robust, versatile DAM. An estimated 70,000 customers use the native Macintosh or Windows Cumulus client software and an estimated 25 percent of the installed base uses the Cumulus Web Publisher Option, which gives unlimited client access via the Internet.
Another estimated 15 percent use the Browser Option, which gives royalty-free access to Cumulus catalogs via CD-ROM publishing, increasing the number of people worldwide who benefit from Cumulus solutions into the millions. Current server platforms supported are Mac OS and Windows NT with support for four more server platforms to be released soon.
Artesia Technologies: This Washington, DC-based company counts The Washington Post, General Motors and The Library of Congress among its customers for the TEAMS solution. This diverse customer base works in a "manage globally, work locally" environment, including images, streaming video and audio to continually produce cutting-edge online and off-line products while maximizing shared digital assets.
Banta Integrated Media: Banta's BoSolutions suite of e-commerce and digital content management tools unites comprehensive digital content management, plug-ins for popular desktop publishing software, i.e., QuarkXPress, Web-based e-commerce and variable data publishing for print or online delivery in a framework of modular components.
BSolutions allows users up-to-date digital content access and distribution throughout the enterprise environment and the ability for an unlimited range of print and electronic media that also supports e-commerce.
Extensis Product Group: New additions to its Portfolio DAM family include Portfolio 5.0 for individuals, Portfolio Server 5.0 for client/server environments and Portfolio 5.0 SQL to connect organizations needing faster access to larger volumes of digital media. The new server version is scalable for creative workgroups and professionals. With the addition of SQL, Extensis has opened up the field to SQL database connectivity using Microsoft SQL Server 6.5 and 7, and Oracle 8i. All Portfolio products provide users with creative asset management, an extensive asset catalog in any file format and powerful preview thumbnails.
Imation: Media Manager is an enterprise solution supporting a 24-bit color thumbnail viewable file database, Web interaction, complete security, an "extensible" architecture, client management, online administration, a customizable interface and cross-platform compatibility with Windows 95, 98 and NT or Macintosh.
Iterated Systems: MediaBin is a cross-media solution for image production, repurposing and distribution. As an NT-based, mid-tier application server solution, it is designed to support high-volume image processing for large numbers of distributed clients. Currently, MediaBin's patent-pending image tracking system enables users to precisely control the company's image assets.
Marcus Technologies: WebDLMS/ Telescope.web is a customizable, Web browser-based front-end interface that provides connectivity to North Plains' TeleScope 1.3, Telescope Pro and Imation's Media Manager. Additional components include StorageLink, a database-driven archiving solution; and iStore Reader, which provides cross-platform networked DVD or CD-ROM jukebox solutions.
eBusiness Technologies: MediaBank has been in the DAM business even before the acro-nym. Its family of solutions now includes Engenda, a turnkey, XML-enabled content management and workflow automation solution, and the DynaBase dynamic Web publishing platform. In combination with other tools from eBusiness Technologies, MediaBank supports the increased needs of Web-based publishing.
Media Bridge: At its heart is media.sphere, with ancillary products ranging from profile.server to content.server. Media.sphere is a DAM system boasting "intelligent" indexing and search designed to handle all digital objects from images to video.
Rorke Data: FLEXSTOR.db is a robust digital content and asset management system that supports Oracle 8i, JServer and Oracle Application Server. FLEXSTOR.db builds on the scalability and dependability of a UNIX architecture.
WebWare Corp: Key benefits of the MAMBO (Media Asset Management By Objects) solution include full Web access, streamlined asset cataloging, multiple asset search and viewing options, on-the-fly asset transformation and asset valuation. MAMBO can be integrated with legacy mainframe systems, e-commerce systems and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions. It supports databases from Oracle, Sybase, Informix, SQL Server and DB2.
One Size Doesn't Fit All
At this stage in the DAM game, manufacturers are still attempting to craft "best-of-breed" solutions, asserting that each is "the only one" that can perform or support this feature or that customer need. Therefore, when deciding either to invest in a new DAM system or upgrade a current one, define and understand your digital asset needs, as well as the needs of your clients and partner service providers.
Digital asset management, if entered into properly, can save a company money and resources, or it can cost more than the assets are worth. Which way will it go for you?
Get the Facts First
When searching for a digital asset management system to fit the needs of your operation and the needs of your clients, keep the following questions in mind—and ask them of the technology developers.
Does the solution offer efficient and secure archiving of images?
Does the solution feature a clear, logical and user-friendly interface?
How does the system store files; are they easy to retrieve and repurpose? What file formats does the system support?
Does the system compress file sizes? If so, how are they compressed and is there any loss of image data after repeated use of an image?
Does the system feature a "killer" search engine?
What platforms are compatible with the system: NT, Mac, UNIX, etc.? What support is available for newer operating systems such as Linux? Will it operate in a dual-platform environment? Can its platform be changed if your operation adopts a different platform?
Is the system built on an open architecture or on proprietary technology? Is it scalable to grow with your needs?