My favorite pair of cufflinks, pictured above, have repurposed open face analog watch mechanisms on them. I love the intricacy, the engineering, the precision, and the heritage these concepts represent.

But when it comes to what’s attached to my wrist day and night, it’s not these cufflinks–I work for a tech startup in California, I don’t really get to use them much. Nor do I wear an elegant analog timepiece. I wear an Apple Watch.

Yesterday at the Henry Stewart DAM Europe Conference, I had the privilege to appear on a panel with DAM luminary Theresa Regli. She asked us how DAM vendors are keeping up with the rapid advances in the field.

I compared the choices in the market today to analog and computerized timepieces. A number of vendors have gone the route of building very well-packaged applications, with many intricately designed and combined pieces that work together to achieve the objective. Just as an analog watch tells time accurately, looks good, these DAMs meet the needs they were designed for.

Other software providers–those that have been around longer-–also started out with finely honed tools that served the needs customers faced when their tools were released (those that didn’t leave the scene long ago). Over time, those needs grew and changed, and the vendors added more and more functionality to meet their customer’s demands. Watchmakers did the same thing over the last few hundred years, adding moon phases, water resistance, dates, and many other complications.* Unfortunately, both in DAM software and watches, these additions led to ever more complexity and intricacies, harder and more expensive repair and maintenance, and the need for greater and rarer expertise to keep it working well.

_(Fun fact: Vacheron makes the most complicated mechanical watch in the world, with 57 complications, 2826 parts, and 31 hands that took 8 years to build. It’s spectacular. I’ve embedded a video at the bottom of this post.)_

The problem, implied and embedded in Theresa’s question, is that the needs of customers aren’t stabilizing at all, but changing very quickly and very dramatically. Complexity is growing in at least three dimensions simultaneously: content types, content destinations, and the number of vendors in the martech landscape. And any customer that’s serious about DAM at an enterprise-scale has a lot of needs and tweaks unique to them.

So if your options are a good but simple tool that just tells the time, or a super-complex one that is harder and harder to keep up and running every day, maybe it’s time to look at the problem differently. Maybe it’s time to look to the smartwatch approach. The Apple watch allows for endless complications you can swap in and out at a moments notice, thousands of applications, and so much more. Look for a platform with the underpinnings to be what you need it to be, the extensibility to address your unique and changing needs, and the content management system architecture to continually upgrade itself.

What kind of DAM are you running today? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

*Complications are a term of art in horology that refers to any feature beyond just the time.