New York, New York. In past years a wide variety of folks from across the Digital Asset Management industry have traditionally met for a week long conference in the center of New York. For 2021, like last year, we exchanged a Manhattan hotel for our home office, and conference rooms for the now familiar Zoom sessions as the DAM Industry Week event went virtual.

Although the meeting was virtual, the quality and depth of the conference presentations was just as engaging and informative as in past years.

The week was organized on an industry vertical basis with each day being focused on a specific sector.

  1. Day one - Consumer Packaged Goods
  2. Day two - Media and Entertainment
  3. Day three - Education
  4. Day four - Financial services
  5. Day five - Healthcare

    The various use-cases and stories were all fascinating and reflected many of the specific challenges and opportunities specific to the individual market sectors. But it was also interesting to note that several common threads and themes emerged across the various industries too. Here’s a few notes and thoughts on some of the common themes that I noticed.

DAM is Foundational Irrespective of the Industry

At least once each day, and sometimes more, I heard a speaker mention how DAM was a core capability within their enterprise. In many cases, it hadn’t been planned as such, but once implemented and in use, the real value of well thought out asset management had bought new opportunities to build more efficient digital supply chains, and in a couple of examples had actually resulted in the introduction of new asset based revenue streams.

Integration with other Business Systems

Placing the digital assets at the center of the digital supply chain by connecting the DAM with business systems was key to expanding the use and value of the DAM. By connecting content and data companies were able to introduce internal efficiencies, reduce duplication, and deliver improved, consistent customer experiences. While initially this may seem to apply mainly to the product companies, it became clear during the week that the basic principle of connecting assets with data from other systems was a common goal.

Metadata is Key

If there was one word used more than any other during the week it was ‘metadata.’ Without metadata, the assets we manage are just files. It is metadata that turns them into business assets. As one speaker pointed out often other areas of the company are producing metadata (even if they don’t call it that) that can add additional value to an asset. Developing a good taxonomy for your metadata can help develop a common language across the enterprise that will make integration with other systems easier.
The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to help apply metadata at speed and scale was also discussed. And while there are still some trust and validation concerns it is starting to be applied across the board as a tool to be used alongside your subject matter experts.

The Need to Understand Context

One of the interesting threads that emerged was thinking about the context of, and around, our assets. With the increasing use of AI / ML to examine assets we need to ensure that what is being tagged is correct, and that the image metadata reflects what is actually in the image and the intent of the image. This is where we need a human-in-the-loop to work alongside the AI/ML to validate results. Even then we need to consider our own built in assumptions and biases about what an image represents. We need to understand the context of what is in the image.

We also need to understand the context of where and asset is being used. The days of one asset being created for use in one specific way are gone. Assets can now be used in different ways across multiple channels and distribution platforms, so the context of each experience where the asset is presented needs to be understood.

Personalization

Personalization continues to be a buzz-word with many companies DAM implementations being driven as part of a C-level mandated personalization initiative. However the term ‘personalization’ is still often poorly defined. The degree of market segmentation needs to be considered so the the appropriate metadata and content models can be built to achieve the right level of personalization.

Atomic Content

The idea of breaking up content into its constituent parts so that they can be reassembled to create variant assets has been around for a few decades in many industries. It is now beginning to gain traction in marketing and other customer facing activities as a way to address personalization. From a DAM perspective, this means separating base images from logos, copy text, legal statements etc and treating them as individual, but related, assets. While this is relatively easy to achieve in a low-volume instance, to gain real flexibility at scale the content needs to be engineered to be reusable from the moment of origination.

Accuracy and Approvals

Within the regulated industries legal, regulatory, and in some cases medical, review and approval is a major component of building any digital content supply chain. But even in non-regulated industries nearly every company has some sort of approval process. Ensuring that the DAM can work with these approvals is essential in ensuring the accuracy and consistency of the assets, the information contained within them, and that the right assets are used in the right channels. Steps to achieving that in more efficient ways can be achieved by a combination of metadata, workflow, business rules, and integration with other systems. In many ways approvals and accuracy of our assets to deliver the experience is the combination of all the other themes mentioned above.

While this year’s event was engaging, thought provoking, and provided a lot of information, I will admit that I missed seeing my industry colleagues, and that next year we can meet to discuss these topics in person.