Getting data asset management right

A clear vision and metadata based on open standards are two keys to success

So your organization has decided to take the plunge into DAM (digital asset management). Now what?

Analysts who follow the space, and IT professionals who have already implemented DAM systems, say there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about deploying a system, and they caution IT professionals to carefully plan before putting one in place.

The first step is to understand exactly why the system is needed. Requirements to streamline workflow will call for a vastly different solution than the need to scan every frame of video for each appearance of a company logo. Vendors with a wide range of solutions for managing enterprise content, such as IBM, Interwoven, and EMC, may be more suitable for companies wrestling with a way to rout rich media assets from one department to another. Organizations that want voice recognition, optical character recognition, or other advanced features may need a more specialized vendor, such as Autonomy, Nexidia, or Vfinity.

Also key is deciding on a metadata framework. Left to their own devices, librarians and content creators use consistent tags to index unstructured data only about half the time, according to Melissa Webster, an IDC analyst who covers the DAM market. One approach is to apply the Web 2.0 concept of folksonomies to content, in which knowledge workers collaborate in the creating of metadata tags. Another is to narrow the list of available tags and use drop-down menus to ensure the consistency and integrity of metadata.

It’s also helpful to use metadata based on open standards, such as the popular Dublin Core. “What it allows us to do, if down the road we need to migrate this system to something else, we can do that easily,” says Glenn Small, a project manager who used Dublin Core to set up a DAM system at Johns Hopkins University. Open standards also make it possible for one organization to share data with another.

A common mistake that Autonomy CEO Stouffer Eagan warns against is using too much compression in storing audio and video. “If people throw too much information away, the audio and video assets become difficult to leverage,” he warns.

Finally, those deploying DAM systems for the first time should take pains not to do too much too quickly. Says Mukul Krishna, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan: “Have a pilot deployment, and instead of asking the CFO and CIO to sign off on a million dollar solution, start small.”