META Trend: Corporate interest in rich media beyond public-facing Web sites and more visual user interfaces will slowly expand as organizations seek to improve information exchange and collaboration. Through 2006, maturing tools, techniques, infrastructure, and automation will enable rich media to extend beyond niche applications and into core line-of-business processes. By 2008, user interaction models will include broadcast-quality visualization/ communication services and IT architectural support of rich media.

For every conversation we have with clients who are experienced with digital asset management ([DAM] – the commonly accepted name for technology that can capture, store, and disseminate rich media throughout its life cycle) technology, we typically have several others with those who have not yet entered the fray. For prospective users, which can range from media-centric organizations to so-called “brand management” for brand-centric organizations to others (e.g., banks interested in in-store advertising and training, retailers seeking security solutions), the set of vendors to consider is possibly less intimidating to determining what the selection criteria should be for what can be a high-ROI solution.

Through 2007, we expect to see double-digit growth in the DAM market for several reasons. First, the need for organizations to manage their brand information (particularly images, text, and other content reflecting their image) will increase as they continue to move across media. Second, the number of “touches” of that information will increase as the media vary and associated parties (e.g., advertising agencies, marketing professionals) provide assistance, necessitating an automated way to manage and move it through work processes. Third, the forms and formats of the information will multiply (e.g., from Word to PDF, from GIF to PNG), forcing even tighter control over appropriate versions throughout the life cycle of the content. Fourth, the ever-tighter links among other enterprise content management (ECM) technologies and DAM will increase, encouraging users to purchase the technologies together or at least from the same vendor (especially as demand for ECM increases with the need for risk and compliance management), a factor we are already seeing in the client base. Last, infrastructures continue to improve, and the ability to distribute and consume rich media will also improve, putting more capability into the hands of more organizations.

How should organizations select an appropriate platform for DAM, given the variety of needs they demonstrate? What relationships should they request or expect between DAM and other ECM technologies? First, it is useful to determine the primary focus areas of implementation. They may fit into one of the following typical application areas:

-Publishing or production (e.g., online, print): Whether meant for TV, the Web, or print, rich media must be managed through a life cycle once authored. Given the desire of many publishing organizations to re-use content across multiple venues (or times), the ability to manage, transform, and make appropriate content available is critical.

-Media re-use: Although applicable within publishing, the ability to reuse pictures, graphics, and other content can save significant money over recreating it. As with other information forms, many organizations often do not know what they have.

-Collaboration with media and others: Brand-intensive organizations deal with marketers and advertisers. Being able to share rich-media content with such parties quickly and easily can enable a product to be introduced to market rapidly and precisely, at lower cost.

-Archive, index, and retrieve: Whether the rich media is from surveillance, product pictures, or training videos, the ability to put it away and get it back in digital form can save significant costs.

Such basic requirements may overlap in any given organization or situation. However, these are not nearly detailed enough to determine an appropriate vendor or product. A second tier of capabilities (or requirements) is necessary to begin to separate vendors and products:

-Collaboration: Workflow, collaboration, projects, tracking, annotation, and templates.

-Transformation from one format to another.

-Metadata extraction (e.g., for rationalization, retrieval): Automated?

-Storage: Storage infrastructure addressed, object model, etc.

-Search/analysis: Ability to search or to analyze image, video, and (in near future) audio content to find within an archive; find like content.

-Security (integration with DRM).

-Pictures (images) versus video versus … : Some products adept at managing and distributing video/audio; others focused on image (photographic) content. This focus extends to analysis and storage.

-Creative/authoring support (e.g., Mac/PC, Adobe/Quark): DAM products must link tightly with leading creative tools, just as document management systems link tightly with text-authoring tools.

Among the tools supporting such characteristics, main differences also usually include distributed architecture, complex ingestion abilities or retrieval transformations, automated metadata extraction, and the sophistication of image-analysis tools (e.g., find images that look similar to this one; this is a thinly populated vendor area in which we typically see Virage/Autonomy, followed by vendors ranging from Oracle to Convera).

One must also consider whether the DAM application will exist in it own niche or whether it could or should integrate with current/future ECM facilities. Because ECM vendors have recognized the importance of DAM since 2002/03, there has been much consolidation (e.g., Open Text/Artesia, Interwoven/MediaBin, EMC/Document/Bulldog, Stellent/Ancept). In addition, more organizations are recognizing that, ultimately, technology paths do converge. For example, publishers must address media management across print and Web (and other) advertising or presentation venues. Clearly, the ability to render, present, and secure content on a Web site consistently with that presented in print or in other media is critical. This is forcing organizations to consider vendors that possess a broad set of capabilities. Currently, this alone often is not typical enough to sway a prospective buyer. Nonetheless, this focuses attention on the following DAM-enabled ECM vendors (purchased DAM vendors in parentheses):

Interwoven (MediaBin)

EMC/Documentum (BullDog)

Stellent (Ancept)

Open Text (Artesia)

IBM: Has DAM capability as part of DB2 Content Manager; also partners with Scene7

Notwithstanding the above, other vendors – including Insci, Engage, Dubidot, Extensis, Emotion, and North Plains – are also receiving attention in various situations. Yet, both for the convergence of the technologies and for future viability issues, we find that customers are beginning to gravitate to the major ECM providers for DAM technology. In the future, this will also fuel the integration and the convergence of collaborative business process management, storage management, and other technologies offered by such vendors.

Bottom Line: Although tactical/niche drivers continue to fuel the need for DAM, increasing synergies between other ECM technologies and related capabilities (e.g., collaboration) will broaden customer and vendor horizons.

Business Impact: Organizations must consider the broad opportunities for managing and distributing rich media even as they address tactical needs (e.g., faster retrieval and re-use of content) to ensure a future-proofed approach.

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