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The Death of Asset Management Systems? (as we knew them)

October 31st, 2009 · No Comments


When I started 15 years ago, we had some really amazing tools already in asset management. What has evolved after that was really entwined with the 1990s web company expansion and what I have called the “gold rush” mentality. Vendors smelled money. They wanted to sell million dollar systems to big media companies, the Fortune 100 and the government. As the flurry evolved we saw less and less money going into development and more into marketing. As more players came to the party, a very cutthroat mentality took hold.

Over the next five years we saw a loss in basic functionality but an increase in “glamour features”. These features included fuzzy logic searching, text to speech and visual searching.

The features that were not being implemented included spellcheck, basic global thesaurus changes and improvements in report generation. In a study that I did in 2000, none of the leading DAM systems were working on this and 100% of the users that I surveyed were asking for this.

As the web bubble burst we found that these companies were spinning and their stock values plunged, they had to innovate. This lead to the introduction of the leasing option for companies without $1,000,000 to put down up-front. It also has lead to some feature innovations but not enough.

What has really led the charge to manage assets now is the open web. WordPress and other small innovators have created low cost and sometimes free options for archives and libraries. Filemaker templates can even handle large visual collections and when married with an e-commerce vendor there is a robust option to circumvent many of the legacy digital asset management systems.

So are digital asset systems obsolete? In truth, it was obvious that they were just a stepping stone to the next technology. We now know that the new “it” is easy to use web platforms. In my view, “yes” the DAM systems are on their way out. The push for open source and interconnectivity allows for us to build our own systems piece by piece. This does not mean that we will need less IT support, just less vendor-dependent IT support.

In a study predicting the trends in DAM for 2009, most of the features listed were being worked on or asked for 10 years ago. Facial recognition, reporting, e-commerce, tagging, etc. The three that were new are ones that I predict will be the ones that “take”. These are: collaborative tagging, web versions (on-demand and hosting) and incremental pricing with lower leasing fees.

It is hard to hang on to a lead in “It” as things can shift so rapidly. Technology kingpins need to realize that there is no way to hang on if you are not giving customers what they have been asking for. When I asked an IT developer why they were not doing a better job with hierarchies, synonyms and spellcheck he said “Oh you won’t find anyone is going to put development money into that! It is too much money. We need to sell now.” Eventually consumers will find their own solution then. Even if they had to wait 10 years, other programs like WordPress can be better purposed for what we need and with the cost savings we can continue to improve it on our plan, on our time, on our budget.

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