Digital Asset Management


There's a great article in the February issue of Baseline on Digital Asset Management. The title makes it sounds like its all about AOL, but they just their book group as an example. The point of digital asset management is to develop processes and systems to support them that allow the enterprise to maximize their return from their digital assets. The AOL book group is a particularly good example because it shows how a book is more than just a single asset and how the assets can be used for multiple purposes. For example:

  • The book itself might be available in a variety of formats, eBook, hardcover, softcover and so on.
  • The jacket cover, table of contents, and sample chapters are given to book sellers (like Amazon and Borders) for use in promoting their site.
  • Plot summaries and jacket covers might be used by the marketing department to create ads or publicists to promote book tours.
  • Chapter one is included in the paperback version of the last book a popular author wrote.
  • Photos in the book are split out and catalogued for use in other works.
  • Chapters could be serialized and sold online.
  • Author information is used in the book, for promotion, on web sites, and so on.

All in all, a single novel can be sliced and diced into as many as three dozen reusable components. This kind of reuse demands that these components are well managed or else the cost of reuse will quickly exceed the value.

A state, like Utah, has thousands of digital assets that have been paid for by taxpayers and are not readily available because they're not well managed. The technology is there, but the political will power to actually pay for protecting something intangible as a document is not usually present in sufficient quantities. There are too many tangible needs. Still there are some worthwhile efforts being made. In the baseline article, the author makes the following points on how you can use Digital Assets Management:

  • Don't go with an all-in-one solution. You'll get people who'll claim to have a single solution to solve the problem, but they don't. Utah uses some imaging systems for digital assets management, but its not enough and doesn't provide all the features necessary for pervasive rollout in the enterprise.
  • Creating digital assets from analog assets is expensive. The Dept. of Commerce has rooms full of documents that they're required to keep by law. Since they're on paper, there's no back-up. They've been working for years on digitizing them, but its not cheap.
  • Existing digital assets are a problem too. They're scattered around the enterprise, poorly cataloged, and in formats that aren't readily accessible. What's more they're contents are largely unstructured. The integration burden alone can be daunting.
  • Keywords aren't enough. Instead you need a fully thought out meta data strategy. Utah is lucky to have a well heeled group who are experts at meta data. Sadly not enough people make use of their expertise or understand why its important.
  • There are no standards. Sure, XML is a start, but just that. The data you want to manage is everywhere. Schemas are proprietary and architectures are opaque.

As I've tried to illustrate with the State of Utah, digital asset management isn't just about book sellers, most companies have digital assets. Some of them need to be managed for internal use. Some (think of Coca-Cola) can be repackaged for sale to add to the bottom line. I've said that one of the great themes of any IT shop these days is business intelligence. Digital asset management is another.