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Q&A with David Lipsey: The Evolution of Digital Asset Management (DAM), Part 2

Evolution of DAM

Welcome to part two of our interview around digital asset management (DAM) with David Lipsey, founding partner of KlarisIP and widely known as one of the founders of DAM. While the first part focused on where DAM has been, let’s take a look at what he envisions for the future..

Who is pushing digital asset management innovation today and what do you envision at its pinnacle?

Certainly, the leaders in DAM are our marketing colleagues: CMOs and their marketing staffs and creative operations. These professionals continue to set many of the standards to which digital asset management conforms. So, it’s no surprise the adtech and martech stacks have grown exponentially in the last few years.

I’ve always believed that, when we finally get the role of digital asset management right, it will simply work in service of the global digital supply chain. I like to use the analogy that when we get DAM right, it’ll be like a water heater down in the basement. Someone will have a particular need in adtech or martech, or in investor relations, trade show operations, board development, proposal writing, social media—any business area, really—and they’ll be able to turn on a particular spigot that they have in their operations and out comes the perfect, rights-cleared assets that have been pre-transformed to conform to its destination. Just like hot water.

What about technology like automation and AI/machine learning? How is it helping adtech and martech teams using DAM?

I picture a digital asset suspended in air, like a hologram. The better the metadata that is embedded with that binary—whether it’s a photo or graphic or video—the more luminosity it has, the more it expresses itself out into the world, and the better chance it has of being discovered.

Anything and everything we can do to rub the proverbial genie lamp and make a wish for more metadata, the better. Machine learning, inferential logic, open data sources, artificial intelligence—anything we can do to embrace and assess the realistic potential of these technologies to make that happen is great.

At the same time, however, we shouldn’t get over-enamored with technologies that are still in their infancy in many ways, and overspend on expectations that have little return. This worries me because the hype can end up having very little practical meaning and every metadata dollar is a precious one. We need well-trained CIOs, CTOs, data managers, and data scientists to help us understand which advances work and which don’t in order to make realistic budget decisions and understand that, ultimately, we’re creating information assets and we’re looking for an organizational return against those information assets.

It isn’t all going to be the finest quality of gold and, sometimes, the money spent on extracting the precious metal (which is the metadata) can be expensive and not particularly productive. But, ultimately, we must experiment. I hope that all of us in the digital supply chain field and DAM will help to keep that balance front and center.

What are some of the recent innovations and trends in digital asset management that excite you?

The more recent technologies used in DAM to deploy—the advent of graph databases, micro-services, RESTful APIs, and other very contemporary innovations in technology—the better. They’re more agile and they’re friendlier to unanticipated use cases, too.

But let’s also look at the “surround sound.” For instance, one of the best things digital asset management can do is to drive what I call “rich media” customer service operations. If you log on to a manufacturer’s site, for instance, you’re given the ability to upload a photo, metadata, and a little story about: “I bought this particular product, and it’s broken. Here’s how it broke…” When I look at what’s driving the industry’s future, that’s one example. Rich media customer service is continuing to enable this resilient brand engagement. Brand engagement of-the-moment and in-the-moment is so important.

DAM works ever more fluidly with rights management as well. The systems that confer rights and unfettered access are another big thing that we’re watching closely. And I think we will also begin to develop an economic understanding of the valuation of digital assets—even taking stock of all digital assets and metadata when buying and selling brands and companies.

From when you started in this field 20 years ago, what has surprised you about where DAM is today?

First, why is it still taking us so long to understand how great digital asset management is? We sometimes lapse into thinking the digital transformation can happen by magical thinking, but it takes real work, real engineering, persistent budgets and software that stabilizes it as the technology becomes more agile.

At the same time, I’m stunned at how powerfully we can create, consume, and repatriate heavy content. Look at how far we’ve come with that—we can watch movies in our cars! We need these tools known in the executive suite and in the marketplace, but the tools are not the end of the discussion. We forget that change management is more important and that these underlying technologies will inevitably change.

Another thing that surprises me is how hard it is to rally an entire enterprise around a digital asset management “approach”. DAM should be just one more piece of central enterprise software. Take employee photos, as a small instance. Investor relations can use them in their materials, and security teams can use them for employee badges. If we keep using separate rich media stores for every function, all we do is increase costs. We don’t tolerate duplication in our accounting systems, and digital assets—I believe—are the core currency in much of today’s world. Let’s create them once! Our social and corporate storytelling should all be in DAM (and known that it is). We seek leadership that enables and rewards our internal digital asset stewards, and organizations that respond and thrive with this.

What it comes down to is this: When we learn to relax our mind and look at the digital manifestation of the world around us, we see endless opportunities for the reach, the value, and the return on digital asset management.

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