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Q&A with David Lipsey: The Evolution of Digital Asset Management (DAM), Part 1

DAM- Digital Asset Management

Digital Asset Management (DAM) has greatly advanced since its inception 20 years ago, its future is anyone’s guess. At least that’s how David Lipsey, founding partner of KlarisIP and one of the founders of Digital Asset Management, sees it. We had the opportunity to sit down with Lipsey to chat about how DAM came into being, the critical juncture it’s at now, and how it might evolve in the future.

The result is a two-part series including fascinating insights into the world of DAM from the man who first dreamed it into existence.

Can you tell us about your role and journey into Digital Asset Management?

I was lucky enough to be “present at birth” in the field of Digital Asset Management 20 years ago. That’s when we were first learning to understand what the words “create one and use many” would mean.

Back then we were hoping to take educational and reference content and put it on CD-ROM, which was a medium of great usefulness at the time. But in doing this, we came to understand the core value of DAM, which was the idea of, “Wait a minute: We already published this. Can we just use it again without republishing it?” To this day, we continue to redefine the meaning of reach within this context.

My role in these early years was very straightforward. It was to go out into the commercial world and see if anybody was interested in this idea of technology that can enable the repeated use of content. Early in that journey, I was lucky enough to find General Motors and the Washington Post, who became among the first half dozen or so companies in the U.S. to put early proof points around this concept. In General Motors’ case it was for licensing materials, logos, as well as an enormous image and video library which quickly became part of other workflows. For the Washington Post, it was to create a digital archive from numerous prior backup technologies.

What valuable lessons have you learned along the way?

I love thinking about that question. One of the core resonating lessons is that we only understand 30 or 40 percent of what DAM is destined to be. We went through an arc of understanding that we could collapse the early silos. We put video, images, text, and graphics into one place. Then we learned that on a new, single place can also become a silo in and of itself.

Now we know those assets need to be part of packaging workflows or a master data management initiative. That little nugget is one of the real vibrating principles of Digital Asset Management: Our knowledge of what the binaries are, what the metadata ought to be, and what their purpose is will continue to unfold in ways we can’t even predict.

So far, DAM has survived the invention of tablets and the iPhone and the extraordinary access to content that we have in the world today. I wouldn’t begin to hazard a guess about what will be different a year from now, other than I know those differences should be hazarded, if that makes sense!

Do you think that’s why enterprise marketing teams haven’t fully embraced the technology?

Yes, we still face a lot of opportunity for adoption of Digital Asset Management. First, there’s currently no graduate educational program in DAM in the U.S. or Canada. So, there’s a problem within informatics and information sciences (IS) because we lack degrees in DAM. That impacts DAM’s credibility in the software field. Network engineers have ways to be certified through Microsoft and other credible sources, but DAM professionals don’t.

We have an even bigger problem in the graduate schools for MBAs. To my knowledge, there are no classes taught on Digital Asset Management at the MBA level in the U.S. That leads to DAM not being well understood among executives, even with younger executives who are more recent graduates and certainly know a great deal about the role of information technology in their businesses.

Here we sit on the cusp of 2020, and we’re far from having the 20/20 vision correction necessary for a substantive conversation about enterprise DAM outside a few very committed CMOs and the occasional CIO. Going past that even, we need to look at risk mitigation and understanding the CFO’s perspective on the monetization and amortization schedule around digital assets. We’re in only the earliest point in those conversations.

We’ve gone through many generations of getting started with this technology, some methods worked and some did not. This is complicated technology. It’s not a payroll system that just does math. With DAM, the challenges of looking at a digital supply chain from content inception (either internally or through an agency) through its ingestion and manipulation in the system are much more complex. And with digital assets, we hit a third rail of rights. There is no telling where and when the electrical shock impact ends in that area.

These are all reasons we’re still looking at so many uphill struggles. However, the fact that the DAM conferences have grown so radically over these last few years and continue to grow by double digits indicates how much we are maturing. I’m working together with Rutgers University and other luminaries in the field to remedy the lack of a degree program, which we’ll announce before the Henry Stewart DAM New York 2019 Conference.

Many companies have had to make serious capital investments in software to make it work, and while I’d love to say the experimental period is over, it’s not. We have software that’s still maturing, we have a buying community that’s still needing education, and we have a community still learning what the risks are.

How you define the scope of DAM in 2019?

Digital Asset Management continues to redefine its ability to enable better efficiencies and reach a global digital supply chain. It’s essential to driving e-commerce and to creating the handshake for today’s digital customers. It’s also essential to driving the representational iconography and assets that create a brand and support other areas such as a museum’s portrayal of how engagement will occur and the efficiencies the American Red Cross needs during an emergency.

DAM brings the shadow currency of digital assets into the bright light in which we manage all our other financial assets. I think the more we realize that the sooner we’ll see adoption.

Stay tuned for part two of our Q&A with David Lipsey, including his insights into how DAM is pushing the fields of adtech and martech forward.

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