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Document Management and Digital Asset Management Is There a Difference and What Might It Be?

Written By: Hans Mercx
Published On: December 19 2005

Introduction

Everywhere you look within organizations, there is content. All this content needs to be managed. At first it was static information, and documents published on the Internet needed management solutions. As a result document management (DM) emerged as the mechanism or process to create, capture, manage, store, and deliver these documents to the right departments and individuals.

Digital Assets

Today, electronic media is more then just on-line text. Organizations are using images, video, and audio files and other digital formats within organizations that need to be managed as well. Digital assets are often time consuming to create, but they are valuable to organizations because digital assets attract the attention of clients, whether internal or external to the organization.

Digital assets require a format and management process that enables re-use. When looking for a solution, one question that faces organizations is whether a DM system is capable of supporting their needs or if a digital asset management (DAM) solution it more appropriate.

To determine this answer, an organization must understand the difference between the two solutions. This is a difficult task because there is confusion in the market between DM and DAM solutions. This article will investigate what is unique to a DAM solution and why organizations need a DAM to manage other types of data instead of just text documents.

Document Management

Organizations use document management to assist with the management, creation, workflow, and the storage of documents within different departments. A DM solution uses databases for storage, and workflow engines to design and support workflows, including business rules and metadata.

Document management systems are often used in industries where there are high volumes of documents, such as in the insurance, health care and government industries. Increasingly DM solutions are evolving into Web content management (CM) systems.

Digital Asset Management

Digital asset management (DAM) solutions are also referred to as media asset management (MAM), entertainment media asset management (EMAM), brand resource management (BRM), marketing content management (MCM), and asset management (AM). DAM focuses on organizations specifically with digital assets, such as the entertainment or advertising industry, and is used in situations where asset reproduction is important. Often organizations combine a DAM solution with a CM solution to maintain their web site. Consequently, DAM and CM vendors acquire one or the other to combine their solutions into an integrated solution.

Different Views on DM and DAM

Even though there is a variety of acronyms for DAM, and there are slight differences in functionality for each category. This article, however, will focus mainly on regular DAM functionality, including rich media files and types.

Magan Arthur of Arthur Consulting Group, explains that organizations can take three different approaches when contrasting DM and DAM:

  • Tools and processes
  • File and content types
  • Business use

This article will leverage these approaches to explore the difference between DM and DAM.

Tools and Processes

Both DM and DAM use functionality common to content management solutions. These functionalities include the repository, metadata indexing, search capabilities, user- and role-defined accessibility, and workflow.

The repository stores the content and can either be a relational database or a simple file system. It includes standard features, such as check in and check out, versioning, and taxonomy. It will also allow metadata to be defined, so it includes all relevant descriptions of the different documents and files. This metadata then can be used by the search engine for indexing. The workflow takes care of the different tasks and roles that are involved within the process, whether serial or parallel.

Besides these similarities, there are essential differences in the respective tools and processes of DM and DAM.

DM, on one hand, focuses on capturing text content through optical character recognition (OCR), it is integrated with text processing tools, and is able to define different elements within a document as content. DM is capable of reusing this content either in parts or as the whole document. In the repository, DM can store document elements in different formats, such as extensible markup language (XML).

DAM, on the other hand, integrates with applications that focus on the creative design of assets, such as Quark, AutoCAD, Flash, and three dimensional animation. DAM solutions are capable of linking, disassembling, and reassembling complex and combined assets. DAM is also able to change images directly by either resizing or changing colors, and can handle large files, especially video files. Its search capabilities extend beyond standard search to permit visual searches using image recognition. Besides text indexing, which DM solutions also provide, DAM is able to index speech-to-text videos, closed caption videos, and more.

File and Content Types

The tools, as described above, allow different file types to be stored, which is another way to differentiate DM with DAM. DM files are mostly text based such as, paper documents, files from office tools, PDF, HTML files etc. DAM systems capture rich media files which can be images; logos; audio; video; CAD; animation (including GIFs and Flash); and design files.

DM systems are often capable of storing these kinds of files as well, but provide little more than storage, which is not sufficient for organizations that handle large quantities of digital asset files.

Business Use

Each solution can also be used for different types of business processes. Business processes are automated by these solutions, which help with the creation, collaboration, review, and approval of content throughout different departments within the organization. Below are some examples of the business processes in which DM and DAM can be used.

DM is often used in contract negotiations, documentation creation, policy and procedures, articles, reports, or statement processes. DAM solutions focus on the collaboration and management of advertising or marketing material, multimedia kits, corporate presentations, or video on demand. Libraries created by the system include image libraries, video libraries, and font and logo libraries.

Summary

One can differentiate DAM solutions and DM solutions based on the tools, file types, and types of business processes the solutions are used in. Often organizations look into implementing both DAM and DM solutions because integrating text- and media-based content is a better, long term strategy.

By managing both text files and digital assets, organizations are looking at how to integrate CM solutions. As a result, vendors are starting to integrate DAM solutions with CM solutions. To do this, vendors will have to work on the seamless integration between the products, and need to compensate for the different technology approaches between a DAM and a DM or CM solution.

At a positive note, vendors are changing their focus and recognizing that the market wants a more modular approach within these solutions, and the industry is focusing on open architectures, or services-oriented architectures (SOA).

Overall we'll see that DM and DAM vendors will continue in improving their solutions and integrate with each other to provide the demanding market with a solid, integrated solution.

 
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