Process-Based DAM Perspective Sharpens Enterprise Edge

A fully digital approach can tie processes together.

Youve gone as far as youre going to go in your organization by "building bit buckets." That was the admonition of Michael Moon, president and CEO of Gistics, when addressing an attentive ballroom full of content creators and managers in Los Angeles earlier this month.

On the plus side, Moon continued, there are millions of dollars to be saved, and a huge competitive advantage to be gained, by adopting a process-based perspective on DAM (digital asset management). Not digital management of assets, but management of digital assets—and, yes, those are two different things.

Ive been talking for years with IT professionals about migrating their own asset management systems, moving from manual inventories and bar-code tags to network-based counting of devices. Thats not the kind of digital asset management I mean here. Im talking instead about the management of informational assets, ranging from raw financial and sales data to the most polished imagery and video sequences.

Right now, Moon told his audience at the Henry Stewart DAM Conference, the connections between sources and uses of information are a costly tangle of sneakernet trails.

He followed, for example, the path of key product information in one organization from the Quark file of the product brochure—the first thing created—through different stages of transport and conversion to get that information to the Web or into direct mail or other uses. There were nine derived products, he found, each repeating its own odyssey with every product change.

Moon told the audience how he asked, "Why dont you start with an XML file, then publish to Quark and to everything else from that single source?" The response: "You can do that?" Dont laugh, unless youre certain that this conversation did not take place in your own organization.

The major challenge, said Moon, is not in acquiring, or even deploying, technology but in getting people to admit how bad their present situation really is. In one case, he found that the process of proofreading an illustrated catalog involved making several successive print runs, each of only a few dozen copies, to be manually reviewed and marked up.

Only when Moon put this process into a single diagram and on one sheet of paper did he get a response from the senior manager involved, who said, "Thats going to change by next week."

"Why not this week?" countered Moon.

"Because, first, the guy who did it this way needs to find another job," the manager replied. When hundreds of thousands of dollars are being wasted putting ink on dead trees, said Moon, people react with energy as soon as they realize that they dont have to put up with that.

I was struck, in particular, by one measure that Moon offered as to why a drawing deserves to be called an "asset" rather than "content." The engineering drawings that define a product such as a Boeing 777, Moon observed, each represent tens of thousands of dollars of enterprise value by the time theyve been internally approved and FAA-certified. Holding up a $20 bill, Moon said, "Why do we call one of these an asset and call the other content? Theyre both ink on dead trees that yield income."

Id also like to share Moons vision of how a fully digital approach can tie processes together. Advertisers and catalog sales companies, he said, spend time and money manually marking up their ads and their catalog pages with sales data to see which placements and treatments are selling most effectively. Theres no reason, he observed, why you shouldnt be able to look at a catalog page on your screen and see that kind of analytic data overlaid on it in real time—without its being touched by human hands. I can easily imagine the same kind of integration for maintenance data back on my old turf at the Exxon chemical plant, or for other performance data in any other venue.

Merely moving your present process to a digital platform is not really doing things digitally. Designing a modern process, then defining the data flows needed to make it work, is the course that must be followed today if you want to be a competitive organization tomorrow.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at

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