Metric Based DAM Vendor Demos as a strategy
By James Rourke
Have a different kind of demo with the Codified DAM Consultant
If you’ve spent time working in the DAM industry or using DAM software it’s likely you’ve sat through a product demo or two. As a consultant, hundreds of hours each year are spent on online demos and seminars, learning about new innovation, new features and new DAM vendors. The CDC (Codified DAM Consultant) was created in part so that you wouldn’t have to do the same. Demos are still an important part of the process of DAM analysis, procurement and installation, but with the CDC you are no longer starting at point zero. It's possible to have a different type of demo, to spend more time with the vendors who are suited to your needs and more time looking at the features you desire.
The end of canned demos as you know it
Many industry analysts have written about the issue of canned demos. Vendors will approach every demo the same, with a set running order and script, not taking into account the unique nature and needs of the recipient. A sales mentality in product demos can override what the DAM is being acquired for, and the technical aspects, functionality and usability of the DAM remain unclear. This can be detrimental to both vendor and potential client, in that both fail to have the conversation they need to be having to realise they’re a strong fit. If I’m a client looking at 30 vendors, with a 1hr time slot for each of those vendors, I need to be convinced within that hour that this vendor is worth looking at further. If 45 minutes of that demo is spent showing me features I’m not interested in then it’s less likely that I will proceed further, even if in reality the vendor is a perfect fit for my organisation. Further, if I’m spending 45 minutes ticking off functionality required rather than looking at how this functionality can be used to best effect and align with my current working practices then this is potentially time wasted.
The problem is a lack of information on both sides. You will need to commit much more time and resources into researching DAM companies and sitting through demos, the vendor will likely have to complete a lengthy RFP / RFI which may be considered too much work for the off chance of a business deal. With the CDC the research has been done, the demos have been sat through and the vendors have completed an RFP / RFI once, rather than multiple times. Now you are able to focus on the functionality most important to you and you are able to provide vendors a much shorter list of your requirements, asking them to build a demo around it. In addition, vendors are only having conversations with clients who know that they are fit for purpose and so are far more likely to land a business deal. The first demo you receive can be fully bespoke, in-depth but also to the point.
The CDC effectively allows you to create the canned demo, a running order which is mapped to your specific workflows and reflects your specific use case(s). The database allows you to know the functionality each vendor has so that you can focus in on it. This can be invaluable if you want to quickly compare several vendors side by side on their capabilities. You can also use the ‘Use Case Scenarios’ we have outlined on the CDC as a guide.
10 Core As a Demo Framework
The 10 characteristics of DAM was established both as a measure of proficiency in DAM but also as an attempt to create standards and best practice, that were previously lacking in the industry. To complete certification a vendor needs to demonstrate ‘core functionality’ in 10 main areas, separated into 22 subcategories. 10 Core demos, therefore, serve as a customer-side canned demo of sorts, which highlights weakness as much as it does strength and has the tenants of digital asset management in full focus throughout. As discussed, vendors are likely to want to demonstrate their newest and ‘flashiest’ functionality while skirting over functionality crucial to DAM such as version control and metadata management.
10 Core data is available on the CDC, however the crib sheet (see below) groups together a broad spectrum of functionality. It’s possible for two vendors to have the same score for a certain subcategory but different strengths or functionality within that banding. The vendor will have all the functionality available in lower bands, meaning that you can narrow in on how vendors differ rather than having to establish functionality they share. Further, the crib sheet again allows you to see what functionality is available across the industry and perhaps ask that awkward question: “how come your competitor has this and you don’t?” You’ll need to look at 10 core well before you approach vendors and align your organisations’ needs with the core functionality that’s available.
We will look briefly at each of the 10 core to get an idea of how you could layout the demo
Ingest - You will need to look at the existing ways that content is ingested at your company, what type of content you’re ingesting, how much and whether you have usage peaks which might clog up the network. You’ll also need to take a close look at metadata, what standards you’re using, whether you have any legacy data that can be converted and what metadata can be extracted from your existing assets. During the demo, you’ll need to look at the vendor’s ingestion methods, what standard they’re reading and writing from the assets, what bulk actions are available, how they handle usage spikes and whether they offer migration services that include legacy metadata conversion.
Secure - You will need to assess your existing ACLs & SSO, both user numbers and type, your exiting rights management protocols and the level of granularity required for roles and permissions. You’ll want to have vendors demonstrate how they will protect your content, how it’s possible to set up user groups and user permissions, whether they can support your existing SSO and ACLs and any methods they use to make these processes easier, such as metadata profiling. You might also need to look at how they protect assets once they’ve left the DAM.
Store - You will need to know how many assets you have in total, what formats they come in, where they are located and whether some can be archived or left out of the DAM. Similar information is required about metadata but you will additionally need to know about controlled vocabularies, taxonomies and ontologies which already exist at the company. It’s important during the demo to look at how the vendor stores and allows you to interact with different asset types. The main focus should be on how you can customise metadata, taxonomies and vocabularies to your specific needs.
Transform - You will need to know what type of RAW formats are produced by photographers and the like, what formats are required for publishing/production, what creative workflows happen in the organisation, what existing software you have for the transformation of assets and you will also need to have an idea of the number of conversions required per day. This is a good opportunity to have the vendor demonstrate how an asset goes through the entire asset lifecycle, demonstrating metadata addition, simple editing tasks, creative workflows, review and approvals, transformation/transcoding and finally production and publishing. You want to see how the vendor Transforms files into assets.
Enrich / Analyse - You will need to look at the data that you’re capturing in the organisation already, what format this data is stored in and where it is stored. You will need to know the desire for complex reporting and analytics and whether efforts have been made to use business intelligence to improve operation at the company. Vendors should demonstrate to you the type of data they’re capturing, the automation available and the complexity of reporting available. It’s likely that integrations might be used for analytics so be sure to look more closely at how the Integration is gathering data or how data is delivered to it from the DAM.
Relate - You need to establish existing relationships which exist between assets, asset groups, versions and variants. There might be methods by which naming conventions, shared metadata and the like could be used to create these relationships on the DAM. Don’t overlook version control’s importance to DAM, it can be a useful tool in areas such as rights management and encouraging reuse and repurposing. Be sure that vendors demonstrate version control fully, there are things that look like version control that aren’t. Ask about Unique ID numbers and how versions and variants are related to them. Also ask about the level of automation, in particular, whether versioning occurs in integrated software or whether any AI / ML is used in the deduplication process.
Process / Workflow - There will likely be a lot of complexity to your existing processes that need to be maintained post-procurement. You will need to look at the ways that existing processes can be catered for or improved by DAM procurement. Consider what software you’re using already, whether integrations for that software are available and whether DAM could be acquired in combination with additional platforms to facilitate your desired workflow capabilities. The vendor will need to demonstrate both proprietary capabilities and integrations available on the platform, be sure that you know which one you’re looking at and how expensive it is likely to be. Make sure to focus in on workflow management, how it ties into user management and how the vendor approaches review and approval and suchlike. Be sure not to rule out vendors who don’t have a particular integration or support a particular process, conversation with the vendor may lead to a workaround or the development of additional functionality.
Find - The capacity to find assets ties into to your overall maturity when it comes to metadata, you’ll need to know how your assets are tagged and what format the data comes in. You might be able to import existing taxonomies, controlled vocabularies and metadata schemas if you have them and instantly make them part of the search index in the DAM. Failing this you might be able to source these from online libraries or find a vendor experienced at working in your vertical. The type of assets you have can also be important, for example, if you have a lot of documents you’ll need to find a vendor capable of indexing text from those documents on ingest. The vendor should demonstrate basic functionality, but should also demonstrate how search terms can be added to the index. This is also a great opportunity for vendors to show off AI / ML type searches for colours within assets or auto-tagging.
Preview / Navigate - This is the area that focuses mostly on how the DAM ‘Looks and Feels’, something that shouldn’t be overlooked as it can greatly affect user buy-in. It also deals with interacting with different types of files on the DAM and so you need to know the file formats being used and what level of detail is required from previews. For example, if you’re using a lot of InDesign files and you have to download them from the DAM in order to preview them, then it will negatively impact the efficiency of the DAM. If you need to preview less common file types it might be worth contacting the vendor prior to the demo, sometimes demo systems are set up to handle a subset of functionality and this can include support for particular formats. The vendor should take the opportunity to show off UI/UX and how it’s possible to navigate to different areas of the DAM using metadata, widgets, faceted search and the like.
Produce / Publish - This follows on from ‘Process / Workflow’, it is the end product of a workflow that is published or a new asset is produced; this characteristic concerns the end of the asset lifecycle. To reiterate you need to look at the workflows in your organisation and how a DAM could improve them, where necessary integrations should be considered. Additionally, you need to look at what happens when assets leave your current systems, any rights management concerns you might have and what data you capture from external sources. The vendor should demonstrate the whole asset lifecycle and produce or publish a finished product. They should show you the control they maintain once assets have left the DAM, how they can embed assets, what integrations they are using and whether they are tracking asset usage externally.
In conclusion, with the CDC you’re able to take control of the evaluation process and tailor it to your specific needs. You can start vendor demos better informed, ask the right questions and talk to the appropriate people. As a consequence, you can use your time to look at what really sells the DAM to your users such as workflow and UI/UX. You only need to go through the process once; so get it right the first time, using the smallest amount of internal resources possible and acquiring the best possible fit DAM for your needs.