DAM champ: Mark Davey

DAM champ Mark Davey has over 20 years of experience in the digital asset management (DAM) field. He’s the man behind The DAM Foundation, the ten core characteristics of a DAM system, and is an information strategist at The Codified DAM Consultant. He’s also helped to create the DAM Maturity Model and the DAM Zeitgeist with other DAM professionals. He’s been a champion of helping end users find valuable, trustworthy, and affordable information about DAM systems.

DAM champ: Someone who supports finding, setting up, or maintaining a digital asset management system (DAM). There is a wide variety in DAM champions, who come from positions in production, creative, management, IT, and marketing.

Digital media management champ Mark DaveyWho are you and what’s your DAM experience? What’s your contribution to the DAM space?

Well, who am I is a really big question, isn’t it? What do you mean by who am I? What is it to be human or humanoid? Well, my name is Mark Davey. I have had various hats over the last 20 years in the DAM space, and I suppose I’m best known for starting a not-for-profit think tank called the DAM Foundation. I look at standards and best practices with DAM to help move the industry and help people understand some of the complexities in DAM as we move towards the other cool things that are happening in the DAM world.

On a personal level, I’d call myself an information theorist, and I see DAM as a very big aspect of that in terms of classification of knowledge, data, and frameworking. I’ve also been a consultant for a long time, working with not-for-profits and large and small corporations, looking at strategy and planning standards. Usually, I’m called in as a strategic thinker when they’re on the second or third iteration of DAM, with a massive team of stakeholders around the table.

We find the problems, the solutions, and the types of issues they have and how DAM can solve that. Then I take them on a wider journey of the reach beyond a marketing department into other departments and, indeed, up the food chain to try and get them to understand it, with mixed results. Recently, I was a consulting analyst for the Real Story Group, and I’ve always been very active and vocal about vendors. I’d probably say I’ve seen more demos than anybody else in the world. And one of the things that came out of the DAM Foundation was this idea about maturity.

Tell us more about the Maturity Model and the 10 core characteristics.

So, out of this looking at standards and best practices, one of the ideas the team had some time to go and get some good thinkers around was in terms of how people are approaching the maturity of DAM.

Apoorv Durga was one of the original writers of the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Maturity Model. The team started talking about what maturity is in DAM. So he took the original dimensions of the ECM Maturity Model and came up with the DAM Maturity Model. And I have been the guardian of the site and the keeper of data for DAM Maturity Model since its inception. It’s been downloaded by 3,000 companies around the world, and some of those companies gave us anonymous information about where they actually were placed within the 15 dimensions.

So, for instance, they quickly mapped off where they were and then they filled out a form, and the collective data that we had from there has built this thing that I was calling the DAM Zeitgeist. My personal experience is to benchmark actually where people are in the mix of maturity. And sadly, as you know from the Zeitgeist itself, the overall dynamic is ad hoc to incipient across the board and within most verticals. We’re seeing some spikes in optimal maturity within IT departments having an understanding of traditional technologies and then extrapolating parts of that in terms of technical specifications for companies, so there is more maturity there.

But overall, people lack a strategy and a solid business case for the complexities of DAM.

“You know, I sound like I know everything in DAM, but I’ve been doing it for 20 years. It is a complex beast.”

One of the things we try to do is simplify that by breaking down the Maturity Model so people can say, “You know what? We’re very low-level here. How do we start to move the needle?,” and the Maturity Model gives them a gap analysis of that information.

That’s great. You mentioned the Zeitgeist and the next question is really what can you say about the Zeitgeist?

There’s a critique of the lack of business case, the understanding of the encapsulator of metadata, which includes taxonomies and controlled vocabularies, and an understanding of that. DAM was born out of the need to solve a storage problem of where do we put all of our stuff and then how do we find it — and oh, but now we can do clever things with this stuff. The moment of what DAM was 15 years ago to what it is today, and what it’s going to be in the next 10 years, is completely different to where it started.

The Zeitgeist itself is pretty depressing. Some of the responsibility lies with vendors, and I know your next question is about the 10 core characteristics, which kind of segues into that.

Because there is some vendor responsibility and anomalies in the industry, we find there are 180-plus companies around the world that call themselves DAM companies. What I wanted to do with another group of smart people linked to the Maturity Model and the DAM Foundation was distill the essence of what DAM is and come up with 10 core characteristics that we can put a metric around or a test that companies can prove they are actually DAM companies.

Currently, we have 34 vendors that have passed and a number of vendors that have failed. Some who failed went off, they reconfigured, they had a look at it and they agreed that it is a core characteristic of DAM. They fixed the problem and some of those have passed. And some of them are quite big companies that did that, so, you know, that’s pretty good.

I’m not sure that 34 vendors of 180 is a lot of progress, but it’s a start. And we’re open to vendors taking the test again. I test them. If they pass, they’re an accredited vendor with us. If they fail, they can come back and take the test again.

Is there a time between tests?

“We don’t set any time limits on it because we’re just trying to help people. At least they know there’s a place that says experts confirm that these companies fit this accreditation standard.”

An example of companies that have failed, for instance, they usually fail on a couple of criteria, and one of the big ones is true version control. Lots of the companies kind of fake version control through derivatives or different methods and it’s usually to do with the architecture of the system itself.

We’ve actually had companies try to fake it to us, which is an interesting approach. And they were told wholeheartedly you failed and to come back to us when you’ve got version control properly. Some of them haven’t come back. They may hate me for it, but they didn’t pass the 10 core characteristics.

Are you finding additional characteristics that you would define as core emerging since you established the 10 core?

One of the other things we currently publish at the moment is base information about the 34 accredited vendors on the DAM Maturity Model. We publish information about what kind of systems they’ve got, are they open source, are they cloud, are they hosted, where are they, etc. And our thinking in terms of our organization is expanding to something we’re calling “beyond core.” Core is a strategy. Beyond core looks at workflow, the openness of APIs, with a real big deep dive on metadata today and vendors’ thinking for tomorrow.

Now, we’re not putting a score behind that metric; we’re just publishing our thoughts around it and the vendors that fit it. We only work with accredited vendors, and from accredited vendors, they can take the beyond core test. Then we’re mapping vendor capability to user requirements, functional requirements, and we’re also giving tools as an extension of maturity level as something we’re working on at the moment called The Codified DAM Consultant.

What else can you say about what The Codified DAM Consultant is and its purpose?

With my consultant hat on and my analyst hat on, I’ve noticed a problem in the market from my perspective, and that is at one end you have very expensive analyst reports who have very diverse ways or methodologies for presenting information about certain vendors. None of them work on a standards basis where the accredited process or the 10 cores are embedded into that, so what we’ve done is we’ve wrapped a formula around that. We see The Codified DAM Consultant as a way between the high-end analysis firms and then the popularity contest of the free information sites. So basically, when you Google “digital asset management,” how quickly can you go from someone who’s got maybe, you know, a little bit of information about what DAM is to getting the right factors in place as quickly as possible? How can you aggregate all that information? You can’t do it in Google it at the moment.

You can go to analyst firms or you can go to these crowdsource information databases, but everything I’ve seen so far is not really deep domain expertise in DAM. DAM is complex. There are a lot of moving parts and there are a lot of different approaches to it, so what we tried to do is codify it.

We’ve got analytical information on the data behind the vendors. We’re asking all the questions. We’re extending the accredited list to beyond core, where we’re looking specifically at workflows and integrations and how that’s going, but behind that we recognize that a lot of the companies come to vendor companies without doing the Maturity Model work at the beginning, the people work, looking at their technical expertise, looking at their information architectures and how they actually work as a strategy to go to the right vendors. So we codify all that. In effect, instead of having me and my team as a consultant, you can buy the app for under $1,000 and it should do everything that I can do for you.

Let’s go into some of these other questions, based on some of our recent conversations. Definitely fascinated by this concept of the central intelligence department (CID). What is the CID and why should organizations seriously consider building it if they’re not already?

There’s a philosophical and intellectual debate around what content is in an organization. It factors in linguistics, it factors in metaphysics, it factors in information theory or informatics. And it’s a real philosophical, psychological debate that is being wrapped around what is happening with the rise of artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and the powers inherent in those. There are these component parts that come together to change the notion and the sophistication and the ability of enterprises to really understand and map content, how it impacts people, what it does, and how it’s ultimately going to end up.

Usually content resides in a marketing department, and the factors that the marketing department have. They create content, they curate content, and they analyze the content, but it’s done in a silo-centric way. Content impacts everyone behind the firewall, whether it’s your employees, your customer base, your partnership relationships, and so if you like, it’s the lifeblood of how we communicate in this day and age.

“Basically, what I’m saying is that businesses need to take content out of the marketing department and I believe they should create a new department that’s based around content. I’ve called it the CID because when you assign metadata and semantic data to content, it becomes smarter content. And you need smart people to understand what smarter content can do behind the firewall and externally from it.”

Transformation methodologies are based on the fact that we want to transform in different areas, but one of the things we want to do is look at our company and understand disruption. That’s what transformation is about, as well is understanding how can we start disruption or how can we be disrupted. Pockets of teams have been formed for transformation and they’re putting data scientists there, leaving content in marketing. But I’m advocating that they create a CID, which is a big name that says metadata is intelligence and incredibly efficient at raising insights and automation from data.

So this department needs to really understand that granular level, the power of metadata, and then thinking, ok, now I understand metadata, what can I do with it in terms of automation or what we need in terms of the idea of a product and market all through the content lifecycle. Everything is so fast in an organization everywhere nowadays that you need time to really think about what does this mean today? What does it mean for our business? What does it mean for transformation and what’s it gonna mean in the future? The bigger questions such as what does it mean for the workforce and us mere humans.

But, I don’t know, I’m just guy from the UK who says it’s time that content became a department and the smart people should get together and really think about the impact. Of course, DAM sits at the foundational part of any transformation because of metadata, and the aspects of metadata have changed over the last few years. We’ve gone from keywording, static metadata to metadata that drives automation and integrations.

The next question is related and is what are content-based information architectures and why should organizations adopt them?

We have information architectures which are the realms and the remits of the IT departments, and they have governance around those information architectures. But what I noticed with a number of my consultancies is that once you start talking about governance to IT, they frame it on the information side, but we’re talking specifically about governance around content…you know, who has the IP, who has the rights, who has the roles, who has permission?

Content is fluid. Sometimes it’s locked down, sometimes it’s free, and sometimes it’s both. And the way to do that is an asset management system that can lock that down through metadata. So with the CID, or if companies don’t decide to put in a CID, they’re still going to need focus on content-based information and architectures as a strategy that works with people, process, and information technology.

The reason why is because there’s this thing called the web of structured data. You know, Web 3.0, machine learning, artificial intelligence, content-based image recognition. You name it. There’s this whole sphere that’s there now. Before, it was in the realms of the futurists and the thinkers, but now it’s a reality. So that adds to the premise of this smart sophistication that’s needed within the CID, and it certainly needs to be mapped to the content-based information architectures which form part of the strategy for people versus technology.

What is your vision for DAM?

Cybernetics, telepathy, serendipity. No, serious, I’ve said it seems obvious to me because I’m in DAM, although I might have a confirmation bias that the robots can check out later. I said many years ago that I believe DAM will become the beating heart of the semantic web 1.) because it’s a metadata engine and 2.) because we’ll start to understand what the psychological philological knowledge transfer elements are as they’re related to content. We call it content, but maybe it’s something else.

“What I do know is you do need data about data to make it work for anybody, and that’s why I think the future of DAM is bright.”

I also think the notion of having better-informed companies that understand the complexity of DAM and some oversight on accreditation instead of companies just calling themselves a DAM company, the future will improve. How good a consultant is and how much information they know, are they really agnostic, have they really dug deep domain research, etc… it all kind of factors into this.

What do you like best about DAM today? What gets you off the edge of your bed every day and you think today is gonna be a good DAM day?

I tell you what, it’s the people. There are just some really fascinating people in the industry that are thinkers, that are extrapolating this part of the data that we have today and where it’s going. I think it’s a vibrant place.

Anything that’s kept me interested for this time — and I’ve got a short attention span, like I said, I’m a polymath, I’m always interested in other things — I like to bring those things back to connect the dots. Innovation has been criticized in our industry as everybody following everybody else, but you only follow everybody else if you’re not being told what the wants and needs are, and the creative aspirations are on the companies you’re working in.

Back to the zeitgeist. You know, we don’t know what we don’t know. But what I can tell you with DAM is we don’t know where we are going, but if we build it this way with content-based information architectures in a CID, we know how to get there. We just don’t know what the end story is going to be once we open up this box of artificial intelligence.

Any closing thoughts?

At the beginning of this interview, you asked who I am. We need vendors and end users to take content much more seriously as we head towards Web 3.0, we move from taxonomies to ontologies, which is meaning. We need this plug-and-play knowledge to become part of the hard questions so we can set AI and its next iteration, super AI, in motion. We might be very surprised when the machine tells us what it is to be human, even after we have augmented ourselves and become humanoid. These are serious questions, and it behooves me not to advocate a CID within every enterprise, at least until we have been able to codify it with standards and best practices. And the governance around all this is critical.


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