SharePoint: Confessions Of A DAM Snob

Several months ago, one of my professional contacts recently sent me an article about digital asset management (DAM) trends. In addition to providing a layer of validation about my predictions for DAM opportunities in 2009, the article gave me a reason to review a blog I published a few weeks ago about SharePoint-as-DAM.

I think that the message of my original post might have been obfuscated in the discussion of SharePoint and DAM products. If so, here is my point: interoperability. There will be fewer full-scale implementations of content systems in 2009 than in 2008 (or 2007…). The opportunities to enable peaceful co-existence of legacy systems are still there.

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage from this map. And I feel a need to extend CMS Watch’s transit metaphor: How do you establish a bus route between your portal (SharePoint, Interwoven, …) and your DAM (Telescope, Artesia..). How can you build a bike path between your Web site (Vignette, IBM…) and your WordPress blog? (Many thanks to Tony Byrne et al for creating and maintaining this great visual representation).

I will write more on the larger topic of interoperability in the near future, In the meantime here is a refreshed edition of SharePoint-as-DAM blog:

I have been having conversations about SharePoint and digital asset management with software developers and prospective clients for several weeks. I had been meaning to pencil down some of my thoughts, but had not gotten around to it. Fortunately, Michael Moon had posed a SharePoint-as-DAM question on Linkedin’s Masters of Digital Assets discussion forum. My response is below:
SharePoint certainly has its merits. It’s actually relatively painless to set up a web site or an intranet with SharePoint. Its document and picture libraries allow for storage, versioning, metadata-customization and simple workflow for file management. Furthermore, SharePoint provides the means to add wikis, blogs and social networking to an organization’s portal. So, in the sense that any content that adds to organizational value is an asset…SharePoint does offer DAM capabilities.

However, my background is in publishing and advertising, so I’m something a DAM snob. I don’t think that SharePoint provides adequate functionality to be used as a DAM solution. A few strong opinions ahead:

SharePoint is Microsoft-centric (Surprise!). You can save file metadata directly from a document….as long as it’s an Office document. This a great thing considering that most organizations use Office documents. However—I’m going to go out an limb here– some organizations evaluating DAM solution might be working with Adobe products, or other tools such as Quark Xpress.

SharePoint has inadequate file-conversion options. SharePoint can be configured to convert things like Word and Excel to HTML; but there is no built-in functionality to convert images (.psd to jpeg……ai to png, etc.).  Anybody who is talking about DAM is talking about images! On-the-fly conversions of image are a must in a DAM solution.

SharePoint offers no sophisticated integration with compound-content tools. Remember the term “desktop publishing” from the last millennium? Well, organizations still print. Layout tools such as Quark and InDesign are still prevalent. Mature DAM tools (such as Telescope, Artesia, MediaBecaon..) offer sophisticated drag-and-drop capabilities for adding images to layout documents. SharePoint does not.

Color Management is not on SharePoint’s radar. Did I mention that organizations still print? The demise of the CMYK world has been greatly exaggerated. And while the volume of print production may drop, the importance of color-fidelity is constant. Brand-conscious organizations are inflexible when it comes to color, and they should be. SharePoint idoes not support color-profiling as do industry-leading DAM tools.

I could go on. I have not even addressed SharePoint’s support for video files. Perhaps in another blog.

To be clear, the inadequacies that I have described are in reference to an out-of-the-box SharePoint implementations. It’s possible to add some DAM-specific functionality to SharePoint with customization. However, I think the answer is more likely in third-party add-ons to SharePoint, or perhaps integrating SharePoint with a traditional DAM solution.

There are some third-party tools that can help SharePoint towards DAM. When I first started working with SharePoint a while back, I demo’d some SharePoint add-ons (Web Parts) ADAM and Equilibirum among others. These Web Parts allow SharePoint to have a more-traditional DAM flavor by offering functionality to convert images, or add items to a shopping cart.

In the past few months, I have had several conversations about the prospect of integrating SharePoint with DAM solutions (happy to talk your ear off about such things you want to reply privately;). I know of a former client that implemented a robust DAM solution many years ago and is in the midst of integrating that with SharePoint, which they are using for web content management. I think such integrations with SharePoint will be hot area for the DAM industry.

One of the problems I’ve seen with SharePoint user acceptance is the ‘like factor”. People hear about SharePoint’s social networking, enterprise search and other features and are expecting it to be be ‘like Facebook’, “like Google” etc. Users have inflated expectations of certain features and may be somewhat disappointed when SharePoint is implemented.

I think when DAM is mentioned with respect to SharePoint, assumptions seemed to be that SharePoint is “like Artesia” “like Telescope” or “like Mediabeacon.” An out-of-the-box SharePoint implementation will fall short on this front, too.

SharePoint ain’t like DAM.

To reiterate: SharePoint has many strengths, but in my admittedly-snobbish opinion, DAM isn’t among them. Still, I think there are numerous opportunities for SharePoint to work in conjunction with established DAM technology. As the previously-cited CMSWire article contends, DAM vendors will ignore SharePoint at their own peril.

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