It was last year at Henry Stewart's DAM conference in New York that I first stated that despite the industry's multi-year love affair with the word "workflow," collaboration trumps workflow in DAM. It's only recently, however, that DAM technology is starting to catch up with the fundamental fact that creative processes and creative people are not particularly linear: the old-school, law-firm-oriented document management workflow functionality that sometimes made its way into DAM technology simply doesn't mirror the reality of the creative process.
Instead, creative people tend to come together and mark up, draw colorful lines, and talk about look-and-feel or brand impact of what they're producing -- oftentimes together, in the same room (a real one or virtual). Many DAM vendors understood their customers' natural preference for collaboration over traditional workflow approaches well, and in some ways this accounts for the general paucity of workflow functionality in DAM systems.
Last year vendors such as North Plains and celum began touting their markup technology for both images and video; more recently, ADAM and Autonomy are debuting similar functionality that allows DAM system users to annotate an image with a variety of shapes or comments, or in the case of video, pick a particular segment of the video and annotate on a frame or series of frames. MediaBeacon, meanwhile, has incorporated a "presence" widget that allows you to send instant messages about particular assets, real-time, with other users who are also logged in.
Occasionally vendors build these functions themselves, from scratch, whereas others might OEM an already-tested and proven collaboration technology, such as the case of ADAM with ConceptShare. Usually (as with the typical workflow component), these collaboration components cost US$20-$80k on top of your base DAM product, so don't get too excited about the demo unless you're ready to shell out the extra spend.
Earlier this year, in our detailed DAM product evaluations, we decided to separate workflow functionality and collaboration features and rate them separately, so our subscribers could more clearly see how the vendors compare in each area. Given how the technology is changing -- and for many vendors, evolving at very different rates -- it no longer made sense to consider workflow and collaboration as one in the same. If either feature proves important for you, be sure to understand the difference between workflow and collaboration systems within DAM. They're sold separately -- and most of the time, you won't need both.