Today, for a digital asset management system to really be doing its job, it needs to be able to seamlessly integrate or connect with other company systems and applications.
Integration, connectivity, security, change: the new tick list for digital media management
These include web and content management tools, social media sites, AI tools, location mapping, reporting and accounting software, document creator applications like Word and Excel, external category referencing such as ISBN numbers, and any number of third party software types.
A good DAM will never be able to do everything as well as some other third party solutions, and that’s fine. As long as it can integrate and connect with them, securely and seamlessly, it doesn’t matter. It should unite internal and external staff, supporting all communication and collaboration. It should bring together departments, like marketing and IT, with the reassurance that integration and security is key. It should also be configurable, and have the flexibility to be able to support and enhance changing workflows and processes instead of being rigid in its usability and presenting a set way of working.
The chances are, that if a solution does do what you want it to today, then it won’t do what you want it to in the future unless it has the ability to integrate with other systems. Technology changes, software changes, working practices change. So the question isn’t so much ‘can it do it now?’ it’s ‘could it do it if and when we need it to?’.
Why do I need an API?
An API is essential to all of these integration scenarios, and should be open for developers to explore and integrate with. This is an Application Programming Interface; an interface that allows two applications or programs to communicate with one another and therefore work together. On your PC, APIs make it possible for you to work between different programs, like copying and pasting text from a Word document into a Mac notes app. On the web, APIs allow platforms like Facebook to work with other apps, enabling a user to sign into various web services using their Facebook ID. For a digital asset management system, it means that if you decide you want to transfer video content directly from your media library to YouTube via the cloud, without downloading to your PC, then you can. Common integration requirements include:
- Web content management
- Social media integration
- Reporting functionality
- Finance systems
- External data sources
- Single sign-on
Building a custom application that allows two pieces of existing technology to work together is often a cost-effective way of delivering a solution. Knowing that the existing software has already been tried and tested also provides an assurance that it will do the job, without having to suffer rounds of bug fixing and excessive development time. Alternatively specific functionality can be developed if there isn't a third party piece of software that can do the job.
Many features will be already built into a good digital asset management system. For example, you should be able to connect your desktop software to your media library. You should be able to handle files from Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and so much more. You should be able to access plugins for Wordpress and other content management systems to enable you to work directly inside those systems. But where an API comes in really handy, is when you have specific work requirements that are unique to your company, or haven’t been built into the asset management system as standard. Very often, these enable users to use two or more cloud-based applications without having to worry about downloading and uploading files which itself takes time, but may be made even more problematic because of file sizes and slow internet speeds.
Here’s an example. I work in a holiday company. Every day I get at least one new video uploaded into my digital media library which documents a resort. I then tag the video with the correct metadata, giving it labels about the location, the subject of the video, who filmed it etc. I then download that video, which takes a while as the wireless connection I’m on is slow, and save it to my desktop. I log into YouTube and navigate to the upload area. I upload the video and then start filling in the data fields in YouTube, matching as closely as possible the fields I used in my library. In total this has taken me about 30 minutes.
Using APIs and a few custom applications, when the videos arrive in my digital media library, they have auto-populated tags describing the location, subject and creator. I press a button and instantly that video starts being transferred directly to YouTube, and with it, all the metadata connected to the video, automatically, and accurately, populating the data fields in YouTube. When the video is published, it then posts the unique YouTube video url back to my digital media library to close the loop. In total this has taken me less than one minute.
There are all sorts of custom applications that can be made possible in a digital asset management system, especially as there is probably a piece of software that already does what you need it to do. But without an API it’s just not possible. That’s why integration, connectivity, security and change is the new tick list for digital media management. Can it integrate, can it connect, is it secure and will it adapt to organisational and technological change?
Based in Cambridge, Third Light has nearly 20 years' experience in digital asset management software. Our solutions are used by the marketing and creative teams of more than 300 organizations in fields including education, sport, not-for-profit and global business.