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Monday, September 28, 2009

Digital Asset Management – LCMS, ECM and SharePoint

Interesting post by Vic Uzumeri where he responds to a question that I asked him.  I'm going to also address the broader concept he raises about Work Networking.  But in this post, I want to consider:

We developed CoSolvent because we couldn’t find a reliable way move rich media (typically video) to and from the individual subject matter experts (SMEs) and managers among our various corporate training clients.

Living near Hollywood and the many different production companies and studios, I've talked to and worked on several projects that were digital asset management systems.  This includes working on the software the runs sites like Nasa Images.  So, I'm pretty familiar with the issues of digital asset management (DAM) and having to move large and manage large media assets.

Vic provides the following list of reasons that companies use his digital asset management software for eLearning projects:

  • The companies that employ our target audience strongly discourage employees from putting company assets on ‘public’ sites.
  • Workers often didn’t want their co-workers to see their materials until they had a chance to approve them.
  • People often work with collections of related, but dissimilar materials. 
  • We wanted to accommodate all types of video as input.

What's interesting is that my impression is that most corporations don't have that much of an issue with digital asset management and that these concerns are there, but not enough of an issue for people to jump on these solutions.  Am I wrong on that? 

Is there a need and desire for software or software as a service that provides digital asset management as part of eLearning projects?  Does the LCMS already provide this for you?  Does your enterprise content management solution provide this for you?

I do know of a couple of large corporations that do a good job of cataloging and organizing the digital assets – images, digital videos, documents.  They have hundreds of hours of courses.  And there developers are geographically dispersed.  Even still, most of these companies use relatively simple organization methods and the issues are getting developers to contribute assets, catalog them and then provide effective search and browsing.  In one case, they use a fairly rich enterprise content management (ECM) solution (a corporate-wide solution).

By the way, my impression is also that the digital asset management that comes with LCMS solutions is pretty limited.  Theoretically, this provides this same ability to organize digital assets so they can be shared by developers.  In practice, once things scale up, it becomes pretty hard to keep it organized and effectively find the assets you want.

I have heard a common lament that large files cause a little bit of an issue in that many IT departments limit network storage because of the need to provide robust back-ups and retention.  But using a storage as a service model with these large assets outside the firewall doesn't make much sense in that there's also often a restriction on network traffic.

The workflow and access restrictions are there.  You don't want people seeing your stuff that's still in development.  There's some course content that should not be accessible outside a particular group.  Again, most of this gets handled by standard network folders and permission structures.

Oh, and let's not forget that a lot of companies are Using Sharepoint for the exact purpose of organizing the efforts and assets of learning development.

Maybe it's because I have not run into these situations, but my impression is that there's not that much need for digital asset management solutions around eLearning and that you are probably already served by your LCMS, enterprise content management, or SharePoint if it is an issue.

Please share your experience and knowledge around this.


Vic Uzumeri said...


Thanks for the review and comments! Your questions are right on. They are the ones we ask ourselves daily.

The only thing I would want to clarify is the specific application space that we are trying to address.

We aren't focusing on sharing inside the firewall. There are CMS and EDMS solutions that work quite well, SharePoint being the most obvious. In open source you could also look at Alfresco.

We are also not trying to compete for public sharing on the Internet. Once again, there are tons of solutions (open source, hosted, free and/or cheap). Anything from MediaWiki to YouTube, to Photobucket, to ....

The place where I see a problem is when you want to share rich media between organizations, across multiple firewalls with pepple that are valued acquaintances but not direct colleagues. You really want to share with them, but you cannot assume any common infrastructure.

Think of the times when you have had a really great video course and you wanted to share it with someone in another organization that may not be video-savvy and sits behind a restrictive firewall. The course contains some proprietary information and you don't want to simply let it out 'in the wild'.

This isn't a problem if you simply want to 'broadcast' the eLearning from a secure server. If, however, you want to 'share' videos with expectations of getting video and comments back, that's a tougher challenge.

These scenarios are common for lots of practical business situations where rich media sharing really ought to be encouraged.

Consider construction (with job sites, vendors, and clients scattered all over), franchises (where every franchise has its own IT network - often badly built and maintained).

It also comes up a lot in distance education. Students must be able to use all the required course tools. However, any given class will have a few members with marginal equipment and connections. They also seem to have a very low tolerance for frustration and a genius for seizing on it as an excuse.

What existing technology would you recommend for collaborative video sharing under these circumstances? Bear in mind that in business or education you also need strong and flexible access controls and permissions because there are a wide range of possible sharing scenarios with materials that may be personal or sensitive.

It has to be easy to use, be very, very, very flexible, be secure, be finely and tightly controllable, be able to cross firewalls in a single bound, and support YouTube video or better.

It remains to be seen whether our efforts will qualify as a 'solution', but that's the target we are aiming at.

Tony Karrer said...

Vic - thanks for the clarification. I hadn't understood that from your blog post, but probably should have figured it out.

I'm fairly familiar with franchises, agencies and construction. I've seen web interfaces that provide access to content that's been approved for release. I've not seen as much sharing of those assets as part of a workflow.

I'm hoping others will weigh in on the value this presents.

Phil Antonelli said...

I agree that a need exists for SaaS media management services. What would be especially nice would be the ability to bring documents, graphics, audio, video and slide presentations into one location. Tagging for easy searching is a must for reuse. You can do amazing things with embed and iframe tags to create SCORM mashups where the content is largely external and the tracking and scoring are handled by legacy systems. All that is needed are secure media servers that are secure, scalable and reliable. Right now I am intrigued by Wistia.

e learnign guy said...

This isn't a problem if you simply want to 'broadcast' the eLearning from a secure server. If, however, you want to 'share' videos with expectations of getting video and comments back, that's a tougher challenge. ---- very well ssaid many readers seem to misunderstand you in some of your posts. this is the one thing that clears things up