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The Marketing Supply Chain Field Guide: Part 4

Digital Asset Management – A Link in the Marketing Supply Chain Worth Strengthening

One of the promises of the digital office was having all files and documents easily and readily accessible from your desk; no more rifling through filing cabinets and hunting down information from different people in various departments. Unfortunately for many of us, good intentions and human nature combined to lead us not to digital document utopia, but rather to digital versions of filing cabinets. The physical documents and hulking metal cabinets and may be gone but we often still have to rifle through countless folders on networks and rely on different people in various departments across our organizations. In some ways, managing files may actually be more complicated and confusing today than in the old manila folders in a drawer days.

Certainly there are many organizations that run a tight ship when it comes to their digital assets. In fact digital asset management has gone from buzzword to specialty in recent years. Even a fine-tuned environment isn’t immune to complications in digital asset management; especially when third parties come into play. One operational area that is chock full of third party involvement is an organization’s marketing supply chain.

Uniqueness Rears Its Head Again

While we already know that no two marketing supply chains are exactly alike; we also know that there are a variety of players that comprise any given example. At the very least, information that is critical to the output and success of marketing material projects, will be exchanged between an organization and the vendors producing the items. There may be other service providers too. Direct marketing projects may involve mail houses, letter shops and data services. Display and point of purchase projects might require distribution services and specialized logistics and warehousing. And the list goes on. If an organization relies on any outside services for any steps before the project goes into production, there are even more opportunities for crucial information to change hands. Is there an advertising or public relations agency involved? Are there any freelance designers, writers or researchers? What about photographers, cinematographers, audio producers and their models and talent?

Every single outside person or organization that is part of your marketing supply chain is a point of interaction and communication for files, data and other information in any number of formats. Even if your organization is lucky enough to have its own internal digital asset management completely streamlined and organized; the chances of these third parties being in complete compliance with your standards is very slim. If you organization is like many, and your digital asset management isn’t quite up to textbook example standards, you have even more to consider. Are your branding and creative assets on the same network or server as legal documentation? Is financial, accounting and purchasing information inside of an enterprise-level system where it can’t be easily output in a generic format? Are team members given the opportunity to keep files “locally” on their own computers? Who has access to what data and information? When you start thinking about all of this it suddenly makes sense why, even in our highly-connected digital world, days can be lost tracking down all of the information for any given marketing communication project. It also makes sense why digital asset management is a link in any marketing supply chain that is worth strengthening.

Another Strike for the One-Size-Fits-All Approach

The chaos of managing the information that makes marketing material projects tick is nothing foreign to us. We’ve been helping organizations manage their own marketing supply chain projects since the not-so-good old days when physical files were still in the mix, Macs didn’t play nicely with PCs, transferring large files required technology that seemed to be known only to NASA, and big storage media was measured in megabytes. We realized linking all of the data and information flowing through a marketing or graphic communication project was a key to its success. Of course this area is yet another case where the one-size-fits-all approach to marketing supply chain project management comes up short.

Taking a step back and looking at all of the files, data and other information that flows between the different roles and processes in any marketing supply chain; it becomes clear that not everything is going to mesh. Even instituting a high-powered, dedicated, enterprise-level digital asset management system won’t address files kept with outside partners (ex. ad agency, law firm, vendors) in the marketing supply chain. Efforts to simplify digital asset management by requiring strict uniformity in the form, and format, of files inevitably become problematic when a project must go beyond or outside the capabilities of the requirement to be successful.

Much as it has already been established that organizations are better served by project management solutions that adapt to the nuances of their marketing supply chains; the same holds true for digital asset management. Rather than shoehorning all of the unique digital assets related to their marketing supply chains into a mold; organizations are better served by a solution capable working with them in their natural state. Chances are each digital asset has been created and made accessible the way it has for a reason. The problems occur when dissimilar files are mixed together and sent to different users away from their native environments. It makes much more sense to have the solution for managing projects in the marketing supply chain adapt to the files and processes comprise it than the other way around. If there is an impact on the assets themselves, or the processes they originate from, the digital asset management link of your marketing supply chain isn’t truly being strengthened and your organization is missing out on an extremely worthy opportunity.

Join us for the next installment of our ongoing series when we begin exploring and defining some of the many roles that contribute to the marketing supply chain.