Research: Automation Is the Future for Digital Asset Management, While Remote Access and Security Are Priorities for 2021

72% of respondents revealed that number of digital assets managed has grown
48% see automation as a top priority in management of assets for 2021
75% unsure of timescales to adopt AI

FotoWare, a provider of Digital Asset Management (DAM) solutions, unveils the results of its research into the status and future of digital asset management to mark its 25-year anniversary.

FotoWare is a digital asset management solution for companies and individuals to manage, store and share large amounts of digital assets, such as images, videos, and documents.

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Key findings: the future of digital asset management

The research started by establishing the kind of digital assets respondents were managing. With the three main types being images (95%), Adobe CC files, such as AI and PSD (34%) and videos (30%).

72% of respondents revealed that the number of digital assets managed have grown over the past 12 months.

The key findings are that those managing digital assets, including marketing teams, picture desks, departmental custodians in travel and tourism, museums and heritage, retail, charity, and media and entertainment have many consistent concerns, revealed to be:

  • Organizing digital assets (55%) – respondents cited the ability to organise and manage digital assets as the major concern. With many managing thousands of assets (the highest figure mentioned was 170,000), there is a need for a system to process and access them quickly, especially as the amount of assets increases.
  • Metadata governance (48%) – without strong metadata governance, many assets are hard to find and in danger of remaining unused, while others are published multiple times, especially among large collections. Respondents want to speed up the creation of metadata, as writing captions and keywords for all images extremely easily and quickly speeds up asset selection. Respondents also explained that many assets have small variations and good metadata is essential in finding the right version.
  • Rights management and licensing (31%) – GDPR and copyright issues are a top concern. Respondents are wary that all assets have the correct user rights’ information to protect their organisations and to be able to follow up on any theft of assets, on social media for instance. With only 66% of respondents using image rights the remaining respondents are leaving themselves open to prosecution. Rights are managed through a variety of methods, e.g. credits and expiry dates, GDPR information, transfer of IPTC copyrights into metadata fields, and documentation of purchased rights.
  • Ability to share digital assets with multiple stakeholders (31%) – respondents were also concerned about the availability of assets, citing that all relevant departments, employees and external stakeholders should have easy access. A respondent from a major university stated that “with several photographers, we need one place to store the pictures for sharing and marketing.”

Alongside concerns, FotoWare also explored the main priorities for the next 12 months, and workflow automation, remote management and security topped the list:

  • Workflow automation (48%) – the top priority is speeding up and simplifying the management of assets. With a growing influx of assets from different sources, respondents cite the need for workflows to automate repetitive tasks. For respondents working within diverse businesses with different users, easy to understand workflows are key, and enable users to standardise entries and save valuable time that can be used for other tasks. “Metadata automated processes are welcome to speed up image management”, said one user responsible for archiving historical images.
  • Enabling teams to access digital assets remotely (35%) – many organisations  have changed their way of working since COVID-19 and this is reflected in priorities for 2020/2021. Having remote access to files is crucial when working from home and for disparate teams.
  • Securing digital assets (35%) – allied to remote working, respondents see the need for strong security. 70% of respondents are actively protecting digital assets and fully aware of the importance of fundamental security measures, detailing strategies including mirrored backups, encryption access management, network segmentation, two-factor authentication and VPN management. Indeed 64% of respondents use Single Sign on (SSO). When selecting a DAM system, users are likely to upweight relevant experience in high-security applications (such as government and law enforcement asset management).

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75% unsure of timescales for AI implementation

Surprisingly, while only 6% of respondents are already using AI to manage digital assets, all respondents plan to implement it. However, 75% are not sure when they would start to use it, while only 9% plan to introduce it in the next two years.

AI, ML (machine learning) and automations (workflows) using metadata will be important to the future of their business. However, what is seen today with AI is not able to serve, for example, the museums and heritage sector’s needs. Even though an AI can recognize an object in an image, it cannot do abstract interpretations such as in the case of art.

4% of respondents using AI are using it to recognise people, while other uses include recognising objects in images, signs and registering numbers, redacting faces, voice search, and dynamic content creation.

A respondent in the museums and heritage sector stated a wish for the future is that “AI will be developed to recognize motifs of an abstract appearance as our collection is largely art. Being able to search for a motif will be of great help to those who are not art experts.”

The survey polled those involved in managing digital assets, covering key customers in archives/museums, travel/tourism, media, charity, entertainment and retail sectors. These sectors have seen extensive change over the last 25 years, moving from traditional, highly manual archive processes to fully digitised, searchable systems, encountering common pain points along the way. These include the trials of internal Change Management and training on new systems, consistently managing multiple user groups across disparate locations, and ensuring that rights management is baked into the resulting processes and systems.

Anne Gretland, FotoWare CEO said: “It’s fascinating to see how the digital asset world has changed in 25 years since FotoWare started, while some key challenges have remained the same. The core need for having one place to organise all types of files to save time has not changed much, however new security regulations (such as GDPR) have certainly had an impact on innovation. Moreover, new types of technology such as automations via metadata have transformed our work day to be even more efficient.

“It is clear that the flexibility of cloud-based systems, especially those that can offer benefits of automated metadata, is key for any organisation working with media files today and will certainly have a huge impact in the future.”

Respondents were also asked about DAM use and those using FotoWare’s DAM solutions cited benefits of ease of sharing content, speeding up marketing campaigns, and higher ROI.

More than 250,000 users and 4,000 customers in a wide range of industries worldwide use FotoWare including NHST Media Group, Lindex, The White House Historical Association, The Financial Times, Marks & Spencer, Metropolitan Police, Axel Springer Verlag, The Economist, Australian Defence Force and Thomson Reuters.

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