Let’s start with a loaded question: is it possible to agree on a single definition for Media Asset Management (MAM) in 2016? I am pretty sure some of you are smiling and might remember this article from the Dalet Academy, where Bruce Devlin received as many definitions as the number of persons surveyed! While all vendors more or less agree on the main goal of a MAM – to allow media professionals to make more and better programs with fewer costs involved – the way that this translates into MAM functions change over time, because technology is continually shifting both the realm of possibility and the cost equation.
MAM has seen an evolutionary transformation in the last decade. Not so much in terms of cataloging and tracking but rather in “what” it needs to track and manage. This evolution stemmed from a time where you had one metadata set to one media asset. But, as multi-platform delivery became a reality, we entered into a new phase, where MAM platforms must manage “rich” objects and advanced asset relationships. While orchestration of processes such as media tracking and monitoring is part of what MAM does, the core role of a MAM system should still be exactly what it says – to manage media assets (where an asset is defined as an item owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments or legacies).
Let’s take a step back and review how the MAM concept evolved over time. Almost a year ago, in February 2015, I published a comprehensive article on the evolution of media asset data models in MAM systems and I came up with four ages/eras of the MAM:
- The “Dark Ages of MAM,” when our operations were almost exclusively tape-based, and there was no real MAM system.
- Then, the “Stone Age” debuted with the introduction of file-based workflows, allowing the development of the first proper MAM systems, i.e., a digital catalog to organize and track your media assets.
- More recently, things got a bit more complex in the “Iron Age.” We no longer had a single file attached to a metadata record. You needed multiple versions of that media asset, in multiple formats; let’s say one version for proxy viewing, and a few different versions for archiving, distribution to FTP or websites, etc.
- And then again, as time went by, things became even more advanced, and we reached what I would call the “Industrial Age.” The asset was not just a single media file anymore; it became a combination of many individual building blocks, with a master video track, individual audio tracks for multiple languages, caption or subtitle files, and even secondary video files and still images.
So here we are: the “Industrial Age”! The advanced data models that I described allow us to automate production and delivery workflows in an efficient way, by building media production factories for delivering standardized multilingual, multiplatform content packages.
An asset is more than just one media file but a bundle with various versions derived from it
In order to deliver on the promise of the Industrial Age, one needs the tools to efficiently run the factory. This means that a modern MAM system is now expected to enable some key additional aspects:
- Support an agile business infrastructure that can evolve easily, both in terms of supported platforms and integrations
- Optimize workflows by managing the combination of automated tasks and user operations
A final key change in MAM is the advent of visibility through orchestration and monitoring. With orchestration methodologies such as Business Process Modeling (BPM), organizations have the ability to sequence system processes (move, transform, analyze, etc.) alongside human tasks, providing advanced reporting and detailed analytics on the effectiveness of the designed workflows.
The Future: Nowhere and Everywhere
As the term “evolution” would imply, this “Industrial Age” is just another phase in the progression of MAM platforms, which are only going to become more advanced and more complex in the future. The next challenge for MAM platforms (or more accurately, the engineers who develop them) will be to include in their data model all the new requirements and paradigms of social media platforms and semantic technologies. The MAM data model will need to be aware not only of what’s happening inside the media factory but also of everything happening in the whole wide world of the semantic web.
In the end, the best MAM installations are and will always be the ones where the MAM is almost invisible to the users. Having a consistent user experience for the staff who log in and perform their jobs from wherever they happen to be on whatever device they are using provides enormous business benefits. If the in-house MAM was identified as a “thing” that needed to be used for certain tasks, staff may ask, “Which bit of the new system is the MAM?” When the answer is: “The whole experience,” then the installation can be deemed a success.
Another important aspect is that MAM systems, which will be the core of content preparation and distribution chain, will need to provide business visibility and data to expose measurable business benefits. As we explained in this blog post, providing the data and the framework will be a key part of enabling broadcasters and media companies to sustain their operations.
Finally, the ability for a MAM system to be flexible and make use of virtual infrastructure and cloud platforms is important for business flexibility and agility. The MAM system will need to be agnostic and allow the broadcasters to make their own smart choices on their infrastructure strategies and adapt to their own business constraints.
The biggest challenge is not the technology!
Enterprise MAM provides all the touch points between media assets and the people who help realize the value of those assets. Empowering those users through change management to understand, buy in, and use the MAM is critical. Imagine, as a user, how disruptive jumping from an old Nokia 3210 to the latest iPhone would be. With phones, you’re using the device to perform the same “task” of mobile communication – but there are many more ways to achieve that task as well as tighter integrations with functions like calendars and cameras. While extremely beneficial, such an adjustment requires significant change management before, during and after the roll-out of the software and integration itself. As you can see, the biggest challenge is not on the technology side, but rather on how to adapt the MAM technology to the environment.
MAM is about enabling workflow efficiency by orchestrating diverse tasks. As such, it has two points that it needs to deal with: humans and 3rd party systems.
- Humans: Implementing a new MAM solution is often linked to improving workflows, changing some roles and ways of working – but getting buy-in from the users is key to the success of the project. Having a flexible and configurable MAM system, and an experienced team to adapt and deploy it, will reap huge benefits to manage the human aspect of the deployment.
- Integration with 3rd-parties: Integrations with 3rd parties can be the most challenging part of a MAM deployment. Managing integrations (design, specification, implementations, testing, deployment and upgrades) needs to be handled using Project Management best practices.
As you can see, the biggest challenges are not on the technology side, but rather on how to adapt the MAM technology to the environment (people and systems in place). In order to be successful, you need to apply proper project methodology as well as have the proper flexibility and maturity in the MAM system being deployed.