February 2, 2018

Welcome to the World of Hybrid Digital Asset Management

Written by
Martin Wilson

Can hybrid Digital Asset Management (DAM) solutions fill the gap between off-the-shelf and bespoke?

Any organization of significant size needs to purchase new software at some point. It might be for the purpose of replacing an old application that can’t keep up with new demands. Perhaps the organization is branching into brave new fields, and requires software to support it. It is highly likely that when undertaking a needs analysis, one of the first questions to be asked will be: ‘should we get bespoke software built, or buy something off-the-shelf?’

Both options have their pros and cons.



Type of software





Low cost

High cost


Low maintenance

High maintenance


Can be instant

Months sometimes years


Lots – more than you need

Only the features you need

User experience (UX)

Might be impaired by feature bloat

Likely to be better as designed for you

Ongoing development

Limited by market demand

In line with your needs

There is a plain appeal to the generalized package that off-the-shelf software provides. It’s comparatively inexpensive, easy to maintain, readily available and you can be up and running in days. However because it is designed with many customers in mind it might be frustrating to use and not meet all your current and future requirements. This is where bespoke software can excel, as it is designed to suits your existing and future needs.

Also Read: Event Horizon: Enterprise Software Trends in 2018

How do you choose?

The dilemma of whether to go for a bespoke or off-the-shelf solution presents particular difficulty for organizations that are looking for Digital Asset Management (DAM) software. DAM applications are now so fully-featured that the development of a bespoke tool is likely to be incredibly expensive. This maturity of the DAM market means that almost all organizations will look to buy an off-the-shelf product. The drawback of this, however, is that the workflows of individual organizations cannot easily be catered to. In some companies, different departments have different workflows, and each of these may have to adapt to the software individually. Large global organizations are especially vulnerable to this problem. They have many different teams, each with varied requirements, meaning that a one-size-fits all DAM solution is unlikely to work across the whole enterprise.

Leading DAM vendors have identified this as an issue. For this reason, the process of buying a modern DAM application is likely to take longer than the purchase of other business software, like a customer relationship management or accounting software. For example, it is likely to be much more involved than simply selecting and then signing up to a SaaS application. The idea that you can just start using a product and then switch to another if it isn’t suitable is more problematic in DAM, as there is often a lot of upfront time investment required. Importing millions of digital assets and their metadata is just one example.

Buying a DAM application will often require speaking to technically-minded sales consultants, who will ideally be capable of understanding your requirements, so they can best form a solution to meet them.

Some DAM vendors can meet requirement needs by offering a highly configurable product, but the nature of configurable software means that these have their own set of problems. The more configurable an application is, the more complex it is likely to be. As a consequence, the UX usually suffers, and the application’s code maintenance is more difficult than with other options. Whilst it is possible to improve the UX by allowing access only to relevant features and content, configurable DAM applications are not able to provide a fundamentally different UX for different users and use cases. It is unlikely to be able to thoroughly meet the needs of different departments in any given organization. Generic front-ends, designed for generic use-cases, can be time-consuming to use. What is really needed are front-ends that are tailored to exactly support the business goals users have.

The hybrid solution

There is another option, with the promise of reaching the middle ground between off-the-shelf and bespoke software. That solution is a hybrid, providing the affordability and immediate availability (for some parts of the solution) of an off-the-shelf product, with the custom-built components (particularly focusing on the front-ends) of a bespoke option.

Describing something as the ‘best of both worlds’ is usually be met with ‘too good to be true’ scepticism, but advances in technology and software engineering mean that effective hybrid systems are now entirely possible. JavaScript front ends can be customized and configured to meet specific requirements, so they support existing workflows and pre-built web services can provide generic functionality out-of-the-box.

Forward-thinking DAM vendors provide adaptable platforms, which enable them to meet the needs of clients that have simpler and more generic needs and also larger clients with niche requirements. These are likely to be mostly large global enterprises. These platforms can provide a good answer to the problem of which type of software to purchase, by providing the functionality of a bespoke solution with cost and availability closer to off-the-shelf options. For most large organizations they provide an excellent choice, as instead of changing your workflows to meet the needs of your DAM application, they can quickly change to meet yours.

Martin Wilson is the founder of Asset Bank, a leading Digital Asset Management solution. He specializes in applying lean principles to software development, and in leadership that avoids the traditional top-down structure, in favor of high-performing, agile teams.

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