December 28, 2001, 12:00 AM

When it comes to managing digital images, the web creates the problem—then solves it

(Page 3 of 3)

San Francisco maternity and baby gear retailer eStyle gets similar service out of its MediaBin system. It stores images for catalog, ad campaign and web site use in digital form on its server; and MediaBin server technology can extract them in whatever format needed. The technology and automated solution have not only saved hours, says a company spokesman, but also saved money on repeat photos at $1,000 a pop by allowing a single stored digital image in a high enough resolution to be reformatted for other uses. Re-purposing the images also has saved on labor by automating the task of re-sizing photos for other needs.

A Delphi Group study last year shows that on average across a company, workers may spend the equivalent of one day a week looking for information they need to do their job-that’s across all departments, and all offline or web-based forms in which the information is stored. But Tubb says that number goes as high as 50% of their time for workers in information-intensive jobs, a group including graphics and art directors who manage and use digital images.

Requests will come in for images in various sizes and formats, requiring image manipulation that administrative staff may not be equipped to do. “Some of the company’s higher-paid graphics people end up doing it,” says Tubb. “Manually re-sizing and converting JPEG files for thumbnails takes up time they could be using to work the magic they’re uniquely qualified to do.”

Where’s the beef?

The measurable benefits of adding a digital asset management system or other technology products that automate parts of the image management process will vary, adds Tubb. “It’s very situation-specific, but its not unrealistic for companies to expect a 30% to 75% improvement in productivity by implementing an image management system,” she says.

But at what cost? It depends on how much image management you want. Equilibrium’s MediaRich platform, which focuses on the high-volume dynamic generation of images, starts at about $35,000 per server, says Bigoness. Companies may start out with two to three servers, which with installation costs, may get them in the door at under $100,000. MediaBin’s system, similarly scaled, is also similarly priced. Comprehensive, infrastructure-heavy digital asset management systems may cost considerably more, depending on what capacities are purchased.

So is the real value of digital asset management systems and automated imaging technology in cost savings, labor savings, or the ability to improve the customer’s experience on a web site? It’s all three, Tubb says, but for companies just now eyeing an investment, it’s initially easier to quantify time and cost savings.

“If I were at a company trying to get budget for a system, I’d justify it in terms of the productivity and dollar cost savings,” she says. “It’s harder to make the correlation between improving capabilities and the top line, though the presumption is that when you do that, your site will be more successful. I’d try to set up some kind of tracking so that later, I could come back and say not only did this save cost, but it generated extra money as well.”

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