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The key benefits of automated workflows in a digital asset management system


In today’s fast-paced, content-everywhere world, broadcasters and content owners are increasingly turning to automated workflows in the asset management system, for increased efficiency and productivity. Automation at every level, depends upon accurate metadata, collected and curated, to ensure the consistent application of workflows.

The first generation of asset management systems were simply databases, but today, that is certainly not the case. Digital asset management continues to change dramatically to  address the huge shifts in the industry. As we move from storing content on tapes and film cans and put it onto servers and archives, there is a greater need to know where everything is and how it can be monitised.

Descriptive metadata has made searching for content more powerful. By adding technical metadata, searching capabilities have been enhanced to know, for example, whether content can be accessed straight away or if it needs processing.

The key in the development of the asset management layer is the realisation that metadata can be used not just to inform, but to control. Software-defined workflows that query the metadata, make decisions on what it found, and update the metadata when a process is completed are a result of technology platforms that are more connected.

In a software-defined architecture, these decisions can be made automatically, without the need for operator intervention. It allows very sophisticated workflows to be created, for instance, querying the rights management system to discover which platforms a piece of content can be published to, with perhaps a priority system to push content through the transcoding process to get popular content online faster.

Automated workflows are all about intelligently reacting to, and enriching metadata, and it makes sense to put the workflows where you have the metadata – in the asset management system.

The significance of software-defined workflows is that they allow broadcasters and content owners to pre-define what is required in terms of outputs, letting the underlying technology do what is necessary to achieve it.

Broadcasters and content companies should be looking to automated workflows to improve operational productivity, through automating repetitive tasks, releasing staff to perform more creative and value-added work.

Systems today are more sophisticated in order to support these workflows. The metadata schema has to be extremely flexible, in order to be certain that all the information has been captured and enriched. The modern way of developing rich functionality is to break the totality down into small elements. We talk in terms of micro-services and containers. It’s now a powerful development tool and essential if you want to be truly cloud native.

We can now implement very sophisticated functionality that is:

  • simpler to maintain
  • more resilient
  • faster in operation

In practice, micro-services work by breaking the full functionality of a computer system down into a series of small, clearly-defined tasks, such as transcoding or auto QC. The data is passed from one micro-service to another in a standardised form, so that each micro-service is complete and self-contained, which means the whole platform becomes highly resilient.

It is a two-layer system in the classic Service-oriented architecture (SOA) format of commands, in a standardised language, going around a media message bus, sometimes called an enterprise service bus (ESB), calling up functionality as required by the business.

Service oriented architecture needs a common language.  In the past, FIMS (Framework for Interoperability of Media Services) was a remarkable achievement in opening up the concept of SOA and standardised messaging buses. Today, we have moved to a more IT industrywide standard – The Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP), which is an open standard for passing business messages between applications or organisations. The Mediaflex-UMS platform comprises an AMQP compliant messaging bus to which a wide range of additional services, such as transcoding, file move, auto QC, publish, etc. can be added.

As broadcast infrastructures are increasingly becoming software-defined architectures running on COTS hardware, we should harness the benefit of robust and readily-scaled protocols like AMQP.

Scalable, flexible and cost-effective systems protect precious assets and make it easy to maximise their use and valuable revenue potential. With the capability of tight integration into an enterprise resource planning system, the asset management should be regarded as a key commercial tool for today’s broadcasters and media owners to monetise their assets and achieve desirable ROI.