“March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” Change fills the air during March. Though snow may still be on the ground, spring is just around the corner. For most organizations, corporate capital budgets have been approved or earmarked for the 2015 calendar year.

If you plan on implementing a new DAM in 2015, March is a great time to get started.

A Season's Worth of Homework

March is a perfect time to gather requirements for your DAM project and to get stakeholder buy-in.

Take a collaborative approach when tackling a large project such as a new DAM system. Work closely with stakeholders from a wide range of teams across the organization to identify the goals and problems the DAM system should solve.

Finding the right vendor is a challenging task. Don't take it lightly. With hundreds of vendors filling the market, just starting this process can be daunting.

You can find tips to help you get started in, DAM Shopping? Use These Criteria to Find the Right Vendor. It provides a good framework to establish the criteria needed to make your choice. Take time to fully understand your project goals and the key problems to be solved. Don’t be sold on features your organization may never use.

Spend some time building use cases and scenarios that address key problems. I developed the “Four Corners” approach to identifying use cases. Pick some real (and needed) scenarios that address the four extreme corners of the project vision.

These edge cases should transect a wide range of capabilities which the core capabilities will fall in the middle of. Vendors won't be able to provide everything within these use cases out of the box, but it provides a good sense of their overall capabilities and how they will address challenges.

Draft the Request For Proposal

By April you should have gathered enough information to start drafting the initial Request for Proposal (RFP). A well-written RFP document helps quickly narrow the field of vendors based on technical capabilities. Be sure to include the following in your RFP:

  1. Assets Types supported
  2. Technology Framework
  3. Type of delivery model (please refer to my Article titled Finding the Perfect Balance Between SaaS and In-House DAM) -- SAAS, Hybrid, In-House
  4. Terms and conditions dictated by your legal department such as indemnification, payment terms, default, escrow agreement for source code, etc.
  5. Service Level Agreement
  6. Expected project timeline
  7. Evaluation criteria

Review Proposals

By May, you should be reviewing proposals. Short-list your list to five to eight potential vendors. Plan your month of May wisely and take advantage of DAM conferences.

Vendor Speed Dating

Get to know your potential suitors during May and June. You're forming a long-term relationship / partnership with the DAM vendor, so get to know the vendor before rushing blindly in.

Even seasoned DAM professionals need to spend time keeping up to date on the latest DAM trends. One way is to attend DAM conferences, such as the Henry Stewart DAM Conference in New York City May 7-8. Attending conferences also provides an opportunity to meet directly with DAM vendors, in a speed dating scenario.

Now's the time to get demos, ask questions and get to know the teams. Short listed vendors will share more details about their technology roadmap and how they plan to address your project needs -- if they know they are on the short list.

Speak directly with the vendor’s product development team and senior management. Discuss the challenges the new DAM implementation should solve. Ask how they would solve your problems and have the team demonstrate the recommended solution.

It’s a great opportunity to have an open discussion and a deeper dive into the challenges your team faces. Ask how you as a client can influence their technology roadmap. Is there an advisory board or development forums that your team can participate in? Is there a point of contact (POC) on the product development team that will answer questions and take your feedback?

Education and Networking

Successful projects depend on education and buy in for a DAM implementation. Setting clear expectations, listening to team needs, participation in decision making and education will lead to higher adoption rates. DAM conferences also provide the opportunity to educate other members of the team. 

Educating the team should be part of the project kick-off. Conferences like DAMNY offer pre-conference tutorials which are a great opportunity to learn in a smaller setting. Conferences also have speakers on hand who offer lessons learned and best practices to ensure a successful DAM project.

And what would a conference be without networking? Other DAM professionals will be on hand who may have unpublished (good or bad) stories about the vendors on your short list. Ask attendees who their vendor is and their challenges and successes. What would they have done differently if they could do it all over again?

This type of information might be just what you need to include in the Service Level Agreement to ensure you don’t run into the same issues.

Other Sources of Information

Congratulations, you’re already taking the right steps by reading industry blogs and learning more about DAM!

Ask for vendor references and have open and honest conversations about the lessons learned. Don’t be afraid to tap into your social networks to speak with customs that the vendor didn’t use as one of their references.

Another source of information is The DAM Foundation, an all-volunteer not for profit organization of professionals working in the field of digital asset management to establish standards and best practice for digital asset management. The DAM Foundation offers a DAM certification course that covers a wide range of DAM topics from strategy to systems management -- a great place to expand your knowledge of DAM.

Time for Negotiations

It all comes down to timing. Account executives tend to be a bit more willing to negotiate their best deal near the close of a quarter or the end of their fiscal year, especially if they have not yet reached their sales projection for the period.

An RFP sent out in April provides three months to choose a vendor and negotiate your best deal by the end of June. Typically vendors are provided 30 days to respond to an RFP after it has been published. The project team will have 30 days to evaluate vendor proposals and narrow down the vendor field to a short list based on technical requirements. During this time schedule some in-house vendor demos to help the team narrow the field to the top two or three candidates.

March holds the promise for change. With a little bit of planning, the time spent in early March will start you on the path that will lead to successful new DAM Implementation in the summer. March may come in like a lion, but with a little hard work, good planning and stakeholder buy-in, it will go out like a lamb.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by  kifo