You can't afford to ignore the issue of Digital Asset Management, or DAM. It's more than a fun acronym. Solid DAM can make your business more efficient. Poor DAM can result in waste, confusion and many lost opportunities.

What Is DAM?

Digital Asset Management refers to how you take in, handle and distribute everything you have in digital form, from digital images to word processing documents to medical records. Issues this topic addresses include:

  • How do you receive your digital assets?
  • How you review and annotate your digital assets?
  • Who catalogs your digital assets and how?
  • Where do you store your digital assets?
  • How do you access your digital assets?
  • How do you distribute your digital assets?

Why Should You Care?

Many companies today still have their digital assets strewn across employee laptops and desktops, many not even regularly backed up. Not only does this situation ensure that at any given time, there are assets you can't find because someone may be on vacation, but it also ensures that work is probably being duplicated across the company without different groups even realizing it.

DAM makes for:

  • Finding your digital assets faster
  • Formalized retrieval process(es)
  • Better awareness of what assets you have
  • Less confusion and overload with file formats
  • Ability to automate around digital assets on a wider scale
  • Less loss of organizational knowledge when people leave
  • Not completely losing vital assets when someone's laptop is stolen

DAM Basics

In Digital Asset Management, when done right, there is a place where you store the "best" versions of your assets (highest resolution for photos and video, master copies of marketing documents and so on). These documents are referred to as essences.

Each essence has metadata such as:

  • Description of the asset
  • How the asset is encoded or packaged
  • Where the asset came from
  • Who owns the asset
  • Who is allowed to access the asset
  • Who created the asset
  • Who is responsible or maintaining the asset


Ideally each asset has an essence, or best version, and metadata is used to provide context about the asset.

In larger organizations, essences have lower resolution proxy copies that are accessed when the full essences aren't needed.

DAM Standards

Standards already exist for those who don't want to waste their time reinventing wheels. The central standard in this space is Dublin Core, which was created for describing cross-domain information resources through XML, RDF and RDFa.

On top of Dublin Core exist a host of specialized metadata standards, listed through the Dublin Core Metadata Registry (DCMI). Here you'll find extensions such as the Open Source Metadata Framework (OMF). Then others are layered on top of these, further refining and specializing the vocabularies.

More on DAM

If you want to know more about Digital Asset Management, there's many resources out there to help:

Major DAM vendors include many Enterprise Content Management vendors. For some examples, check out: