"who are you," written in sand
It's easy to be seduced by the bells and whistles of a shiny new software solution, but how do you know it's the one for you? PHOTO: Mayr

Who believes in love at first sight?  

It’s easy to fall for a pretty face — but will the relationship stand the test of time?

Nobody knows at the outset, of course, but then again we go through this every time we invest in new software (what, you thought I was talking about something else?).

Happily Ever After?

It’s true though, isn’t it? Software can be pretty seductive at first sight. But that's no guarantee that things will still be all wine-and-roses a bit further down the track.

Perhaps because we don’t ask the right questions at the outset.

We may not qualify for the job of full-on agony aunt here, but we can certainly help you ask some of the right questions when you’re speaking with digital asset management (DAM) system vendors.

5 Questions to Ask Before Saying 'Yes'

Here we go with the top five:

1. Can I configure the system to my needs now — and in the future?

A DAM system may look right for you and your users today, but will it still be right in a couple of years’ time? Almost certainly not. Businesses change, and brands, processes and people change too.

As you grow into your DAM platform you’ll want to change or create new folder structures, site colors, user groups, metadata schemas and so on. So it’s imperative that your DAM system can change with you and, most importantly, be changed by you ­— unless you want the expense of paying the vendor to do it.

Look for a platform that allows you, the system admin, to make these changes. And look for a vendor who is dependable and ready to advise and train you in how to optimize the system yourself, thus avoiding further costs.

2. How flexible is the underlying architecture? Can you structure my platform based on my needs, business processes or marketing objectives?

Every business will use a DAM system in its own unique way. And yet some DAM platforms are so locked down that every client has to use the platform in the same way and with the same layout. That might feel OK initially, but as you add more and different types of users and you find that navigation structures, numbers of folders or the search functionality can’t be changed, the limitations will very soon start to kick in. So avoid one-size-fits-all solutions.

Also ask whether, if configuring the underlying software structure is possible, if you can still upgrade the platform. Some vendors offer flexibility by means of custom development that actually makes upgrades difficult. So get reassurance that the architecture is built to allow for flexible, upgradable set-up options so you will always be on the latest software version.

3. Can you show me how the platform will scale with my needs?

As your business or use of DAM grows, you’ll need to be sure your platform can scale up appropriately in two ways.

  1. Long-term growth: Initially you may not have many users or any great volume of assets, but you’re sure to have many more in the future. Does your vendor’s DAM have the hosting infrastructure and storage to cope as you add these? Make sure the search function remains fast even with tens of thousands of assets in the system and that the UI remains responsive when there are hundreds of simultaneous users.
  2. Spikes in everyday activity: The platform must be able to cope with spikes in activity and still maintain good performance. For instance, a thousand high-res images might be uploaded one day and 100 HD videos the next. The day after you may be sharing a press release that generates 10,000 fairly simultaneous downloads.

    Ask to see how your platform would handle these peaks and troughs. Ideally your system will automatically bring more servers online to deal with spikes in activity as soon as it gets too busy. Are downloads just as quick when there are hundreds of simultaneous users? And are user interface and download speeds satisfactory for end-users in distant countries?

4. What marketing platforms does your DAM platform integrate with and how do they work?

The DAM platform is fast becoming the content hub of the marketing ecosystem, so it’s vital that a DAM system plugs into other marketing and business platforms. That way marketing can share approved, brand-compliant images and content automatically and the connected platforms can function in a unified, real-time way to facilitate the customer journey.

For example an integration with WordPress should make any images pre-approved for web in the brand management platform available automatically in WordPress, or to the web team themselves. Your team should only work with one master artwork, which is then pulled across in the right format and size for each connected channel.

5. Can I meet the people behind the product?

The success of an enterprise technology product always relies heavily on the supporting relationship the client enjoys with the vendor — from scoping and specification of specific needs to on-brand styling of the DAM platform, as well as project management, training and ongoing support.

Don’t be shy about asking to meet the people beyond the sales team before you buy. There’s so much you can learn about your potential vendor and the software solution they propose by meeting them and assessing not only their expertise, but the chemistry between your team and theirs.

We can’t guarantee a love match between you and your vendor, but we can promise that if you get the fundamentals right at the beginning, you’ve got a much better chance of having a long and fruitful relationship.