The first step of Digital Asset Management consciousness is realizing there’s a need. 

After that, the fun begins.

We covered some of the most common phases people go through in their DAM journey in The Stages Of Digital Asset Management Consciousness. But once a business gets beyond a basic appreciation of what DAM is and why it might need to become acquainted with it, a whole new set of questions arise. 

User adoption and change management in DAM tend to get glossed over in discussions about this subject. But it is arguably the most important factor in the whole exercise and, if addressed properly, can result in a far higher ROI. 

'We Need to Get Everyone to Use This Thing'

While the complexity of implementing DAM systems gets underestimated, the scope of that problem can be more easily defined than user adoption and usually involves intense bursts of activity that come and go.  

User adoption is an ongoing challenge that never ends. You must take it into account at the very start of your DAM journey as it informs numerous other aspects that help to define a successful strategy. 

User adoption is so difficult in part because it involves changing the mindset of all the staff and other stakeholders. It requires many different skills: marketing and communications, education/training, human resources and a certain amount of technological understanding as well.

Ideally a dedicated employee with a job title like "Digital Asset Manager" (or similar) directs this process. This might be an unaffordable luxury in organizations with limited budgets, but it still needs to be carried by someone (in addition to their existing work).

You will navigate a number of phases when devising user adoption strategies, including:

  • User profiling
  • Awareness programmes
  • User training
  • Asset ingestion policies
  • Businesses processes 
  • Integration and interoperability
  • User feedback
  • Auditing and user activity profiling

We will cover the first four phases today and the rest in a follow up tomorrow. If you're going through this process, I would advise critically assessing my suggestions. Think through the potential implications that each point raises for your own specific case. You can never understand user adoption well enough: the change management plan itself is subject to change.

The Phases of User Adoption Strategy

User profiling

There are different classes of users of DAM solutions. Vendors who employ per-user pricing models often differentiate between "admin" and "normal" users. Those distinctions, however, are not normally granular enough to help with user profiling. This is a slightly more advanced example:

  • Occasional users: Retrieves common assets like logos, etc. less than twice per year
  • Light users: Searches more frequently, but not on a regular basis (e.g. once per month)
  • Regular users: Searches for assets at least once per week and are more likely to use selection and management tools (a.k.a. lightboxes, favourites, etc.)
  • Heavy users: Searches for assets at least once per day and regard the DAM as one of their core tools to help them get work completed

This only addresses search and retrieval, there will be other activities (e.g., re-purposing) that might need either separate profiles or subdivisions, such as abstract organization charts.  

Some organizations base profiling models on a given user's business role rather than generic application-related tasks. That can be effective, but care is required to ensure that if the business changes its strategy, the systems can be adapted to suit. Where this technique helps is to understand why staff might wish to use the DAM, so thinking about it in those terms is a good idea, even if the final user profile model does not necessarily use the same method.

Another consideration for DAM user profiling is the level of usage across each group.  A mistake that is sometimes made is to use a simple calculation of the number of users in each profile category and then orientate around what seems to be the largest.  When measured across how much each uses the DAM (i.e. logs in, searches, downloads, uploads etc) you might find the distribution curve is a lot flatter, i.e., there are smaller quantities of regular and heavy users, but their usage accounts for a significant proportion of overall interactions with the DAM.  

If the system is over-simplistic and lacks important capabilities that heavier users require then they won't adopt it.  Conversely, if the DAM is purely a 'power user' tool then casual visitors will give up on it.  User profile models are the basis of your plan to address this.  As I will discuss later, there are also some potential integration opportunities which can help to circumnavigate these issues.

Awareness programs

People understand the purpose of awareness programs from a broad perspective, but the finer points and how to relate them to Digital Asset Management get lost in translation. As a result, the launch receives a lot of attention, but activity drops off afterwards, or occurs inconsistently, with long gaps between awareness follow-up events. 

A strong argument can be made to direct the initial launch towards the heavier users who will benefit most from it (and be more willing to contribute feedback), then incrementally introducing the system to less frequent users. This approach allows any technical faults to be resolved before broader release, and also ensures more assets will be available. 

Treat awareness programs like an internal marketing campaign, where you need to persuade staff of the benefits of DAM to convince them to invest valuable time into using it. As in marketing campaigns, users might need to be segmented according to the profile model described previously. While separate awareness programs for everyone might not be practical, you will have limited time to convince your colleagues, so keep presentations relevant and short.

Organizations employing more than a few hundred staff will have new employees arrive on a daily basis. Make sure these new personnel know about the DAM's existence and its benefits. Consider including an introduction to the DAM in induction training for some members of staff and formalize the process with your HR department.

User training

Awareness and training differ in that the former focuses on introducing the benefits of the DAM, while the latter is for those who want to or have to find out about the nuts and bolts of operating it to carry out a given task.

While everyone will require some educational materials on common operations (like searching, downloading, etc.) in my experience, if users need some form of training to grasp the system, adoption will be limited no matter what you do. People with average IT skills won't be willing to go through a lengthy learning process to use it for basic tasks, they'll expect the DAM to operate using familiar user interface conventions.  

Training materials become far more essential further up the complexity scale, for tasks such as asset cataloging, batch operations or user management. Sometimes DAM solution educational materials focus on simpler operations. But as we already noted, the majority of basic users expect to be able to turn up and find what they need without being shown how to do it. User experience must be intuitive in these cases as most people won't consult documentation (or watch video tutorials).  

So instead of spending a lot of time and money on sophisticated resources for basic users, divert more of the budget towards either optimizing the user interface or enhanced learning materials for those responsible for supplying assets. If your solution is not simple enough for basic tasks to be carried out without user training, change it so that that problem is dealt with first.

Training materials vary by type. More complex tasks require some in-depth training, such as via workshops or webinars if everyone can't be physically present. Provide documentation reference materials for heavier users. While staff working on tasks like asset cataloging may not use them immediately, they potentially will need them at obscure times like catching up with work over weekends, etc. In other words, webinars and videos shouldn't be the only sources of information.   

Make other documentation and training exercises available which can be quickly scanned to determine relevance. Base the range and types of materials around the user profiles identified earlier in the exercise (and incorporate any refinements which are discovered along the way).

Asset ingestion policies

A huge factor in determining whether DAM solutions get used or not is if they contain not only a decent quantity of assets, but ones that can be found and used.  Metadata and cataloguing activity will have the biggest impact on that objective. For this reason, the subject of who should have responsibility for asset ingestion can generate a lot of discussion and debate between stakeholders.  

If the asset ingestion process is centralized with a dedicated Digital Asset Manager, the quality of the metadata applied is generally higher, which can increase the likelihood of assets getting found and used. But if this individual is over-worked, a backlog of assets builds up which in turn reduces wider user adoption because the material is not available yet.  

There are methods to improve cataloguing efficiency and throughput (within the DAM solution itself or using third party tools) but these carry potential quality risks which still necessitate checking the recently ingested assets, i.e. they make the problem easier to deal with, rather than solving it.

To determine which model is best, analyze all of your current sources of assets, existing staff workload, whether assets are originated in-house or externally and how sophisticated your metadata model is (amongst various other factors that will be unique to your situation). The two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Hybrid methods where one person has an executive responsibility for digital assets but who are supported by colleagues with other roles too seems likely to become more prevalent as the most practical way to resolve the conflict between volume and quality.

Tune in tomorrow for the final four phases to create your user adoption strategy.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Emilien ETIENNE