I dropped my daughter off last weekend for her first overnight summer camp in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia. We stopped at her cabin during our tour of the camp, and she decided to stay behind with her counselor while we finished the tour. When we returned, her counselor informed us she was building a dam in the nearby stream. She was knee deep in the stream with a bunch of other little girls, lifting heavy rocks to stack across to make wading pools.As they built the foundation for the dam, the water continued to rise until they had a deep pool of water to cool off in.

Watching their progress made me think about how to approach building a DAM. What’s the process to deliver a successful DAM project? Much like the little girls in the stream attempting to stack rocks to create wading pools, a DAM project consists of many building blocks to create a successful project.

Here are 10 constructive ideas for building a successful DAM project:

1. Build a Team

Who should be on your team?Identify the key stakeholders for the project. Identify people who will benefit from a DAM project, such as artists, archivists, marketing team members and managers. I like to find that person who is the loudest in the crowd -- you know the one -- and ask him to partner on the project.

You need to get people excited about the project and include them in the process. That will make it easier to get everyone onboard. Don’t forget to include the IT teams from the start. You will need their support to successfully deliver the DAM project on-premises or in the cloud. Finally, find someone in accounting / procurement to help you negotiate the terms of your contract and secure the financing for the project. That person will be able to help you navigate the financial policies and procedures.

2.Define the DAM Vision: How big? What will it do?

Establishing the project vision and defining the business goals are fundamental building block to a successful DAM project. Look for ways to maximize your ROI. Are there ways to increase productivity, reduce costs and increase revenue?

This is where having a strong team comes in. Your team members will identify how the DAM will help them do their job better and identify their needs. Create user stories for the project and test your assumptions to make sure this is a justifiable project. Don’t be afraid to realign your project goals based on stakeholder feedback. Identifying a clear solution strategy will ensure project success.

Is this a simple archive project? Do you need to develop workflows for ingesting content, transforming assets, delivering content to one or many destinations? Do you need a way to automatically publish or syndicate the content? Will there be a need to migrate assets from an old system or multiple systems? Do you need to integrate with other systems?

Create a process flow diagram that clearly defines the life of a file. This document should include as much detail as possible about all the inputs, transformations and output. The more detail, the better.

3.Be A Cheerleader: Do Back Flips and Get Everyone Excited

Promote and educate everyone about the importance of the DAM project. DO NOT over-promise. Get people involved early and keep them engaged. Listen to all ideas -- no idea is too far fetched. Having everyone on the team contribute during the conceptual phase of the project provides inclusion. They are now part of and invested in the project.

4.What’s the DAM Inventory Look Like?

Perform a thorough content inventory to identify all content sources. Look at your current inventory to see what type of assets will be ingested into the new DAM and what metadata is available or needed. If the existing assets are being migrated from an older DAM, export the metadata and analyze it. This is a great opportunity to identify ways to normalize the old metadata and correct typos as part of the migration process. If you have old design files, this is a great opportunity to convert the assets into the latest version, which will extend the usefulness of these assets.Understanding what types of assets may also help determine if they should be stored on-premises or in the cloud.

Learning Opportunities

5.Make a Migration Plan

Develop a content migration strategy based on the assessment of each content repository to determine the best approach for automatically extracting, transforming and loading (ETL) data into the new DAM. Analyze the database schemas to determine appropriate field mapping of data and develop the appropriate tools to ensure proper migration of the content. If possible, leverage migration tools provided by the selected DAM vendor. Consider migrating in phases by migrating the highest priority content first.

6.Lay Down the Law

Establish well-defined governance policies and procedures for the DAM. Create policies to define what assets will be ingested into the DAM system, when and where they will be stored. Establish a corporate-wide, standardized taxonomy that will be used for all assets. Establish a policy defining what metadata is required for what assets. Establish a clearly defined naming conventions policy. Create rules addressing how to handle old assets. Do you want to purge the assets or archive them into long-term storage?Develop a policy that defines roles and responsibilities for users, such as who can view, edit, download and deliver assets, including which assets and where.

7.Keep it Safe

Security, security, security! Work closely with your security team to secure your data from an architecture and infrastructure perspective and establish policies for use of the system. This includes defining system controlled roles and responsibilities that align with your governance policies. Log, track and monitor activity.

8.Automation Helps

Automated asset workflow should be created by understanding the goals of the project, the needs of your stakeholder and the requirements for asset management. This could include everything from auto tagging assets upon ingestion to transformation upon delivery to various outputs, such as a CMS.Establish standard selector menus for metadata fields.

9.Maintain What You Build

Make sure to hire a good DAM manager to maintain the DAM. DAM building does not end when the project is launched. The DAM project is never really finished. It is work in progress, and it is the DAM manager’s responsibility to make continuous improvements in order to maximize the ROI of the project.

Continue to look for new and more efficient ways to leverage your assets by fine tuning the search results, building new and more complex workflow to automate processes. Leverage other data sources to help improve your search results by predicting what the users are looking for. Consider using trending reports to help boost one result over another, look at what people previously searched for and what they actually downloaded. This is where truly understanding your content and user behaviors will allow you to create new and better tools for your users.

Look for creative ways to boost and bias search results. Think about syndicating your assets by building custom pages, galleries and feeds.

10. Watch Your Toes!

Just like the girls at camp lifting the heavy rocks in the stream to build a DAM, your project team will have big building blocks to lift. Don’t drop any of the pieces and make sure they're set securely in place. Watch your toes, and you too will be relaxing in a cool pool after you successfully build your new DAM.