Digital Asset Management Demonstrations Stink
A Digital Asset Management (DAM) professional recently shared the experiences he had with DAM vendor demos from three different solution providers. The names of the vendors are irrelevant because the fact is the experience was the same with each and every DAM vendor in question.

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The organization (their name is also irrelevant for this blog post because it applies to so many more organizations and industries who experience the same) was in the process of choosing its next DAM system. This particular organization already has a DAM implemented and in use. For a variety of reasons, it was time to move on to a better system and possibly a different vendor all together.

The DAM professional headed up the investigation into vendors, their particular offerings, what had changed in features, different options, evaluating the right fit and such since they purchased their first DAM just a few years ago.

This scenario is not a one-off experience, but actually happens quite often when an organization:

They short listed three DAM vendors to give online demos to different user group heads. Most group/department heads are not power users (common among many organizations where most decision makers are not the end users of the system itself). Refer to this earlier post for some points of reference to the different levels of DAM experience with DAM.

The vendors were told ahead of time that the people they will be giving the demo to were basic users. The only "C++" most of the audience knew was a grade they got in high school. The vendors were also told it would aid the demo greatly to show the ease of the user interface of their DAM system and that was the extent of the deep dive into the matrix of the design and structure of their DAM.

In addition, each vendor was supplied with the organization's same sample assets (Photos, PDFs, layout documents, etc.) to use for the DAM demos. This would help the audience relate to the system and understand these common asset types used in their organization. It also proves the DAM can:

  • Support the organization's file formats as-is (some vendors can not support certain file formats and they make every attempt to avoid the question.) Some proprietary file formats could be a challenge though.
  • Uploading assets to the DAM should not take a degree in Engineering. It should be easy to do for one or many assets -- demonstrate this.
  • Applying metadata to be associated to an asset should be easy with a DAM. Reading embedded metadata within the asset soon after upload should be easy as well. Doing this in bulk may also be needed.
  • Search for assets based on this metadata, among others. Not just upload one asset and find that to be the only asset in the DAM (That would not be very realistic.).
  • Preview these file formats as thumbnails or full resolution without downloading these from the DAM. A few DAM systems today will not support previewing PDFs. Yes, the ISO standard PDF is not supported by every DAM systems available even today. Talk about lack of evolution. You would think there would be pterodactyls circling around these vendors. Sadly, the only dinosaurs live in the vendor's Development group (if they have such a group). Or is it the refusal to spend development funds on such a common file type? If you are the client or prospect, ask to see your PDF previewed during the demo.
  • Downloading and distributing assets as needed should be easy to do.
  • Do all the basic functions most users need to. You can have a separate conversation with admins who will need to see and do far more.

While there are no guarantees, the easier it is for a non-technical audience to relate to their own assets, the more likely they will understand what they are being shown, what the DAM can do for them and help their workflow. A "solution" is supposed to solve a problem, not add 10 more. The easier it is to use and have the users do the same thing successfully, the easier the system will get buy-in and win user adoption.

In the end, each and every vendor failed 100% to take the advice given to them in keeping their demo “DAM 101” friendly or even to use the assets supplied. Instead, each demo showed off completely unrelated images, so the audience had difficulty relating.

What is a Canned Demo?

Unfortunately, this is far too common. The audience had what some people call a "canned demo" just as if you open canned food. What do you expect from a canned demo?

  • You know exactly what to expect from a can. Boredom. Yes, another meeting with questionable relevance and value.
  • Sales pitch assuming you believe everything said and shown.
  • Death by bullet points. 300 slides in 3 minutes. To be sure no one follows along.
  • Need major amounts of caffeine in order not to fall asleep or we may snore right through it. Yes, that engaging. In your dreams.
  • Screens of a cool, shiny interfaces with some photos shot recently with almost no relevant metadata. Not exactly a model example for using DAM. It does not matter how shiny nor cool it looks, if it does not actually work to search, find, use, reuse and re-purpose your digital assets.
  • Deliver nothing based on specifications sent since you are treated like everyone else before you. You are just DAM prospect #69,456 (and still counting the use of the same demo, even after a few acquisitions). The canned demo might as well have a number "served" on the opening slide. Open wide, a can of whatever is open. Too bad the contents are already a rotten waste of your time.
  • The audience or level of experience of the audience is not kept in mind in what is said nor what is shown. Would you do a deep dive into Javascript coding with a business (non-IT) executive sponsor? Would you try to demonstrate ROI and TCO to creatives who really only want to see a demo of the workflow with their sample assets sent a few minutes earlier? Would you skip all technical requirements requested by having a salesperson trying to "close the deal" while speaking to only IT folks? It does happen. Know who your audience is and realize what they care about (and what that audience does not care to see nor hear about). Don't waste time.
  • The demo may not even show a functioning interface, but rather screenshots so you can "just imagine it working." (Ask them to prove it works, live in front of you.)
  • Some potential clients are too oblivious/bored enough to say anything and that is what too many vendors try to demo to. Vendors too often demo and amplify confusion for this purpose. Little do they realize what is in store for users soon after they sign up.
  • The DAM has less than a hundred assets with a handful of file types, but none of the file types you use. Not so helpful.
  • An untailored presentation that was "approved" by that vendor well before they ever started talking with your organization. Why is that presentation untailored? Do they not know anything beyond the slides? Do they not care? Or both?
  • Vendors assume they have a basic understanding of ... say ... metadata and start talking about how it works with their solution. Most people have heard of the word metadata. They do not know what it actually is, how to use it, why it is important, why they should care nor how it may involve them. They may not even ask for clarification for a number of reasons (often starting with fear and embarrassment of asking questions of another industry term thrown around like candy). Do not assume potential users or even new users know what it means. Especially if it has not been made clear up front.
  • Vendors throw around fancy words without defining them all the time. Would a DAM compendium or glossary of terms with clear definitions sound like a good idea at this point? There is a start on such a DAM Glossary, but no up-to-date terms yet.
  • It is easier (and cheaper) for the vendors to give you the same regurgitated demo over and over again. And off they run to do it again to someone else. If they give the same demo enough times, someone will eventually believe what they say, which will justify giving the same demo again. Some call this progress while others call this laziness. You decide.
  • The vendor hopes you will fall in love at first sight, ready to just sign any contract so they can drop something in your lap, give you limited support without getting their hands dirty, leave it all up to you to figure out and run the other direction to repeat this vicious cycle with someone else.
  • If a client asks a question during a demo, they expect an answer. Preferably immediately or actually followed up shortly afterwards with a real answer. If a question is asked about security and no one has even one word to say about security, do you know what that says aside from a lack of security? Their silence screams "out of touch with the real world." Yes, security is a concern for organizations. If you can not put an organization at ease with a real, proven solution and examples to back it up, go back and do your homework. Those who give demos should talk with their Research and Development folks regularly. Not just before each new release.
  • Ever see a demo where you communicated with a person who works with the vendor before the demo and you thought they communicated with the other people who work with that same vendor to give you their fancy demo, but you come to find out internal communication was not their strength before, during or after the demo? If they don't listen to anything said now, imagine after the demo. After you sign the SLA, what will happen? You might be lucky if they can spell communication aside from continuing to have some of this two-way communication with you.

What you can do to avoid canned demos

Tell your vendors you do not want a canned demo in writing (email) before the call/visit/presentation. You could tell them "Please do not give us a canned demo. Instead show us the following." Then, fill in the blanks of what your organization needs to see and do. If they do not ask you any questions to learn more about your organization, what you do today, what is your workflow now and what your end goals are, you should expect a "canned demo."

Any vendor could ask you for an RFI or RFP which shows your organization knows what it  needs, wants and would find nice to have in a system. If an organization has not done its homework and defined what it needs, it should expect a canned demo. Tell them what the functional roles of the audience will be attending the demo. This should not be a secret.

If they still present a canned demo, you will know within the first few minutes after fluffy introductions. Stop them in their tracks and get your questions answered. You should know what your questions are before the demo begins. If you supplied the vendor with sample assets to use during the demo and they do not show them, stop them right there and then. Ask them to show your sample assets to be uploaded and used in their solution. Basic uploading, searching and downloading is not a customization. If they tell you it is, move on to another vendor.

If you are worried about ...

  • Being perceived as rude for interrupting, consider that if you asked to not have a canned demo and they wasted your time by disregarding what you asked for -- speak up and be heard. Start interrupting as often as necessary.
  • Feelings ... worry about your own feelings when you get a system that does not meet your needs nor fit your organization culture and growth. And then worry about how hard your job will now be.
  • Some audience members who have already made up their minds based on some bias, they may tune out demos. Ask to discuss expectations openly before, during and after the demo on what you need to hear and see. Be vocal, take notes and listen.
  • Getting a DAM system that works for your organization's needs -- you should if you are paying for it, using it or will hear about it from users.

Worry less. Ask your questions. Expect more answers.

Are you getting DAM demos meant for you or your audience? Let me know.

Title image courtesy of Tischenko Irina (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more of Henrik's DAM wisdom in What a Digital Asset Manager Needs to Know