The question I hear most often from clients in all industries is how do I “succeed” with DAM -- how do I make it a successful system and provide real and meaningful benefits to the organization?

The short answer is that there is no “silver bullet” as to what success is. Success means many things to many people. In many ways, success is having the cognitive capacity to internalize what success may be, and then having the strength to achieve that success and applying that in all that you do. Success in DAM starts by defining what your customers and business want to do with digital assets and then creating the plan to achieve it. What DAM success is not is buying the software and hardware and then pushing the button; DAM is far more than that.

Know Your Assets, Know Your Business

“I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I must not fail to do the something that I can do.”
-- Helen Keller

You, and no one more than you, know your assets and what they can do for you. Never forget that. DAM encompasses the management tasks and technological functionality designed to enhance the inventory, control and distribution of your digital assets. In the majority of situations, digital assets include rich media such as photographs, videos, graphics, logos, marketing collateral. This is the time to perform a content audit to discover exactly what assets are there, how many there are, and how do there interact. For example:

  • Perform a Content Audit to inventory existing sources of content within your organization to document quantity of assets, their source, creators, users and destinations.This will also be the source for identifying systems of record for assets and/or metadata and to guide the later metadata content audit.
  • Map current-state workflow processes from creation, re-use or ingest to production and archive and identify processes that can be optimized with the DAM
  • Gather Use Cases from interviews with key participants in each department across the entire digital asset lifecycle for subsequent validation and DAM analysis

As long as change exists in your business, your DAM will change. Know your assets, know your content, set your strategy. It is never really “finished.” It’s important to be prepared for this and to ensure your solution is flexible and well governed.

The Definition of Success Is…

“The secret of achievement is to hold a picture of a successful outcome in the mind.” -- Henry David Thoreau

What is success? How do you define it? The notion of “success” does exist and the opportunity is there for us all to get better. But unless your definition of success is aligned to your specific environment, controls and strategic goals, then it cannot be considered accurate.

For some organizations, success may be defined as the ability to save money by reusing assets in digital workflows. For others, success may be defined as creating that single source of truth for the organization where all good creativity and inspiration may be started.

Every strategy needs to start with a foundation, a solid base upon which some form of structure rests and where meaning may be established. There are many stages in establishing a DAM program that deserve attention and preparedness for the roadmap of work to be done. More importantly, these are all stages to review
 and discuss well before any technology has been purchased, let alone considered.

Remember: humans run systems to best serve them, not the other way around.

Supporting Creative Workflows

“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” -- W. Edwards Deming

The key to good workflow is to understand the issues involved in identifying, capturing and ingesting assets within a DAM system and to make them accessible and available for retrieval. DAM may be understood as a workflow device to assist in the marketing operations that are critical to your organization’s needs.

Establishing a DAM will help to outline the workflow process of your department or organization and may offer ideas for it to become more efficient or to pursue new business. A mindset that says “Here is our process, automate it,” misses the opportunity to examine the integrity of the process and support future growth. Automating a flawed and cumbersome workflow can be disastrous -- the success of the DAM demands rigorous evaluation.

Learning Opportunities

In addition, documenting the workflow offers another opportunity to build better relationships with internal teams and partners. The result of this documentation serves as part of the foundation for a DAM solution and the people and processes connected along the way. To determine how a DAM will accommodate your project, it is important to think how and when data is created and modified in your projects, and then think how this data moves through the projects.

Selecting the Product

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” -- Henry Ford

Vendor selection is more than just kicking the tires. It’s getting in the car, filling it with gas, running it down the highway, opening it up and ensuring all the required parts are there from the beginning to the end!

Play before you pay, and ensure you have tested it the best that you can. Vendors expect it. And while you are at it, test-drive two DAMs instead of one, not only to determine which is the best match for you, but also to start the often-lengthy licensing negotiation as early as possible. Some capabilities of the DAM to start investigating early are:

  • Searching/Browsing assets
  • User interface
  • Unique IDs for tracking and monitoring
  • Metadata management and cataloging
  • Digital asset processing -- ingestion, creation and processing
  • Support for asset hierarchies and versioning
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Roles-based permissions
  • Data security
  • Customization opportunities
  • Documentation, training and user groups
  • Systems Integrations needed and availability of professional integration consultants

The path to success with DAM is known and can be achieved. It means driving strategic decisions organizationally and technically, and ultimately working with a vendor on technical implementation and beyond to devise more innovative uses for a DAM investment. Our goal in working together is to look forward and define a framework to build out the capabilities now that will allow your organization to mature over time and achieve sustainable success.

Engage with IT … have them be part of the process.

Eight Simple Steps for DAM Success

  1. Don’t over engineer the DAM: start small, learn, fine tune and then build out
  2. Content is no longer “the” only king. The customer is also worthy. If you have great content and no one can find it, the value of the content is diminished, so ensure you are building the right DAM for the right users
  3. Understand how your users/customers want to interact with information before designing your metadata and the user interface
  4. Develop an incremental, extensible process that identifies and enables users, and engages stakeholders with feedback loops, user testing and evaluations
  5. Accept that it won’t be perfect
  6. Make DAM fun: socialize it, evangelize it and make it interesting for your customers and for your organization.
  7. Implement great Governance
  8. Accept that it will never be “finished” … it’s a program, not a project!

Success is built one stage at a time, not altogether. So, too, is your digital strategy for DAM. DAM as a single source of truth in the organization helps quantify the value of digital assets, through their discovery, use and reuse in daily operations. And we know -- with certainty -- that the nature of DAM is to evolve.

Success is more than “flipping the switch” as the DAM goes live within the enterprise. Rigorous and regular analysis and metrics reporting will ensure that success can be measured on an ongoing basis. DAM success is not a one-time event, it is an ongoing process to be managed and matured over time with customer evaluations, reporting and metrics, and continuing to ask questions as to how to better use your digital assets. Now that’s success.

Title image by James Peragine (Shutterstock)