The Anatomy of a Failed DAM Project

Pitfalls Aplenty

You’re embarking on a new and exciting DAM project. This fact alone is admirable. To be even more successful, make sure you have a detailed plan: where to start, where you want to go and how to get there. One of the most crucial intersections in your DAM journey will be executive support and C-level buy-in. Your heads of departments, product lines, perhaps even the entire company will need to know why DAM is good for your company. What benefits and what ROI will it bring to the company?

Executive support means your project gets financial support, but it also means support throughout the process of organizational change. (And you will need a good plan for change management.) The issue of staffing will need to be solved with the upper echelons of execs. Will people lose jobs if you have the DAM in place? Will you need to hire more employees to make operations more efficient? Will you need to reorganize the employees you have, and provide training to accomplish new tasks successfully? Will you have to deal with unhappy employees who resist the technology and any changes that new DAM system will bring?

Understaffing the DAM project is one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen. With executive support, you should be able to avoid this tragic mistake by ensuring you have a chance to justify this additional expense and gain the resources you need to be successful.

It's also important to do your research well and make sure you start in the right place, with the right list of vendors to look at, with the right list of requirements and DAM desires. This is another critical point that can ruin your DAM project. Research the marketplace and figure out what kind of fish there is to fry. And what kind of fish is more to the liking of your organization.

Don't start with random vendor demos, responding to requests from marketing emails or vendor reps you’ve met at a conference.

Do You Have the Guts?

The “DAM guts” is the biggest chunk of any DAM project and thus the most prone to various mistakes and fiascoes. There are multiple parts that go into this:

  • Metadata management
  • Asset migration
  • Project staffing
  • Education and training
  • User adoption
  • Access and security
  • Customization and implementation

During this phase, pay attention to not only the technology, but the people involved: from internal stakeholders and users, to outside agencies, to consumers of your digital assets.

Technology alone will not solve your digital asset management issues. You cannot go as far as implementing the DAM system correctly if you do not have a good implementation partner. Even the most established DAM vendors often rely on their partner network (partially or exclusively). What you need to keep in mind is that most every vendor has partners that fall into different levels based on the variety of factors, including experience.

You will need to do your research to make sure you’re OK with the levels of expertise and experience this “bronze” (or “platinum”) partner has in this particular DAM system. If the partner implemented other DAM systems before, but not the one you’re interested in, you need to be vigilant -- they’re not all created equal, despite common technological foundations like Java or .NET. When choosing partners, make sure to do your homework and check references.

If you plan on refining and customizing the system with the help of your own IT department, make sure there’s an efficient knowledge transfer and training -- before the partner signs off and leaves the building.

Another point on internal staffing: make sure you have the people who will own the DAM. Maybe it’s your librarians, or dedicated DAM managers, or your marketing managers -- someone needs to be in charge and own the assets and pioneer and evangelize the new rules of the game. The main idea is to use your central repository for assets as efficiently as possible. And that means giving your metadata the needed TLC, establishing processes for workflows and governance, and training users on how to use the system.

This is but a small sample of common mistakes in DAM projects. There is much more -- of course -- that can go wrong. Share your lessons learned!

Title image by pyrogenic (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license