While your vendor may offer a simple way to migrate old assets into the new DAM, they'll rarely spend the time to see how your organization can get the most value out of old assets. So before you jump in, take the time to consider the opportunities a content migration can offer.

Content Migration Benefits

Some of the benefits include:

  • Establishing clearly defined IT Governance procedures and policies for asset usage
  • Developing standardized metadata and taxonomy
  • Normalization and enhancement existing asset metadata
  • Transforming old asset types to conform to current standards

Establish IT Governance Procedures + Policies for Asset Usage

A new DAM provides the perfect opportunity to review, update and establish IT Governance procedures and policies for asset usage. The IT Governance procedures and policies should be integrated into the DAM system through automation and workflow to help users easily adhere to the policies.A well-established IT Governance procedures and policies will provide:

  • Procedures and automation for leveraging standardized taxonomy
  • Standards to minimize/eliminate unnecessary custom metadata fields that may not be carried over between systems.
  • IT Governance procedures and policies that define allowable digital asset usage
  • Single, consistent process for business critical data
  • Standardized processes that can be controlled through system driven business rules

Standardized Metadata and Taxonomy

This should go without saying, but establishing and adhering to a standardized metadata and taxonomy allow users to quickly find and retrieve assets. Metadata and taxonomy are the backbone for asset management. Through grouping, relating and faceting assets, the DAM search engine leverages better search strategies and helps users understand how to search for assets.

Normalization and enhancement existing asset metadata

Assets may need to be migrated from multiple systems and many have been subjected to different metadata standards over the years. This is an opportunity to clean up these assets to make them more valuable and increase your return on investment (ROI). Normalizing and enhancing the existing assets will make them easier to find and repurpose.

Transforming old asset types to conform to current standards

We'll go into further detail below, but implementing a new DAM provides the perfect opportunity to re-assess the assets you have and transform the old file formats into the latest supported version. This is a good routine to do every five years or so to ensure the files remain usable in the future. Once file formats get too far out of date they may become difficult to convert. These very old files may get to the point where it does not make financial sense to convert.

Pre-Migration Planning

Don’t underestimate how long a content migration phase will take! Take the time needed to create a migration plan. The best approach is to use an agile methodology to incrementally extract, transform and load assets into the new DAM.

Before creating a content migration plan, there needs to be a deep understanding of all assets to be migrated.

The best place to start is by conducting a comprehensive content inventory. This inventory must include all assets that will be migrated into the new DAM or might be considered for migration at some point in the future.

The content inventory must include:

  • Asset types
  • Metadata
  • Metadata schemas (fields)
  • Asset usage (frequency of downloads, value, etc.)
  • Total size and number of assets
  • Access Control Lists (ACL) / Security / Risks
  • Digital Rights Management (DRM)

You may have other data points that you want or need to collect.

Asset Types

During the content inventory process, the discovery of old unsupported or end-of-life asset types is likely. For example, during one content migration project, old Macromedia Freehand (Adobe Systems, acquired Macromedia on December 3, 2005) files were discovered. The old graphic files still held value, but not as Freehand files. This provided an opportunity to transform these files into the latest version of Adobe Illustrator. During the same project, old Illustrator files were also and transformed to the latest version of Illustrator.


How well does the existing metadata conform to the standardized metadata and taxonomy policies and procedures? Most of the time, the analysis of existing metadata will uncover non-conforming metadata, which is often the result of typos or lack of tools, such as pull down menus or type ahead fields, to help users maintain metadata standards. In most cases non-conforming metadata can be mapped to the standardized metadata and taxonomy. In the case of typos, this metadata can be corrected with a few SQL scripts. In both cases, this will standardize metadata and taxonomy, and increase the asset value by making these assets findable. The old saying is true “If you can't find it, you can’t use it.”

Look for ways to globally enhance metadata by looking for themes. For example if you have assets that were all tied to a single project there may be opportunities to globally apply metadata to all these assets. This is especially useful for assets that were stored on shared or personal drives with minimal metadata. Assignment numbers, client accounts and campaigns are also good themes that could have a basic set of global metadata applied.

Metadata schemas

What are the existing metadata fields and how well do they map to the new DAM’s metadata schemas? Many old DAM systems were highly customized and didn’t necessarily follow any of the current metadata data standards, such as the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) or Picture Licensing Universal System (PLUS) Coalition.The recommendation is to closely adhere to one of the well-established metadata schema and standards. This will allow for easier migration in the future.

Understanding the difference between the metadata schemas will provide the information needed to map the existing metadata to the new metadata schema and eliminate unnecessary or unwanted fields.

Learning Opportunities

Asset usage

Understanding the value of assets can be assessed by determining frequency of downloads and how often assets are searched to help prioritize data to be migrated. Assets sitting on DVDs may hold great value but without the ability to search and retrieve these assets they hold little current value. The same holds true for assets stored on shared or personal hard drives. These assets may prove to be highly valued once they have proper metadata attached and are included in the new DAM, but the migration of this content would have a lower priority.

Total size and number of assets

The total size and number of assets will provide requirements needed for sizing the database and help the technical architect design the most efficient configuration. When looking at total size and number of assets make sure to identify where the assets will live. For example will all photos go into a single library / catalog or will there be multiple libraries?

Access Control Lists (ACL) / Security / Risks

This speaks to the IT Governance procedures and policies for asset usage. Who can view, download and modify what assets? How will the system control access to these assets? There may be a need to add metadata to the assets to restrict assets or the access might be controlled based on the individual library / catalog.This provides:

  • Information security through granular access control to asset permissions
  • Better control of digital asset classification and usage
  • An audit trail of asset usage
  • Secure and known location of digital assets
  • Reduces possibility of lost assets due to employee turnover

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Understanding how digital rights are managed and tracked may require integration to third-party systems or additional metadata fields. There is also likely a need to establish workflows to prevent assets from being used before rights have been approved or where releases have expired. Digital rights releases include: model release, property release, location release, product release, rights usage terms and others.

This step provides a standardized, streamlined process for rights tracking and rights clearance, ensuring assets are properly cleared and auditable. It also helps mitigate risk of publishing non-cleared or improperly cleared assets.

Create A Migration Plan

Identify the stakeholders and key team members that will participate in the content migration and quality assurance testing. Take an agile approach based on two week sprints. The sprints will include developing, scripting and automating for the Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) processes. Start each migration with a small content migration trial that shows the ETL process is yielding high quality results.

Prioritize content to be migrated based on asset value and ease of migration. Save the lower value and difficult assets for later. This allows users to start using the DAM while other assets are being worked on.

Provide adequate time for QA and manual metadata enhancement. Identify those assets that will need manual intervention to make them useful. Decision may be made for these assets are no longer of value and could be purged or moved into deep storage.

A Well Executed Content Migration Plan

Taking the time to do the proper research and understanding the assets and their metadata will provide many opportunities for maximizing asset value. A well executed plan will breath new life to old assets and deliver value that was one lost to the black abyss of the old DAM, maximizing your ROI. 

Title image by US Fish and Wildlife Services (Flickr) via a CC BY 2.0 license