photos pinned on a board
PHOTO: Soragrit Wongsa

“And you may ask yourself, Well ... how did I get here?”  — from “Once in a Lifetime,” by David Byrne of Talking Heads

Why do we collect, keep and preserve our memories of the past?

To shape a narrative, to assert an interpretation, to evoke memory and reaction, to create meaning and to share that with others — in other words, to make a history. We keep records in order to share the value of the past, and that involves both the tacit and explicit knowledge in our workplace, our companies, organizations and institutions as well the longer-term view of that record, the history in and of itself.

Digital asset management (DAM) is all about access to those records. We organize in order to discover.

Digital Asset Management Is ...

A Program

Digital asset management is a programmatic approach to managing media content through its life cycle, from creation through usage, distribution, analysis and archiving.

A Platform

DAM software provides single source of truth and a centralized management platform to store, share and distribute media assets aided by workflow tools and integrations with other tools.

An Investment

Guided central management of media opens up opportunities for future content distribution channels, provides a live picture of media production and encourages collaboration across business units.

Digital asset management is very much an investment in the future because it is all about access to content. Content is critical to business operations; it needs to be managed at all points of a digital life cycle, from the beginning to the end. Trust and certainty that data is accurate and usable is critical. Leveraging meaningful metadata in contextualizing, categorizing and accounting for data provides the best chance for that data to deliver a return on investment. The digital experience for users will be defined by their ability to identify, discover and experience the rich legacy of an organization’s brand story.

Related Article: Climbing to DAM Success, One Step at a Time

Where Is the DAM Value?

A digital asset management system provides value to businesses because it does the following:

  • Avoids misuse of assets and encourages re-use.
  • Facilitates discovery of assets across business units, supporting collaboration.
  • Provides insights into the volume and type of usage of existing media to help assign value and reduce costs from rework.
  • Lays the foundation for integration with other platforms.
  • Facilitates connection of assets with rights management programs to ensure proper usage of assets.

I believe that one of the hardest things to think about is what we leave behind when we are gone. And it’s not always about being gone forever; it’s also about when employees leave companies, or when they go on vacation or take a leave of absence.

There is so much information, structured and unstructured, that can be lost, or perhaps it is documented but it’s on someone’s desktop and in a DAM system. Documentation is your friend, and metadata enables documentation — it’s one of the best things you can do for your content and for your DAM program.

Timeliness and completeness are key to digital asset management, and that’s all made possible by metadata. Make sure your DAM system acknowledges the workflow and the preservation needs for your assets. 

And your approach to digital asset management should keep asset audits in mind. Think carefully about the appraisal and selection process, and about what you have and what you might need to keep based on fiduciary, cultural, legal and/or historical qualifications.

Related Article: DAM Expands Its Reach in the Enterprise

The Loss of History

Let’s take some time now to focus on some of the factors that can lead to the loss of institutional knowledge.

  • Staff turnover. People come and go, often making very little attempt to curate a culture of documentation. We need content stewards at all levels of the organization to consider workflow, documentation and more. A strong culture in content stewardship will go a long way to improving how you manage your information from day to day and with a nod to preserving the past for the future.
  • Data, data, data. Organizations today have a lot of data, and it is hard to keep track of it all. But we must recognize that data is a big deal. Data is in everything that we do, and we must treat it well and with responsibility. Great content isn’t really great unless it can be found, consumed and shared. For content owners, marketing technologists and all those who manage content, the opportunity lies in understanding the value of content and how it can empower digital operations from creation to discovery to distribution.
  • Distribution of knowledge. I can’t say this strongly enough: “Sharing is caring.” With that in mind, let’s acknowledge that there is a lot of data distributed all over our organizations, and let’s all be sure to take the time to organize our content so that is accessible to others and thereby help them in their daily workflows and routines.

DAM can be a tool to aid in the preservation of institutional memory, helping to codify knowledge and preserve important company information and data. This allows organizations to avoid repeating the same old mistakes and keeps them from re-inventing the wheel, re-creating the same content or forgetting important knowledge and lessons learned.

Related Article: Digital Asset Management Follows These Enduring Truths

Preserve the Past With an Eye Toward the Future

How might we define a better DAM experience for the future?

To start, ask yourself this question: “What if?” Try to come up with ideas about how to create a better future state. And then ask, “How could we?” Figure out how to make your favorite ideas come to reality.

Design begins with setting a strategic intention, looking ahead with the view from behind. There may well be sound reasons for identifying, organizing and centralizing your brand assets in one location for digital preservation of some kind, and that reason could involve a short-, mid- or long-term vision.

Whatever your reason and whatever your vision, DAM is the foundational element for your content strategy for the future as you consider preserving the past, because it’s where the content is. DAM is the right thing to do for your content and your brand. When everything is connected, the story will be written, and you will know what you have done.