man working on a laptop in front of a large calendar
PHOTO: Nathan Dumlao

“Effective management is discipline, carrying it out” — Stephen Covey

One of the most common questions I receive is how to manage a digital asset management system. This details everything from how to create the business case, to securing executive buy-in and financial support, to building the right team, deployment, roadmap and more. There is much to do, and it takes time. Many foundational layers will clamor for your attention as you prepare the roadmap of work. 

More importantly, most of these structures need to be reviewed and discussed well before any technology has been purchased, let alone considered.

Technology should never lead the decision-making process for DAM demands — the business sets the foundation for the strategy first. Technology is incredibly important, and the vendor review and selection process are a critical step in all this, but that step must follow the business requirements and digital strategy. You need to know what you want to do: the purpose. 

Once you know what you want to do, then everything else is spent working towards that goal because you know what you want to achieve. Never lose sight of that goal.

Related Article: Closing the DAM Expectation Gap

The Secret to Successful DAM

“Management is defense. Get those out of the way, because the team ultimately needs to run it in that direction and execute well” — Marissa Mayer

With multiple touch points along an asset’s lifecycle, potentially spanning multiple versions and incidents of reuse, a DAM system can help teams across an organization, from IT staff to all users (past and present), make coordinated and educated decisions about the strategic use of their digital assets. The unique and distinguishing aspect of DAM is that it can serve as the single source of truth for an organization, preventing unauthorized distribution or confusion about versions. Instead of sitting on shared drives or network locations where there is no search, no security and no metadata, a DAM becomes a valuable tool for an organization looking to manage its content and brand more effectively. A DAM ensures that the right asset is being used by the right person(s) at the right time for the right reasons.

Creative professionals and all those working in marketing, communications, operations and other areas require content as a cost of remaining competitive and delivering what the consumer wants, when and where they want it. Content is only valuable if it can be found, consumed, and shared by your users. DAM is a human endeavor and librarians are the secret to a successful DAM.

Librarians are the only professional group dedicated to the science and application of managing and classifying recorded information in society. They are focused on the user, their needs and their experience with information. Librarians manage and classify information in order to provide access; this is as much a part of metadata as it is search as it is the user experience itself. If you have a DAM, you will need a librarian to help you manage that DAM.

Related Article: Library Science, Not Library Silence

DAM Is Not a Project

“Don’t try and do everything yourself because you can’t” — Anthea Turner

DAM is not a project because by definition, a project has a beginning and an end. DAM has no end. DAM is a program and goes on, matures, evolves and demands the people, the process and the technology to do so as well.

DAM involves not only the stewardship of digital assets — their everyday care and feeding, plus their long-term preservation — but also managing the people and activities that interact with those assets. It also contributes governance that instructs the people and activities around the assets. The opportunity for content owners, marketing technologists and all those managing content lies in understanding how assets are positioned at the center of digital operations from creation, to discovery, through distribution. DAM is a big deal and must be managed as such.

Related Article: DAM Expands Its Reach in the Enterprise

Keep the DAM Conversation Going

“Done is better than perfect” — Sheryl Sandberg

Building collaborative capabilities requires buy-in and participation from the top of the organization. And beyond the delivery of an effective ROI, active governance delivers innovation and sustained success by building collaborative opportunities and participation from all levels of the organization. You need to get the big names involved in the big decisions and keep them talking about DAM. Make this a regular, operational discussion (not just for project approval or yearly budget reviews). Get the DAM done by considering the following:

  1. What content problems do you need to solve? Ensure you know the business goals of your organization and how DAM may contribute to those goals. Consider the DAM but also consider other key components of the MarTech stack and the corporate ecosystem.
  2. Who is going to use the DAM, and for what? Consider your audience and their needs. This is especially true within a large marketing organization with multiple departments and possibly multiple interests. DAM may well be a significant financial investment so make sure you get it right.
  3. Where is your content and how is it being managed? Is your “digital house” clean, organized and ready to be discovered and used? Are you managing the rights of your content throughout your production and distribution channels?

Your organization’s goals may be to deploy a system that will shepherd assets through production and approval workflows, securely distribute assets to global recipients, manage assets through a complicated rights and compliance landscape, or eliminate file redundancies and increase asset monetization … or any combination of the above. Remember, technology always comes last. Determine where the assets are, how are they managed, what the DAM is for, who the DAM is for and why you need it.

Related Article: DAM Industry Desperately Needs a Makeover

Make DAM a Part of the Broader Ecosystem

“The question is not whether we are able to change but whether we are changing fast enough” — Angela Merkel

We see change everywhere: in people, the processes and the technology within which we operate in business. Change is good, for it helps drives awareness to anticipate the effects of what is coming. DAM is no stranger to this change. And while the future bodes well for managing digital assets, there needs to be a recognition that change is coming. DAM must be seen as more than just DAM, but as a critical component of the corporate ecosystem.

DAM must work within a transformational business strategy that involves the enterprise. Managing knowledge, rights, data, records, etc. brings different frameworks for managing content. DAM is strengthened when working as part of the whole ecosystem. By understanding and defining fundamental goals, and identifying information and content used by the organization, a foundation can generate revenue, increase efficiencies, drive new uses for content and meet new and emerging market opportunities. That’s how you manage DAM.