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Getting started with DAM (digital asset management)

Adoption of digital asset management (DAM) seems to be growing. Last year, Forrester predicted that around a quarter of firms it surveyed were investing in DAM systems, which provide centralised repositories with transparent information about digital assets (documents, web content, images, and video), from creation through to approval, distribution, and archiving.

Much of this is being driven by the need for organisations to manage ever-increasing volumes of increasingly ‘rich’ assets, such as images and video. Other factors include the trend towards an ‘always-on’ world, where digital assets may need to be accessible 24/7, plus more organisations are bringing many day-to-day communications and marketing tasks back in-house.

The choice available can make selecting a DAM system confusing and there is far more involved than just selecting the right technology. Making sure that the right processes and change management are in place can make or break successful implementation and subsequent adoption of a DAM solution.

Without wishing to state the obvious, having a thorough understanding of what the DAM needs to do, how it fits in with other systems, and exactly what users are expecting the DAM to deliver is fundamentally important. This is no small issue as many DAM users are in non-technical roles, for example marketing teams, who can be resistant to new technology at the best of times. While there are a variety of ‘off the shelf’ DAM solutions around, there is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to DAM and every organisation’s requirements and expectations differ.

So where to start? Here are a few ‘best practice’ steps:

Refresh your knowledge

DAM has been around in one form or another for over two decades, but it’s evolved a great deal in the past couple of years. For example, the requirement for integration with other business critical systems has increased and the industry has responded to this and continues to innovate and expand core functionality and integration via APIs.

Even people who are already familiar with DAM will benefit from attending events, speaking to peers, joining one of the special interest groups on LinkedIn, or reading analyst reports and specialist publications.

Define DAM needs

The size of company and the nature of its business will, to some extent, help to determine the parameters of a DAM solution, but here’s more food for thought: What problems do I want to solve by implementing a DAM, what types of assets do my colleagues work with on a regular basis, how do we currently manage rich media assets, who will most benefit from a DAM and what budget are we willing to commit to solving these issues?

Cloud, on-premise, or hybrid?

On-premise benefits include the provision of full control over data, as well as which version or features to install, but the onus is on the organisation to manage back-ups and security. Cloud is more cost-effective, faster and easier to implement, with system updates carried out remotely by the supplier. The key is to work with a provider who does not just ‘fit and forget’, but instead, is able to provide on-going support. The third way is a hybrid solution, ideal for organisations who need cloud and on-premise options. Just make sure to choose a supplier who understands both worlds.

Build a solid business case

Like any other proposal to the board, the business case should cover predicted return-on-investment, whether in financial benefits (money saved) or productivity advantages (less time wasted).

Identify and engage the right stakeholders to present your research to and gain approval for moving forward with this project. Stakeholders for a DAM project might include: marketing, IT, creative services, finance, legal, and purchasing. These are not just departments typically using digital assets, but also ones who are involved in determining whether or not these assets deliver value.

Implement wisely

Some organisations can ‘swallow’ DAM adoption in one go, but in most cases, an incremental process is best and ideally, starting with one or two departments where benefits will be rapid and easy to recognise. This will help to create internal ambassadors for the DAM and encourage adoption in other parts of the organisation.

A successful DAM has a lot to offer today’s organisations, who increasingly demand ‘rich’ digital assets to communicate both internally and externally. For sure, there is quite a bit of work involved in the implementation, but the potential benefits – more responsiveness, better productivity, reduced risk and costs – can (and should) far outweigh the effort.

Hassan Kotob is Chairman and CEO of North Plains Systems