Digital asset management isn’t a new concept, but it is emerging as a growth area in enterprise IT, with Forrester Research predicting that 23 per cent of firms it questioned intend to invest in DAM now. Similarly, research carried out by eMedia found that 43 per cent of respondents are looking at implementing DAM systems (with another 52 per cent looking at ways in which they can improve existing DAM processes).
The biggest driver is the amount of digital assets with which most organisations, large or small, have to contend: marketing files, videos, social media, web content and so on. In today’s fast-moving world, access to the right content as quickly as possible is imperative, yet the variety of formats deployed by creators and users can make tracking of digital assets impossible without the right processes in place. DAM systems aim to solve that challenge. Plus, the whole topic of digital assets has become more important to more stakeholders, not just the marketing team: IT, legal, purchasing and so on all rightly have a view.
So what are the essential things you need to consider when thinking about DAM? I’ve listed my top five tips to navigate you towards achieving end results that will impress the CEO, the CMO, the CTO and even the CFO.
1. Be Clear Why You Need DAM
Be clear on what the DAM needs to do. One of the biggest drivers for DAM is ensuring that everyone has simple, transparent access to the latest version of a digital asset and automatically ‘retiring’ out-of-date information to help prevent issues such as using the wrong file and reducing the amount of time that people spend trying to find content or unnecessarily re-creating something that already exists. A DAM can go a long way towards ensuring that everyone is ‘on message’ and presenting the brand message consistently.
A DAM might just be for ‘finished’ content, or can incorporate approval processes to help identify bottlenecks and speed up delivery. DAM can also help protect rights management and intellectual property, ensuring that rights and other information always ‘travel’ with the asset, thus reducing the risk of using something that might be out-of-licence or preventing misuse of the company’s own IP.
2. Choose The Right Blend Of Tech & Support
DAM systems are available both ‘on premise’ and as cloud-based solutions; there is a role for both, but the latter becoming increasingly popular. The impact of cloud-based DAM on existing IT infrastructures is minimal, implementation is fast and does not create a massive workload for the IT department. Cloud-based DAM systems are also bringing the technology within the reach of a far wider range of organisations.
Regardless of technology model, it is really important to ensure that there is proper hand-holding from the vendor throughout the implementation process, right through to encouraging user adoption. DAM should be simple to use, but it is not like using a word processing programme: it needs a proper introduction and users will need on-going support from a committed provider.
3. Implement DAM In Stages
As a general rule, it is usually better to work closely with one department or function, work with them intensely to really road-test the system in practice and then start rolling out to other employees progressively. A DAM system also needs to fit into the organisation’s culture and that means getting input from a wide variety of stakeholders – IT, marketing, HR, legal, purchasing – from day one. Establish a regular communications and feedback loop, so that prospective users within the organisation can see how well DAM is hopefully working in other departments, encouraging them to be positively pre-disposed towards the system and thinking about how it will benefit them in the future.
4. Build Global, Think Local
While a DAM system is a great way of keeping a wide variety of digital content on track and centralised, it must take into account the needs of local users. There is a delicate balance to be struck between controlling content – for instance, ensuring brand values are consistent – but also giving users the flexibility they need.
For instance, the artwork for an advertising campaign will probably need to be translated into the local language, or page dimensions altered, and take into account other changes around local legislation or industry compliance requirements. If users do not have this flexibility, there is a real risk they will create their own materials, defeating the object of a DAM system. Similarly, the system has to be very easy to use, with a highly intuitive user interface that does not require users to spend lots of time learning to drive the system. Once again, if it is not easy, they simply will not use the DAM system and find other ways to achieve their aims.
5. Flexibility Is Everything
A good DAM system should accommodate the workflows of different users. For instance, the workflow of the InDesign or Photoshop user is different from the librarian’s, whose workflow is different from the marketing team or HR department. Also, while it can be tempting to re-invent workflows when introducing a new DAM system, adoption is likely to be smoother if the DAM works around existing ones. DAM is also something that can in theory touch on so many other areas, so ensuring clean and simple integration with other systems, for instance CRM, is usually an important consideration, as is the need to manage lots of different file types.
Digital asset management has huge potential to simplify the management, creation, distribution and access to a vast array of the kind of content which organisations have to deal with these days, particularly in our increasingly ‘always on’ world where speed is of the essence and there is no room for error. But like any enterprise IT investment, it is important to be clear on what the system is expected to do and select a system that it fits within the company culture. That might include the ability to scale, to be flexible to accommodate lots of different users, the opportunity to localise according to different country needs, include approval processes and rights management, as well as providing a robust archive. Above all, a system has to be seen by users as something that is a help not a hindrance and which will make a tangible difference to their working lives.