Digital Asset Management: Lessons from the Field #3 – See Your Future. Be Your Future. Make it!


I love the speech in Caddyshack when Ty Webb gives Danny Noonan, his young protégé, advice about the force that holds all things in the universe together, and that all you have to do is get in touch with that force and ‘be the ball.’ I never thought this would come in useful when it comes to best practices for digital asset management, but it’s pretty good advice – see your future in order to be your future, to make it happen. It constantly surprises me how many organizations do not plan how they intend to leverage DAM throughout their organization before they decide to implement it. “We know we need a DAM!” “We have to do this!” “If we can get the DAM implemented, everything else will fall into place!” It’s never that straightforward or simple. How do you know where you are going to go with DAM without a roadmap to the destination?

  There are a number of factors to consider that should naturally stem directly from a thorough current state analysis of your assets repositories and related data, as well as tools, technologies, and processes already in place. It may not be necessary to describe or visualize in detail every possible component of the future state for your organization, but the more comprehensive you can be the better outcomes your organization will experience. Here are a number of the important areas to include:

  • Asset Types – Define every type of asset desired in your future repository, including types that may not reside there now. This is especially important when it comes to source files. Will you include all .PSD and .INDD files? Will they be zipped with all the relevant linked images and fonts for ease of updating assets for things like packaging and advertising? Will you store video files, and will they include source? (Most don’t store video source, BTW.) Be sure to anticipate the DAM repository memory that will be needed for every asset type. (A good rule of thumb – if source files are stored in your DAM, they may exceed 80% of your total memory. Do the math!)

  • Taxonomies, Metadata and Asset Annotation – Keep what you know is working well from your current structure, and define what should exist for the future. You may not catch everything, but if you know, for example, that your naming standards are out-of-date, shore them up as part of future state modeling, or document this as a necessary step prior to asset import. One recent project I worked on had well-established naming conventions for titles of assets, but they were overkill for a DAM as they contained multiple TLAs (three-letter acronyms) in titles that could easily be covered with DAM metadata tagging. Sometimes you might need to simplify an area instead of making it more complex and hard for users to adopt. Also consider in your model what metadata tags are mandatory, essential for every asset. These are the fields to document as required to be added during asset clean-up on assets where they do not already exist.

  • Search – Determine and document what types of search capabilities are needed to assist users. It may be a combination of filters and open-ended text, or it may extend to custom front-end interfaces for different groups of users depending on requirements.

  • Sharing, Commenting, and Collections – Document what type of capabilities and functionality are needed to make effective use of the assets in your future repository. Failing to visualize how your DAM will help your organization make the best use of its assets over time may not seem essential, but it will pay dividends down the road.

  • Functional Requirements – This is where most organizations start and then they jump right to an RFP for vendor evaluation, or they simply select one that seems about right based on only a few factors. Start with a diagram of your entire future state marketing technology ecosystem, showing where the DAM fits in to the overall structure, and every tool or other platform with which it needs to be integrated. This will inform vendor selection greatly as it will highlight where ease of integration will be important and where custom effort may be needed. This area includes requirements for accessibility of the DAM (via mobile devices, for example, including full responsiveness and scalability), for user permissions (what should specific user groups be able to do and be restricted from doing?), what is needed for compliance and asset rights management (do not underestimate these requirements if you wish to avoid legal challenges!), analytics and reporting requirements, and how brand and other corporate standards will be integrated, monitored, and maintained. Along with the rest of the areas highlighted in this lesson, this area is your core ‘shopping list’ for selecting the right DAM platform. Don’t leave anything out, and get help creating functional requirements if you do not have the qualified personnel.

  • Business Processes and Staffing Requirements – What new processes will the DAM bring with it? Which should it bring? What processes are being refined because of the DAM? Who will perform these, and what are the implications for current and future staffing? Remember that DAM is a discipline and a practice, not a one-time implementation – this mantra must be ingrained within the organization. Document what you will need to be successful, including new workflows, hand-offs, syndications, etc., and the personnel or roles needed. Leaving that out of your overall requirements is planning to fail.

  One last area to mention for future state modeling. Try not to think about your DAM as only a cost center. Give consideration to how it can be a source of revenue or other new areas of opportunity for the organization, or serve as the enabler for those. I recall my first DAM consulting project. Our team uncovered a treasure trove of assets that begged to be monetized. I believe the execution of that discovery went a long way towards paying for initial implementation, and continues to pay strong dividends today.

  You may not find golden gems of assets waiting to generate new revenue streams for your organization but, remember, streams flow in lots of directions. If you thoroughly conduct and document the future state for your DAM and all that it will impact, you should find streams of cost reduction, potential new revenue, and overall operational efficiency. 

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