Advanced DAM

If you’re looking for advanced information on digital asset management (DAM), and are clear on why you need a professional system to manage your digital assets, you’ve come to the right place. If this doesn’t sound like you, feel free to visit Before You Dam and DAM Basics to help get you up to speed.

The Advanced DAM section shares topics and considerations that are important to the planning and implementation of your digital asset management system.

Here’s what you can expect to learn:

  • Key considerations for choosing a DAM system
  • The importance of workflow
  • Tips for structuring a digital asset management system
  • Considerations for implementing a DAM solution
  • How integrations can improve adoption and increase efficiency
  • Ideas on managing use guidelines and copyrights
  • Recommendations on assessing security

Digital asset management covers a wide range of activities and concepts. The learning curve is simplified as connections build on the DAM system adoption journey. For example, the work you did in assessing your needs during the Before you DAM stage will inform your workflow, and knowing what kinds of digital assets you have informs your DAM category structure.

Selecting a digital asset management system

When choosing a DAM system, it’s important to understand what kinds of digital assets you’ll be managing, as well as how they will be used. Knowing who is using what assets, and how these assets are being used, can help drive your list of requirements for a DAM system.

To follow are the core functions that anyone using a digital asset management system should understand:

  • Uploading and downloading digital assets
  • Searching the DAM system
  • Sharing or making assets available
  • Publishing digital assets directly to web or social media
  • Editing metadata and related information
  • Migrating assets from one system to another
  • Archiving expired or out-of-use digital assets
  • Ensuring secure storage
  • Enabling user roles and governance
  • Providing analytics
  • Offering service support

When it comes to assessing core functions in your short list of digital asset management systems, we recommend you engage in a “bake-off.” A bake-off is a hands-on experience inside a DAM system. Unlike a demo, where someone shows you the features of system, a bake-off gives you access to a system where you can experiment with features. For more information about how to test core DAM functions, check out “The bake-off cheat sheet: A guide to testing DAM systems.”

Planning workflow in a digital asset management system

If you are not using a digital asset management system, implementing one is going to change the way you work. If you are using a DAM system, but are looking for a new one, this is an opportunity to improve the way your organization handles digital assets. It’s also an opportunity to improve your workflow.

Moving from a manual workflow to an automated one requires careful consideration before a system is put in place. Explore an ideal DAM workflow by engaging the people who will use the system during all stages of the asset lifecycle.

That should include content creators, reviewers, system administrators — and anyone else who will handle digital assets. Marketing teams, sales people, graphic designers and project managers are often the people who use, create, or view digital assets. Talking with these users about the current workflow will help you identify areas and processes that can be improved upon before you implement a DAM solution. Then, make sure you have a plan to move forward once the digital asset management system is in place.

Structuring your DAM system with categories

There are many ways to structure and organize your digital asset management system. The hallmark of a good structure is that users can find the digital assets they need quickly and easily. Generally, this means the metadata schema, categories and asset groups are customized for an organization’s specific needs.

Metadata is defined in the DAM Basics section as “information that describes and defines a digital asset,” or “data about data.” Metadata is tied to an asset and provides information like image title, photographer name, creation date and other keywords.

Categories are different. Also referred to as taxonomy, the category structure you create allows for easy searching and filtering of digital assets. This tiered method of organization creates a “parent/child” hierarchical system for your assets. There is no one-size-fits-all, and categories should be personalized to suit your organization’s digital asset management needs.

How you arrange your categories is up to you. Some DAM vendors offer implementation services to help strategize your category structure. Below are three sample category structures to follow as a best practice.

DAM Taxonomy of Digital Assets

Implementing a DAM system

The implementation phase comes after a digital asset management system has been selected. That might seem like a task far in the future, but you should be thinking about it now. Understanding the DAM implementation process helps inform your decision making — especially in terms of what kind of service support you want from a potential vendor. As previously mentioned, some DAM vendors include implementation support, while others offer it at an additional cost. In some cases, as with open source digital asset management software, you will be responsible for managing the entire process on your own.

Even with the highest level of implementation support, you still need an internal DAM champion to move the project forward. In some cases, that person will become the DAM system administrator at your organization. In other cases, they may simply function as an agent of change.

The steps for implementing a DAM system are as follows:

  1. Develop metadata schema and category taxonomy
  2. Prepare current digital assets and metadata for migration and category assignment
  3. Bulk upload of digital assets
  4. DAM system feature selection
  5. Site look and feel, application of organization branding
  6. Project launch planning
  7. DAM system launch, user training and onboarding
  8. Ongoing user management

Implementing a DAM solution is one part of making digital asset management software an integral part of your organization. Integrations can help encourage adoption and streamline workflow.

Integrating your DAM system

Software integrations are rapidly gaining popularity in the workplace. There are a number of reasons for this. People are increasingly shouldering more responsibilities, and linking systems can save time by increasing operational efficiencies and lowering frustration levels. System integration also makes adopting new DAM software easier.

Integrations are made possible through the use of an API, or application-programming interface. Examples of APIs used with digital asset management systems are content management platforms like Drupal and WordPress, project management systems like AtTask, and online proofing programs such as ProofHQ. Be sure to find out whether the DAM providers you’re considering have an API available, then review their documentation to learn what kind of integrations are possible.

In addition to supporting DAM adoption, integrating systems already in use can streamline processes and centralize digital assets. Take project management, for example. Many marketing and sales projects involve rich media assets like video, graphic design or photography. Integrating project management software and your asset library means that digital assets related to a project can be tied to timelines and tasks.

Integrations can be custom or “out of the box.” Some digital asset management providers have partnered with other software developers to provide ready-to-use integrations with popular programs like the examples given above. Custom integrations are developed for the specific needs of an organization — like creating a mobile app where sales representatives can pull product images, or a website integration where images can be shared.

Thinking about useful ways to integrate your organization’s systems before you select a DAM solution can help you better assess a DAM provider’s capability and support. Read more about integrations here.

Rights management in a DAM system

As the digital age continues to grow exponentially, licensing, copyrights, and usage guidelines are more important than ever before. Protecting your organization and ensuring proper use of digital assets is a key concern. DAM software offers multiple ways to indicate rights and manage licensed assets like metadata, user roles and permissions, end-user license agreements (EULAs) and watermarking. Additionally, asset analytics can help ensure proper digital asset use.

Metadata: Indicating use guidelines in customized metadata ties licensing information directly to a digital asset. As a result, items can be categorized and searched by rights, and the automatic warnings can be applied.

Roles and permissions: As explained in DAM Basics, creating user roles allows a DAM admin to grant access to users by group. The use of expired or outdated digital assets can be avoided by allowing users to access only those assets they need.

EULAs and watermarks: These management tools are generally applied at the asset download level. EULA’s may be tied to individual digital assets or groups, and appear as an agreement the downloader must approve before downloading the asset. Similarly, many DAM systems enable watermarks to be assigned to digital assets before download of specific file types.

Asset analytics: Many digital asset management systems now offer the functionality to see who has downloaded an asset or where digital assets have been used in social media. Knowing when, how and by whom assets are being used can help avoid misuse.

Security considerations for storing digital assets

At the most basic level, securing digital assets means keeping them protected and inaccessible from certain user groups. Security considerations also include the backing up of files and metadata.

The kind of security assurances you need varies according to your organization and the type of DAM system you select. On the organizational side, if you handle sensitive documents like medical records, there are strict guidelines regulating how they must be stored and secured. On the system side, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), open source, and on-premise DAM each come with their own considerations.

If you select a SaaS provider for managing your digital assets, you are mostly dependent on them to attend to security. Make sure you know where the data will be stored, as well as how it’s protected. The benefits of a SaaS is that it stores digital assets in the cloud so they can be accessed anywhere via the internet, and it also offers freedom from maintaining servers. These can also be weaknesses, depending on the type of organization you are part of.

Open source DAM systems allow personalized security control by your organization, which can feel very safe. The downside? Given its open source nature, everyone has access to the source code and often times security measures are developed or built in a collaborative environment. That means your security measures are vulnerable to others with knowledge of the coding language.

An on-premise DAM solution offers the most direct control over your digital assets and their security. If your organization has the time, expertise and money to maintain an on-premise DAM system, this might be your best option. Keep in mind that in order to keep the system safe, massive IT support is required.

For more information about the types of digital asset management systems, visit our DAM Basics page.


Digital asset management adoption is a journey and requires designated resources in order to be successful. By paying attention to the users of your digital assets, and your organization’s needs and capabilities, you can help ensure successful adoption of a sustainable, useful DAM system.

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