Digital asset management: Where to begin

where to begin: digital asset management

The internet is a wonderful thing for all the resources it provides, and terrible thing for all the resources it provides. It can be overwhelming when you start a project and are faced with a seemingly endless list of whitepapers, webinars, blog posts, “best of” lists and more.

In addition, in the realm of digital asset management (DAM) many people are seeking a solution to problems they are dealing with right now. There can be a certain anxiety or urgency to their searching. We totally understand this position. Check out the blog post “Life just got a little less frustrating” by new staff member Melanie Olsen. She lists some challenges common to people not using a DAM system. Do you see yourself there?

This post helps you navigate the waters of digital asset management and answer the question “Where do I begin?” I’ll point you to resources on this website as we cover the following topics:

  • What is digital asset management?
  • How do I know if my organization needs a digital asset management system?
  • What is the benefit of a system?
  • How do I go about making a case for a digital asset management system?

I’ll keep it light and reference only one resource per section. For more info, visit the Knowledge page or the blog.

What is digital asset management?

Digital asset management, or DAM, is the management, organization and distribution of digital assets from a central repository. It is a system that allows you to manage all your digital assets from one place.

Digital assets are files with value to your organization. Examples are photographs, videos, illustrations, layouts, ads, audio files, presentations, and documents. Digital assets might be used internally for training, design, or documentation. They might be used externally on websites, social media platforms, or sent to affiliates. There are many different kinds of digital assets and they are used in a variety of ways.

For more information about what DAM is, understanding digital assets and the digital asset lifecycle, see the DAM Basics page. DAM Basics also provides info on the other topics in this post. It’s a great place to start your DAM journey.

How do I know if my organization needs a digital asset management system?

You’re probably on this site researching digital asset management for one of two reasons. The first is that someone, perhaps your boss, asked you to do it. If that isn’t the case and you are looking at DAM systems on your own, you can probably already identify areas where your organization has problems managing digital assets.

Let’s address the scenario that you are investigating DAM systems in order to address problems you can already identify. I once talked with an advisor in the DAM industry about the point of view of someone evaluation DAM options. I was asking how someone determines why they need a system and how they will use it. His recommendation was to ask “What are some things that have spun out of control in your world?”

Many people don’t need time to answer that question. For some people, it’s that it takes a ridiculously long time to find the digital assets they need, like photographs. For others, it’s the frustration of losing original artwork. You might already know why your organization needs a digital asset management system.

If you have been tasked with researching digital asset management or are looking for a more formal response, here it is: evaluate the workflows that surround the creation, management, distribution, and archive of digital assets. That means determining who handles digital assets and how they use them. As you speak with your team members about their experiences at different stages, you’ll start to identify areas that may benefit from change.

To get started, check out the blog post Ten short questions that assess your DAM needs. It’s a good intro to assessing your digital asset use and management.

What is the benefit of a digital asset management system?

When it comes to determining the benefits of a DAM system, we categorize them into hard costs and soft costs.

Hard costs usually have a dollar amount attached. They are calculations of money that could be saved if you use a DAM system. Here are a few:

  • How much money is spent paying salary for people who search and send assets
  • Graphic design or photography costs associated with re-creating or developing new assets
  • The value of assets that have been lost

It is worth the time and effort to determine hard costs. Associating a dollar amount to the time spent searching for or recreating assets, or calculating the value of assets that have been lost is a great way to make a case for a DAM system. We’ll discuss that more below.

Soft costs are a part of many return on investment (ROI) models, which encourage people to consider the value of people’s job satisfaction (and sanity) like:

  • Frustration experienced by staff when there are delays in finding assets or delivering them to requestors
  • Irritation at lack of efficiency in processes
  • Workplace unhappiness about not being able to focus on other work and be productive

Basically, the soft costs revolve around how the inefficient or frustrating management of digital assets affects people and the workplace in general. It’s not uncommon for graphic designers to feel dissatisfaction if they spent time re-creating artwork or emailing new file formats to requestors instead of working on new projects.

For more information on determining how your organization can benefit from a DAM system, see the ROI guide.

How do I go about making a case for DAM?

Cover of the return on investment resource

The ROI guide I recommended above is a great place to start with as you make your case. Making the case for DAM can be a process. Justifications often center hard costs like on the amount of money spent on salary for people to search for images and soft costs like an inability to keep track of things, long wait times to deliver digital assets and the inability to repurpose assets because they can’t be easily accessed. The hard and soft costs will come into play and you may need to change strategy along the way.

If you think that your boss won’t be influenced by soft costs, translate it into something that she or he will care about. For example, how issues with digital asset delivery impact the relationship with clients or project timelines.

Visit the Executive page in the “Roles” section of this site. It is geared towards someone a senior management position and can help you understand their mindset and concerns. Plus, it contains an amazing interview with one company who implemented a DAM system and improved their image fulfillment process from 15 days down to two minutes. Yes, 15 days to two minutes. It freed up a graphic designer who spent all their time responding to image requests.

Next steps

I hope this has been helpful in providing you with a framework of where to begin the digital asset management adoption process. See our Four Phases of the DAM Decision Journey resource for an overview of the entire process and considerations at each phase.

In the meantime, sign up for our newsletter on the contact page to get updates on new resources and blogs posts.

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