Organize your DAM with these 10 steps

Ten steps to organize your DAM

Getting a digital asset management (DAM) system is kind of like buying a plant. Getting the plant is the first step to making your office more beautiful and the air fresher.  Part of owning a plant (and keeping it alive) is ongoing care. You don’t just put it on your desk and expect it to live forever. It needs regular water, food, and maybe the occasional mist.

Like a plant, your DAM system needs attention to be a useful addition to your workplace. Below are ten ways to tidy up your DAM – and keep it that way.


1. Allocate staff time.

After you make the decision to organize your DAM, it’s imperative that you allocate staff time and resources to the project. It’s typical for a DAM clean-up to take 3-6 months to complete, often longer. Set aside a block of time on your calendar each day or week to dedicate to DAM clean-up.

2. Make it official.

Let others in the organization know that a DAM clean-up is in progress and, if possible, enlist their help. Outline the main steps and give your users a timeline, then communicate with them throughout the process.

3. Interview users.

Meet with key stakeholders and identify their pain points. What is working with the current structure, and what could be better? Talking to the people who will be using the DAM is important when determining how to structure the system.

4. Create a structure.

This is the hardest step. Develop category and metadata structures that convey all of the information your users need to know and will make your assets easily found via searches and filters. Limit categories to a parent category and two child categories, although fewer categories are recommended for ease of use and site speed. The remaining information should be added as metadata. Ideally, a large percentage of your metadata fields are controlled vocabulary lists. This allows for further search refinement using filters and offers ease of use and consistency for users who are tasked with entering metadata.

5. Divide and conquer.

Performing the metadata updates is time-consuming, no matter how you decide to tackle the project. Prioritize the assets you want to clean up first. This could mean starting with recent assets first and working back by year. Or it could mean cleaning up assets by asset group. Determine a plan of action and dedicate a block of time each day to DAM clean-up.

6. Clean up permissions.

While updating metadata, you’ll want to simultaneously update your permissions by addressing roles and asset groups. Take a look to see if any asset groups or roles can be consolidated. It’s only necessary to have separate roles and asset groups if features (sharing, downloading) or access to assets vary. Many administrators find it helpful to think about what assets should be restricted, rather than what assets each user should have access to. Think about putting your assets into one bucket and then decide which assets need to be pulled in order to restrict access. The assets which you pulled out would go into new (restricted) asset groups.

7. Customize your site.

When everything is cleaned up, you may want to give your DAM a facelift with new colors, images, and other branding elements. You may also want to consider updating spotlight searches and collections that are fresh and relevant to your users. You can create a new system message to announce the new structure or give your users instructions on where to find things. Or maybe even introduce yourself by posting a photo or greeting to connect with your users on a more personal level.

8.Create a governance document.

This serves as a set of guidelines and rules for how you will manage your DAM site. How often will files be deleted or archived? What is the process for releasing assets into the DAM? Will metadata be required? Will a global administrator have to approve assets before they’re released? How often will the administrator review roles and asset groups? Will the administrator manually approve new user accounts? How often? Are there file-naming conventions in place? How do you handle version control? All of these processes and guidelines should be outlined so you clearly know how to manage your site. And your users know what to expect.

9. Train, and then train again.

Communicate changes to your users and train them how to comply with the governance document you’ve created. This is especially important for users who will be uploading assets and adding metadata. DAM maintenance and cleanliness is a shared responsibility. The user who uploads the assets is likely the person who knows the metadata best, so it’s up to them to add that information. As you probably already know, training often needs to happen multiple times before it sinks in. But taking the time to train your users to use the system correctly will pay off in the end by cutting down on your administrative time.

10. Evaluate the change.

Once your clean-up is complete, you might want to do a user survey to see how the changes are working for your users. (Keep in mind that most users are initially resistant to change.) This can be done informally through follow-up interviews or by using a formal survey tool. Feedback from your users is extremely valuable to address any outstanding issues and continue to improve your site.


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