The bakeoff cheat sheet: A guide to testing DAM systems


If you’re wondering what baking has to do with evaluating DAM systems, we’ll fill you in. Let’s start with the ideal DAM adoption path from Before you DAM:

  1. Complete an internal assessment
  2. Research DAM providers
  3. Develop a justification and return on investment (ROI)
  4. Send a request for demo (RFD) to top contenders

The bake-off is a fifth step in the process and an opportunity to test DAM systems firsthand. It may be presented as a trial or sandbox evaluation. This in-depth experience is for systems on your shortlist, developed after internal assessment, research, and requesting and participating in demos. The bake-off allows you to see how the product performs and test it yourself.

Like a baking contest, you start with the same set of ingredients (in this case, questions), and conduct a test to see which result is best for you.

There are a lot of areas to compare across DAM systems. To assess stability, performance and sophistication in an apples-to-apples comparison, it’s important to evaluate the core functions of a DAM system.

The bake-off is a great time to test the use cases you developed during the RFD process. Knowing how you will use your DAM system is important in deciding how you conduct the bakeoff. For example, if you are looking for a system to manage video, use video files when you test upload and download capabilities. Likewise, if you will need access to your DAM system on the go, be sure to check for a mobile version or API potential.

The questions below will get you started on your own bake-off list. The answers provide an evaluation of the user experience and an assessment of what solutions the system will provide. Feel free to customize it to your needs.


  • How can users access the system? (PC, mobile device, desktop application, etc.)
  • Are additional applications or plugins required to use the solution?
  • What are the permissions around which assets users see and how they work with those assets?
  • How easily can those permission be changed?
  • What limitations does the system have for setting certain permissions?
  • How would new users be able to register or apply for access?

Upload Functions

  • What upload methods are available?
  • How easy is it to upload?
  • Are 3rd-party plugins needed (e.g. Java)?
  • How fast are assets uploaded?
  • How fast are previews generated?
  • Are previews generated for all asset types as expected?
  • Can metadata be applied during ingest?
  • Are there any asset size and/or count limitations?

Search Functions

  • What search methods are available?
  • How easy to configure or specify search?
  • Do you get consistent search results?
  • What filtering and sorting options are there?
  • Can you preview all the details (or full length) of an asset?
  • What is the outcome when searching by partial words (also known as substring search)?
  • What other search help functions are available to assist the user?

Metadata Functions

  • How easy is to add metadata?
  • How customizable is it?
  • How are metadata standards supported (IPTC, XMP)?
  • How can metadata fields be controlled?
  • Can you have different metadata schemas?

Download options

  • What download options are available?
  • How customizable are the download options?
  • How is the quality of the output of converted image, audio and video files?
  • How fast can assets be downloaded?

Distribution options

  • What file sharing and distribution options are available?
  • Can you embed assets in other web properties?
  • Can you share direct links to assets?
  • Can you publish assets to social networks?
  • Can you share assets to other popular file sharing tools?
  • What other tools can assets be shared with?

Reporting and analytics

  • What reporting and analytics capabilities exist?
  • Are there reporting and analytics capabilities sitewide?
  • Are there analytics available at the asset level?
  • Are there any integrations with 3rd-party analytics tools?

Out of the box integrations

  • What integrations are available out-of-box?
  • Can you test them?

API capabilities

  • What are the capabilities of the API across functions?
  • Do your technical teams have familiarity with the API protocols?

Do you have other suggestions for this bake-off list? Let us know in the comments.

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