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Planning and Strategy

10 Most Important Criteria When Evaluating a DAM Platform

Ben Owen

By Ben Owen | Oct 11, 2021

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Have you and your significant other ever tried to buy a car, house, or any other expensive item together? Often, the process is difficult. Besides personal preferences and bias towards one option over another, there is another layer that can complicate decision-making. That layer is the criteria that each person uses to evaluate the item being purchased. For example, when buying a car one person may care deeply about the style of the car, what color it is, and whether or not it has all-wheel drive. The other may focus on engine specifications, seat material, and safety features.

The same is true when buying a home. One person may prioritize being close to their workplaces, having a large yard, or an excellent school system. The other’s primary considerations might be the price of the house and the cost of any necessary renovations. In either case, unless both members of the couple agree on which features are essential, making a final choice that satisfies them both is nearly impossible.

The principle also applies when an organization is buying a digital asset management (DAM) platform. Just like the home or car-buying process, it’s necessary for key stakeholders to identify and prioritize the primary features they’re looking for before evaluating platforms. They also need to agree on how they’ll evaluate each platform. This ensures that no matter which member of the group does the research or sits in on the sales call, everyone is looking and listening for the same things.

Stacks recommends that the teams who will be using the DAM platform take the lead in evaluating all the available options. They know what they need and want better than anyone else and can offer the most valuable feedback.

10 Most Important Criteria When Evaluating a DAM Platform

1. Cost

This is obviously a critical factor and heads the list of the “no compromise” tier of criteria. While properly managing digital assets provides a massive return on investment (ROI), every organization has budgets and other financial limitations. When determining the budget for your platform, take time to quantify the “cost of inaction” using this ROI calculator. The beauty of the DAM space is that it’s quickly growing, and there are many platforms available in every price range.

2. On-Prem vs. Cloud-based

Once you’ve determined your budget, the next “no compromise” criteria is whether your organization requires an on-premise or cloud-based solution. Making this determination quickly eliminates a large number of potential options. To learn more about the difference between on-prem and cloud-based DAM platforms, talk to your IT team and read about it in this blog post.

3. Processes and Use-Cases

Now that you know your budget and what kind of technology you need, the list of suitable DAM platforms should be significantly shorter. Another “no compromise” criteria is whether the platform supports your use case and the processes you and your team want and need to put into practice within it. Unlike budget or technology, this criteria requires you and your team to do some prep work before evaluating any platforms. You’ll need to map out your current processes and workflows, as well as your “ideal” ones. A core benefit of migrating to a DAM platform is the opportunity it provides to identify workflows and processes you’d like to improve or change. For example, if your team would like to shift from searching via folder structure to keyword search using metadata, make sure the DAM system you choose supports that use case.

4. Supported File Types

Along with processes and workflows, the last “no compromise” criteria is whether the platform will be able to house your assets. Some platforms are built with specific file types in mind. For example, if your team produces terabytes of video each year, don’t choose a platform without the ability to easily ingest and manage those files. Almost every platform will support photography and small design files, but if your team produces large amounts of video, large design files, audio, or fonts, make sure that the DAM system has a place for them to live.

So far, the criteria we’ve provided to evaluate DAM platforms have fallen in the objective, “no compromise” category. The solution either fits the criteria or doesn’t. They are incredibly helpful and are the most effective way to eliminate potential suitors and save your team from wasting time talking to salespeople they don’t need to. The rest of the criteria are more subjective. They require discussion and evaluation from your stakeholders to determine their importance.

5. Reviews

This section comes with a warning: scrolling through testimonials and case studies on a platform’s website will do little to help you properly evaluate it. Reviews, however, are a powerful tool your team can use to compare competing systems. Talk to similarly-sized organizations about the platforms they use and why they like them. Meet with DAM experts like consultants and professionals to hear their honest take on what systems they enjoy working within. Use the internet to find message boards and rankings based on customer feedback that hasn’t been curated for marketing purposes.

6. Security

Security is one of the most important things a DAM platform can provide. Find out what kind of security, permissions, and sharing capabilities each platform you’re considering has. To properly audit a system’s security, you may need help from your IT or leadership team. Bring them into your conversations to make sure you know what an acceptable level of security is.

7. Onboarding Cost, Effort, & Time

Another important criterion when evaluating DAM solutions is the time, effort, and cost of the onboarding process. Many platforms have associated onboarding or startup costs in the first year. Be aware that, despite this, few have robust professional services departments that can assist your team in onboarding. This means your team will bear the burden of training and onboarding your end-users to the system, a time-consuming and difficult process when they will be new to the system themselves.

8. Sophistication / Customization

Be sure you understand the level of sophistication and customization offered by the DAM platforms under evaluation. IT teams can quickly become overwhelmed trying to build and customize software they thought would be out of the box. This can slow down the onboarding process and confuse a team without the express knowledge of what they need from the system. If your organization is small and has a relatively small library, stay away from large, enterprise-level solutions.

9. Special Features

Every DAM platform has loads of fancy bells and whistles that can make digital asset management easier for your team, but not all of them are vital or “must-haves.” Your team must decide what specific features are necessary to make your ideal process and use case work, and then evaluate DAM software based on those necessary features.

10. Integrations

Along with certain features, your team will need a DAM platform that integrates seamlessly with the programs they already use. Common examples are Adobe Creative Suite, Google Drive, and various project management tools. Integrations are often high on the list of evaluation criteria, but for several reasons, we’ve given them a lower priority. One reason is that by using the talent of your IT team, APIs, and tools like Zapier, it’s likely you’ll be able to build any integration you need. Another is that while it’s ideal for there to be seamless movement of assets across systems, the priorities for digital asset management are security, centralization, and maximizing the value of the assets.

Using Criteria to Evaluate DAM Platforms

After your stakeholders have determined the criteria they’ll use to evaluate DAM platforms, employ your “no compromise” tier of criteria to eliminate those that don’t meet your needs. Next, build a shortlist of 3-5 platforms that satisfy your more subjective requirements and set up meetings with them. Be sure to meet as a group after each sale call to debrief about what you learned. It can be helpful at this point to review your criteria, one category at a time, and address your group’s opinions in a focused way. Once you’ve done this, bring in members of other teams like IT and leadership to get their feedback and rank your shortlist. Finally, contact your top choice for a platform and begin the process of setting it up and onboarding your end-users. While you’re doing this, continue to discuss your processes, workflows, and DAM standards internally so that training your team is as easy as possible. Be sure to use this transition time as an opportunity to solve both technical problems and process issues.


Searching for a DAM platform is difficult, even with the right set of criteria and adequate resources. If you need help seeing through the noise or would like expert guidance as you consider all the possibilities, contact Stacks today! We’ve helped brands big and small get on the DAM platform that fits “just right” without the burden of doing all the research and evaluation for themselves.

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