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Planning and Strategy

5 Action Items to Prepare for a New DAM System

Andrea Barrera

By Andrea Barrera | Feb 22, 2022

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Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems are a lot like bookshelves. When you buy a new bookshelf from the store and bring it home, does it automatically solve all of your organization's problems? No! There are steps involved in setting it up. These include deciding what’s going on it and how it will be arranged. Sometimes when you buy a bookshelf you even have to build it yourself. It may be difficult to assemble and require the help of multiple people. The same is true for DAM systems! There are steps you should take before you implement a DAM system to ensure it will organize your digital assets in a way that benefits your end-users. Some of these steps can be taken before you decide on a DAM platform. In this blog post, I’ll walk you through five action items that need to be completed before your DAM system can be implemented. Completing these actions will ensure your DAM journey is a success!

1. Identify Your Stakeholders

Just as some furniture assembly requires the assistance of multiple people, a new DAM system requires the help of a group of people to ensure it’s built and implemented properly. One of the first actions you should make, preferably before picking a DAM platform, is to identify your stakeholders. Ultimately, their objectives and requirements are going to be a major influence on which DAM platform you pick. For example, you’ll want to choose one that has a user-friendly interface. However, since all users are different, you must find out what makes the most sense for your stakeholders.

In the world of DAM, a stakeholder is anyone who interacts with the DAM or benefits from it.

Stakeholders may include:

  • DAM End-users: People who will be searching for and retrieving assets from the library.
  • Asset Creators: People who create content that ends up in the system, even if they don’t upload it themselves.
  • Outside Entities: People outside your organization with the ability to access assets in the system.
  • Most DAM platforms will allow you to securely share assets with individuals who don’t have accounts set up in it. This may be helpful in cases where you employ an outside agency to review or approve assets.
  • Leadership Team Members: Members of your organization’s leadership team benefit from DAM through the overall ROI. They are also likely the ones who will approve the budget for the system.

2. Create Implementation and Management Teams

The next groups you should identify are the people that will help you implement the DAM program and the ones who will manage it once it’s live. These teams will be composed of different people. It’s likely that your management team will be much smaller than your implementation team.

Implementing a DAM system isn't a one-person job. You’ll want to choose a core group of people to help you learn about the requirements of your different types of stakeholders. The group should have an understanding of your digital assets, clients, and user needs. It will benefit you greatly to have this team help you decide which DAM platform fits your organization the best.

The implementation team can:

  • Identify your DAM requirements by understanding the needs of your stakeholders
  • Select a new DAM platform
  • Identify the types of assets that will live in the DAM program
  • Assist in migrating assets into the DAM system

Many organizations fail to identify who’ll be responsible for managing the DAM program after it goes live. They underestimate how much time will have to be spent uploading assets, applying metadata to them, onboarding new users, and fielding requests and questions. Often, an employee who already has a full-time job takes on this new responsibility. Without a dedicated manager or management team, the program is less effective since many tasks related to administering it fall through the cracks.

One way to ensure the continued success of your DAM program is to determine how it will be managed ahead of time. In some organizations, a small group of employees shares the responsibility of managing the DAM. Others are large enough to hire a professional full-time DAM manager or an experienced part-time or fractional DAM manager. An important benefit of employing a skilled DAM manager ahead of time is that they can assist in implementing the DAM and provide their expertise.

3. Decide Which Assets are Going Into the DAM

One of the things your implementation team can help with is deciding what assets will live in the DAM. This may change and develop as your organization grows. However, it’s a very important consideration when you're looking at DAM platforms. Most can hold a large variety of file formats. However, some are better than others at managing certain types. For example, videos are somewhat complex to manage. Some DAM platforms provide features to get the most out of your videos, while others just provide the basics.

Most DAM systems are capable of holding a large number of assets and can withstand reasonable growth. Implementing a new DAM is a great opportunity to conduct an audit of all your digital assets and consolidate them into one management system. Knowing what you want ahead of time can ensure you adopt the right DAM for your organization.

4. Plan Your Workflow

Once you’ve selected your DAM platform and are going through the process of implementing it, you'll want to consider what your workflow will look like. For example, how will new assets be added to the system and where will the metadata come from? Planning your workflow will help your users feel prepared and encourage their adoption of the new system. It will also encourage you to ensure that the assets in the library are up-to-date. For example, if a user searches for “Spring products” and feels confident that all the results are current and accurate, they won’t feel the need to turn to other sources besides the DAM system to find what they’re looking for.

Here are some questions to ask your team about workflow:

  • What is the workflow of creating an asset?
  • When does an asset need to be added to the library? Should only final approved assets be added or will the approval process take place in the system itself?
  • Who can upload an asset to the DAM system?
  • Can the uploader apply metadata to the asset?
  • Where is the metadata coming from?
  • Does the metadata need to be applied manually?
  • Do we need a waiting room to hold assets before they're ready to be published?
  • When are permissions applied?

5. Establish Taxonomy & Metadata Standards

Referencing our bookshelf analogy, when you finally get your new bookshelf built and decide what’s going on it, you’ll need to decide how to organize it. This will not only make it more aesthetically appealing but will also help make your items findable. The same goes for your DAM system. In the DAM world, we call the organization system, the taxonomy. A key part of any taxonomy is metadata. Metadata provides users with specific information about the digital asset it’s attached to. It also helps the asset become findable since most users prefer to conduct a search rather than look through a folder structure. However, each user is different! Most DAM systems have both options available. That’s why it’s important to prepare for both instances.

After you’ve chosen your DAM platform, the next step is to map out your taxonomy and metadata standards. These standards should be able to withstand some reasonable growth since your organization is likely to change over time. You’ll want to ensure the taxonomy structure is capable of growth, supports how your users want to search, and isn’t too complex. Many DAM platform vendors will help you plan your taxonomy to ensure it’s in line with how your users will search for assets. However, there are also third-party consultants, like Stacks LLC, that can help you with this if it isn’t something your vendor offers.

Your vendor or consultant can also help you plan your metadata. It should support your users’ information needs surrounding digital assets and ensure they’re findable. Metadata is often composed of keywords. Be sure the terminology used in your metadata matches that used within your organization.

When you begin your DAM journey all these steps can seem overwhelming. If so, just take it one phase at a time. When in doubt, think about your stakeholders and make the decisions that will benefit them the most. Also, remember that there are consultants out there that can help you! No matter what stage you're at in your DAM journey, if you need assistance, reach out to the experts at Stacks. We’re happy to help!

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