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Planning and Strategy

A Guide to the Three Phases of DAM Development

Ben Owen

By Ben Owen | Jan 21, 2022

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Have you ever watched a heist movie? They may not always win at the Oscars, but they can be wildly entertaining. They typically feature a charismatic ring leader and a motley crew of characters who help him or her steal a valuable object right from under the nose of a villain without getting caught. For many people, the best part of every heist movie is when the thieves begin to lay out their plan.

The movies usually use a voiceover to describe each phase of the caper as it plays out, with each part being dependent on the success of the one preceding it, down to the smallest detail. Inevitably, something goes wrong and the team either navigates their way through it or, in classic Hollywood fashion, it turns out to have been part of the plan all along and the director has tricked the audience into believing otherwise.

Part of the reason heist movies are so entertaining is that it's extremely satisfying to watch a plan come together. We love to see all the different people, tools, and skills combine to execute a plan flawlessly with the expected result. Maybe this is because it's so difficult to achieve this type of success in the real world. Odds are that your goal is not to rob a casino or armored car (hopefully), but perhaps you're trying to make your marketing more effective or your creative team more efficient by building a program for managing your valuable digital assets. In this article, I’ll take on the role of ring leader and guide you through the three phases of developing a plan which will achieve the results you want.

Phase 1: Identify Your Needs and Gather Your Crew

Ocean’s Eleven is one of the best heist movies out there. It begins with Danny Ocean getting out of prison with one goal in mind: to empty the bank vault of the man who put him in jail and stole the love of his life. While sitting in his cell, he developed a plan on how to accomplish this. He obsessed over it and pored over every detail so that the second he was free he was ready to assemble the crew he needed to get the job done.

While most of you don’t have the misfortune of being stuck in a jail cell with nothing else to think about, it's still necessary to identify your core goals before implementing a digital asset management (DAM) program. Below is a list of important questions to consider during this phase:

Once you’ve answered the first question on this list, you’ll need to assemble your crew to answer the rest. Like Danny Ocean, you’re bringing stakeholders into the process with the promise of a reward at the end of the project. Be sure to communicate the benefits for each team of a new and improved digital asset management program. Build buy-in. The last thing you want is a crew member who will cut and run when the going gets tough.

Once your crew is assembled and you’ve worked through this preliminary set of questions, you’ll likely need to do two things:

  • Begin searching for a suitable DAM platform. If you’ve outlined your criteria, IT needs, and budget, this will greatly reduce the time it takes to consider the multitude of available platforms. Be sure not to buy a larger, more complex system than you need or one too small to meet your requirements.
  • Have your stakeholders work together to develop a set of standards and best practices for using the DAM program that can be easily managed, adjusted, and scaled. Some of the most important components are outlined below. Every team won't need to work equally on all these components. Meet together to decide where you need to focus your efforts.

Phase 2: Validation and Implementation

One of the more exciting components of Danny Ocean’s plan in Ocean’s Eleven involves a member of the team named Yen entering the vault and using his gymnastics skills to bypass the alarm system. To ensure this goes smoothly, the crew builds a replica of the vault for Yen to practice within.

Phase two of your digital asset management efforts involves essentially the same process. You’ve assembled your team, selected a DAM platform, and developed clear and easy-to-understand standards and processes for your team to follow. Now it’s time to put those standards and processes to the test. During the sales process with your selected DAM provider, ask them if they can set up a “sandbox” account for your organization. If they know you intend to buy, many providers will be happy to accommodate this request.

Your team will use the sandbox to apply your standards to a sample group of digital assets and run end-users through some testing to get their feedback on how your processes work in the real world. This is a vital step. It makes end-users feel like they're a part of the process, building much-needed buy-in. It also allows you to make adjustments to account for your platforms’ specific features and ensure you make the most of your investment in it.

Once you’ve validated your standards and workflows and made the necessary changes, it’s time to implement your DAM program. Implementation looks different for every organization, but the high-level steps remain consistent despite industry or use-case. Below are some tips for implementing a DAM program quickly and effectively:

  1. Prioritize your assets. Which assets do you need to access immediately? For many brands, their “priority” assets are the most recent ones. Others choose to segment their assets by file type or version. Whatever the filter, tiering your assets makes getting the system operational far easier.
  2. Collect your assets. If your assets are already in one place like SharePoint, Google Drive, or Dropbox, this step is much easier. If not, determine where your stakeholders can move decentralized assets to. Once all your assets are in one location, the migration process becomes far easier.
  3. Apply your standards. This may involve building your folder structure, implementing permissions, or enriching assets with metadata or new file names as they're migrated to the DAM platform. Put the pieces in place to ensure that the processes you’ve designed are ready to roll.
  4. Onboard end-users. The method and timing for this step are up to you. If your assets are prioritized by department, you can onboard end-users and their assets in that order. Or you may want to hold a training session with all end-users at once to officially “retire” the old way of doing things.

Phase 3: Management and Governance

Every member of Danny Ocean’s crew had talents and tools that were vital to the success of the heist. In the end, however, it was Danny’s show. They reported to him, and he was the one who dictated what was done, who did it, and when it was done. If someone deviated from Danny’s plan, it was up to him to get them back in line, otherwise, the heist would be unsuccessful and could even result in everyone going to prison.

The same dynamic should be at play in your DAM program. Everyone has an important role to play and should be accountable to the person or persons in charge of managing the DAM. Like Danny, the DAM manager directs what gets done, by whom, and when. This includes regularly auditing or checking on the health of the overall DAM program.

Remember that your stakeholder team decided in phase one who would manage the DAM program. In some organizations, this is a single, full-time job. In others, it's a team of people who ensure things run smoothly. The goal of both types of DAM management is to keep everyone else out of the weeds and focused on their jobs. For example, your creative director should be concentrating on generating compelling content, not processing requests for old assets others can’t find.

If your DAM Manager is a full-time employee, be sure to have them regularly report on key performance indicators (KPIs) from the DAM program, as well as opportunities for growth and expansion. If instead, you have a governance board, meet regularly (at least once a quarter) to review what's going well, what isn’t, and how the program can be improved.


Danny Ocean’s secret to success was that he was a career criminal and so were the members of his crew. He was an expert at robbing banks and casinos. You most likely aren’t an expert in digital asset management. If so, let Stacks serve as your Danny Ocean. We can assist in every step of your DAM journey. Contact us if you’d like to talk through where your organization is in the process and where you may need help.

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