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DAM Best Practices

Best Practices for Streamlining the Digital Asset Lifecycle

Ben Owen

By Ben Owen | Sep 01, 2021

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All products, tools, and systems have a life cycle or series of stages they go through from their creation to the end of their usefulness. This means that even ones we currently use every day will eventually become irrelevant. The same is true for the digital assets your marketing, digital communications, creative, or social media teams create and use. This includes photos, videos, design files, documents, graphics, or 3-D renderings. No matter the type of file, each asset is created for a specific purpose, and eventually, just like everything else, its usefulness will diminish until it no longer provides any value. For a time, however, digital assets serve a multitude of purposes and offer immense value to your organization.

With this in mind, it’s important to know the lifecycle of a digital asset in your organization. Start by considering a question. On average, how long does a single digital asset remain useful and relevant to the needs of your organization? If you don’t know the answer, odds are that your system for managing your creative files is cluttered with out-of-date content. If you want to build and maintain a library of up-to-date assets which can grow and change with your organization you must define, streamline, and manage the lifecycle of your digital assets.

What’s Your Current Asset Lifecycle?

To learn the lifecycle of your digital assets, begin by meeting with representatives from every stakeholder group which utilizes them. These are usually asset creators like photographers or designers, asset users like marketers or salespeople, or representatives from other departments and external partners.

During the meeting, map out where an asset goes when after creation, how long it stays there, and how the team uses it. Do this for each core type of file you use as an organization. At the end of the exercise, your map should look something like this:

Once you’ve charted all your file types, start analyzing them. Here’s a list of things to look for:

1. Overall Lifecycle Time – Determine the overall time it takes for an asset to move from creation to no longer being useful. If the mixture of your current and irrelevant assets gets in the way, you need to prioritize decluttering your backlog. If your assets become worthless quickly, think about ways to leverage their value and boost the ROI on their creation.

2. Bottlenecks – Take this time to pick the brains of your stakeholders. Do assets get lost in this process? If so, how? How can they be delivered more effectively? How can they be easier to find and share going forward?

3. Complexity – Odds are that the diagram you’ve created is far more complex than our illustration. This is likely because different teams need access to the same asset during its lifetime. This also means that assets are sometimes moved and shuffled which causes them to be misplaced or lost. Determine the average number of times an asset is moved in your organization. The lower this number, the better.

Create Your Digital Asset Lifecycle

Once you’ve diagrammed and analyzed your asset lifecycle, you can create your ideal one by improving, streamlining, and optimizing your digital asset management (DAM) system. Below, we’ve provided some best practices, tips, and tricks to keep in mind during this process. In the end, your team knows your needs best, so get creative and have fun!

Prioritize the long-term value of your assets

When you invest in a shoot or commission to create specific assets your team needs in the short term, those assets often have value well beyond that single-use. You never know when a product image may be just what a designer needs to put the final touches on an ad, or when a logo your team designed a year ago is perfect for your new website. Organize your assets so they’re easy to find and use beyond the immediate need they satisfy.

Extend asset lifecycles using metadata

If you’ve ever spent time browsing stock photo libraries like Getty Images or Unsplash, you know how easy it is to use their search bars to quickly find images relevant to your needs. You can create a similar easy-to-search library composed of your own internal assets by utilizing metadata tagging and effective file naming strategies. Once implemented, your users can type in a keyword and locate every asset with that word in their tag.

Keep track of copyright and usage permissions, as well as branding

While improved searchability is important, you don’t want assets with out-of-date usage rights or branding to appear in search results. To keep this from happening, separate licensed assets from the others so they are easy to audit and archive when they expire. The same goes for branding. When your organization undergoes a rebranding process, go through your library and move outdated assets into a historical archive.

Centralize assets to reduce asset requests and search time

Most large organizations continuously create assets across multiple departments and channels. Due to the sheer volume of content, finding or sharing assets is difficult unless they’re housed in the same place. Centralizing assets can be tricky, however, as company-wide servers can get cluttered, run out of storage, or aren’t accessible to a remote workforce. Cloud-based solutions and DAM platforms make it easy for all your teams to use assets the others create.

Consider your “retirement plan” and the potential value of your archive

When current assets lose their “current” status, where do they go? It’s important to ensure that the assets available to your team are relevant and not outdated, thus controlling the volume and quality of your asset library. This does not mean, however, that old assets are worthless. Take time to think about the value-creating a distinct asset archive could bring to your organization. Can any of your assets be sold or licensed? Does your brand have a rich history you’d like to reference using older content?


Developing clear standards for the digital asset lifecycle in your organization can streamline content creation and maximize the ROI of creating the assets in the first place. It’s well worth the investment of your time, energy, and thought. If you need help developing a plan for your assets, tagging them, or restructuring your library, Stacks can help. We work with all kinds of brands to implement customized solutions and make their digital asset libraries scalable and easy to use. Contact us today!

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