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Planning and Strategy

Common Mistakes Made When Changing DAM Platforms and How to Avoid Them

Ben Owen

By Ben Owen | Oct 14, 2021

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Every so often you need to replace something you use. Your iPhone needs to be replaced because its operating system slows down. You may find that the old suit you wore at a college friend’s wedding doesn’t fit anymore. Whatever you’re replacing, you want the process of finding a new one to be as simple and easy as possible.

For this reason, when your iPhone starts slowing down, you go to a store and buy the newest iPhone to replace it. Likewise, you buy the same brand of car when you need one and a suit of the same color and style as your old one. We tend to want to minimize the number of our choices and stick with what we know we like and works well. We’d rather limit our options than risk choosing a replacement that doesn’t provide the same value as the thing it’s replacing.

Replacing Your DAM

Whatever your system is for managing the valuable digital assets your teams create, you’ll have to replace it one day. This could be due to lack of storage, ease of use, security, scalability, or a specific process that your organization is adopting. Unlike the examples listed above, however, the process of finding or building a replacement system is not so straightforward. Although you can use the right set of criteria to quickly narrow your options, choosing a new platform that suits your needs and wants is still difficult.

In this article, we outline several of the most common mistakes we see organizations make when they search for a new digital asset management (DAM) system. These mistakes lead to confusion and headaches, and cost brands time, money, and energy. Alongside these warnings, we also outline our recommendations for avoiding these pitfalls and finding a DAM platform that satisfies your needs and wants.

Common Mistakes When Replacing Your DAM Platform

Not Replacing It

The failure to replace a DAM system that makes life difficult for its users is the most common mistake made by organizations. The time and money it takes to discover the organization’s needs, identify suitable platforms, evaluate them, and implement a new system make brands hesitate to start the process. While that reluctance makes sense, the “cost of doing nothing,” or opportunity cost, can be far more expensive in the long run.

Without an efficient, scalable, easy-to-use system, your creative, marketing, design, and PR teams are spending time and money searching for or replacing assets you already have. Some team members probably spend their days processing requests for assets rather than doing what they love and what they are good at. Valuable files that could be used to help your brand grow and increase its revenue are misplaced or lost. In the worst cases, security is compromised or copyright permissions are misused. In others, materials with the wrong branding are sent to prospective clients. Brands that feel, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” place a great burden on their creative teams as they grow and the amount of their digital assets increases accordingly.

Putting Platform Over Process

When an organization decides they need to address the bottlenecks and inefficiencies their current DAM setup creates, the people leading the effort often get tunnel vision. They assume that all of the issues with their existing system will be resolved with new and improved technology. Although a new platform can solve some of their problems, the processes (or lack thereof) and people involved in the DAM system play key roles as well.

Let’s take an example. Dan’s Bulbs currently stores its digital assets like branding materials, sales decks, packaging designs, and event photography on a simple, cloud-based shared drive. Dan concludes after a meeting with the DAM system’s core stakeholders that they need to make their digital assets more readily available. He decides that if they had a DAM platform that enabled more robust keyword search using custom metadata fields, his employees would be able to quickly access it and find what they need. After investing in a more robust and expensive platform, Dan realizes that his team can’t take advantage of the new features because they haven’t developed even simple metadata processes and standards.

Failure to Listen

Despite Dan’s mistake in not paying attention to processes and standards, he did one thing right in the example above. He based his decision-making on conversations with the end-users of the DAM system. So often, leadership or IT teams make decisions and evaluate platforms without input from the people who will actually be using them.

IT and leadership teams play a critical role in the evaluation, selection, and implementation of a DAM platform. They set budgets, outline limitations, and provide much-needed support when issues arise during the process. Without them, the chances of finding a DAM platform that fits the needs and wants of the organization shrink, and the odds that they will repeat the replacement process sooner, rather than later, skyrocket. These teams should not, however, be the only ones deciding which features are most important or evaluating a demo.

Not Seeking Help

Digital asset management is complicated, which makes searching for a DAM platform difficult. Expecting employees who lack intimate knowledge of the field to identify and prioritize the features they need and want, evaluate multiple platforms, and implement a new one effectively, all while doing their jobs, is a tall order.

The primary reason DAM systems fall apart is often because teams were unable to properly implement them due to a lack of governance and hands-on management. This is usually because there is no one in the organization with the expertise to identify and resolve problems.

Going Too Big (Or Small)

When brands put the burden of finding and implementing a replacement DAM system on their employees, it leads to the final, and most costly mistake. Implementing a platform that’s too complex or too simple to properly suit their needs and wants leads to wasted time and money, both in this search and the next. Purchasing the wrong platform means disruption for their teams, confusion about where assets are, and loads of wasted time and money. Since platforms are typically purchased in year-long subscriptions, the organization may have to delay purchasing a different system, thus halting what could have been massive growth potential for them

Avoiding Common Mistakes When Replacing a DAM Platform

Now that we’ve outlined the common mistakes that organizations make when replacing their DAM platforms, below are some of the best practices for avoiding them.

Check in with your end-users. Regularly ask employees across departments how they use your current system, what works well, and what doesn’t. You may even want to send out a survey to the organization as a whole. If you do, it will give you loads of data to quantify your needs and wants. It can also alert you when it may be time to change platforms.

Map your current processes. With the help of a group of core stakeholders, create a workflow map of how assets are managed. Identify where assets currently live, bottlenecks or roadblocks, and ways that assets are misplaced or lost. A workflow map allows you to determine which issues are process-related, which are platform-related, and which are personnel issues.

Establish standards and workflows upfront. Once you’ve mapped your workflows and know what process improvements are necessary, build your standards while you search for a DAM platform. These standards can be a new folder structure, metadata taxonomy, file naming structure, or permissions hierarchy.

Create a “DAM Team.” Before you map processes, build standards, and evaluate platforms, gather a task force of stakeholders from across the organization to manage those tasks, as well as the DAM system in the future. This group will serve as your governance board once your new platform is implemented, ensuring your system doesn’t go off the rails again.

Inject expertise into the group. Even if your DAM Team is a diverse group of people with different backgrounds and talents, proper digital asset management can be very challenging. Consider ways to bring expertise into the group, including working with a consultant like Stacks, taking relevant classes, or hiring a full-time DAM manager.


One day, the process of replacing your DAM platform may be as simple as replacing your iPhone. Until it is, however, searching for a new one, and all the work that goes with it, is difficult and fraught with risk. If you need help with your search, or with executing any of the other best practices laid out above, contact Stacks! We’d love to work with you.

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