Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In the world of business, the debate could be, “what comes first, process or platform? Put more simply, does workflow define how your tools are used, or do the features and capabilities of your tools define your workflow? Answering this question is critical to creating an efficient, effective workflow for your business.
When it comes to managing digital assets, implementing clearly-understood organizational standards and processes is the key to creating easily maintained and scalable digital libraries, regardless of the size and complexity of the platform. In this article, we aim to outline the importance of simple and sustainable standards, as well as the best practices for establishing them.
The Consequences of Undervaluing Process
Why is it so important to establish processes instead of allowing a digital asset management platform to define them for you? Here, we have identified the three most significant consequences of this management approach.
- Standards and Turnover
In today’s world, organizations are always iterating and pivoting. Brands tweak and change designs, and teams change year after year. This means that failure to establish an organization-wide set of standard processes for managing digital assets will result in a disorganized, cluttered, divided library that only a few employees familiar with the system can navigate.
- Unclear Searches
The purpose of digital asset management is to create systems that make showing your story to the world impossibly easy. A well-managed library makes it effortless to locate the perfect assets to share with external audiences. Without a cohesive set of standards and processes for the storage, organization, and information applied to assets, however, end-users of your library will only be able to access a fraction of the assets they could use
- A Lack of Scalability
The end goal for every business or organization, year after year, is to grow. Market share, revenue, profits, the size of the team – just about every positive metric is about growth. Without processes and standards, however, the growth of your library may render it almost useless. . Without defined standards for the organization of assets in intuitive locations, an increasing asset count will only make finding the right one harder. This leads directly to more time and money being spent on locating assets, rather than using them in the market to generate revenue.
Establishing Your Processes and Procedures
Below, we have outlined four Best Practices for establishing processes and procedures for managing your digital asset library. We have found these to be the best places to start when developing a new workflow for managing digital and creative assets.
- Determine a “Single Source of Truth”
The first step in establishing effective processes for digital asset management is to identify the location where all your most important assets will live. This could be a single server, a cloud-based DAM platform, or a program such as SharePoint or OneDrive. This will create a single “Source of Truth” (a.k.a.library) for users to search for a particular asset, as long as that asset meets the criteria to be stored in that location, decreasing confusion and search time.
Another key benefit of this practice is that everyone in the organization with access to the library has equal knowledge of where to search for and find assets. When organizations have multiple libraries,” usually one or two people bear the responsibility of being “gatekeepers.” These people are unfairly tasked with helping everyone else search for assets and could spend their time more productively with more benefit to the organization.
- Remove Duplicates and Define Approved Assets
To ensure your library is as useful as possible, it is important to define what kinds of assets are to be stored there. To throw all of your organization’s assets into a single location may centralize the searches for assets, but may not make it more efficient to locate them. In order to make searches more effective, you can restrict the types of assets that are held in your library. This can be done in a number of ways, but here are examples of some of the most common:
- Only Final versions of design and creative assets
- Assets made after or within a certain time period
- Certain file types (for example, only .png, .jpg, .jpeg files)
Along with identifying these key assets, you can remove any duplicate, visually outdated, unapproved, or archived assets from your collection at this stage. This will result in a cleaner and significantly more searchable library, as searchers will not have to wonder which version or which of the two duplicate files to use.
- Increase Searchability With Intuitive File Names
Apart from pure organizational structure and location, finding and identifying assets can be made easier through the effective use of metadata. Metadata is simply data about data. One of the simplest forms of metadata is a file’s name. A file’s name should offer a snapshot of its purpose, content, and origin at a glance. Naming files in a standardized and intuitive manner will transform the way that people within your organization search for and locate assets, as well as how they identify the perfect asset to use for a particular purpose
File naming standards are something that needs to be customized to your business using language that makes sense to you. What is “intuitive” for one business may not be understandable in another, so taking time to brainstorm and iterate what file names should contain and look like is key. Here are some ideas to offer a starting point for you and your team.
- Use Metadata Specific to Your Organization
One of the most effective things you can do to enhance the ability to search for assets within your library is to use keywords and captions. Applying keywords to your files revolutionizes the ability of people within your organization to search for assets efficiently and effectively. The use of keywords, however, is not as simple as applying random keywords to the assets.
Depending on the platform your assets are held in, keywords may be useless. Some platforms have keyword functions but are difficult to navigate and understand. Even if they are straightforward, they may require large amounts of time upfront to develop. Deciding whether or not using keywords is the right choice for your organization is important, as the application of keywords requires a significant investment of time.
If you decide to use to keywords, it is important to not rush into implementing them. The metadata you apply to your assets needs to be standardized and should use your organization’s internal language. Failing to establish language and standardization can lead to a minimized benefit to the organization.
At Stacks we are firm believers that process is the key to an effective, efficient digital library, regardless of platform. When developing these standards and processes, it is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every business is different, and while the starting points may be the same, your organization’s standards must be just that: yours.
Need help? Contact Stacks today for a free call to get your digital asset management strategy in place!