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DAM 101

The 5 Pillars of a Healthy DAM Program

Ben Owen

By Ben Owen | Feb 13, 2023

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What is a DAM Program?

Where digital asset management (DAM) is a concept, a DAM program is applying that concept to the real world. Every DAM program is unique since it harnesses the common traits and tools of DAM for the benefit of a particular organization. Every brand has different needs, digital assets, and ways of using them.

While the tools and some high-level principles remain the same, the way they play out uniquely defines every DAM program. For example, some organizations use cloud-based software managed by a single, full-time DAM manager, while others use on-premise solutions managed by a governing team.

The right program ensures that people understand their roles, that the processes for them to follow are clear and in line with how their organization does business, and that there’s a DAM platform in place with features that meet the needs of their workflow. In this article, we'll outline the five core pillars that comprise a healthy, efficient, and effective DAM program.

5 Pillars of a Healthy DAM Program

1. People

At Stacks, we firmly believe that having the right people in your organization is the key to a successful business. Going a step further, having those people sit in the right seats—seats that accurately reflect their desires, capabilities, and expertise—enables your organization to thrive.

This isn’t just true of your business as a whole, it's also true for all your individual departments, teams, and programs (including DAM). No DAM program, no matter how robust the technology or complex the workflows, can succeed without the human resources necessary to govern the system and help it grow. All individuals and teams must understand and embrace the roles and responsibilities attached to their seats in the DAM program for it to be effective.

Whether a full-time employee, a team of employees, or a consultant working on a fractional basis, someone has to own the tasks of regularly auditing the DAM program, analyzing data, identifying expansion opportunities, and elevating risks.

2. Metadata Taxonomy

After personnel, an organized, documented, and easy-to-understand metadata taxonomy is the most important foundational pillar of a healthy DAM program. Every metadata taxonomy is unique since it's the custom language that both end-users and technology use to make a DAM program work.

Metadata is the information describing digital assets, from their names to their locations to what they are. It's the basis for all forms of organization and search within a digital library. Creating a metadata taxonomy that makes sense to your end-users can be difficult, however, as there are so many fields and forms of metadata that it can quickly become more noise than signal.

To begin building your metadata taxonomy, start with the three major forms of metadata: file names, folder structure, and the IPTC metadata embedded within assets. Work through these standards for your organization, following best practices, getting feedback from end-users, and documenting examples to distribute across the organization.

3. Permissions Hierarchy

Along with a strong metadata taxonomy, clear permissions structures are what make a DAM program work. In this instance, permissions are the information and hierarchy that make your digital assets secure. They can range from the copyright and usage permissions attached to specific groups of assets to features available to particular users when they log into the DAM system.

Without permissions, all assets are available to all users, meaning that out-of-date or confidential assets can be viewed by anyone. Even more concerning is that they can easily be downloaded and placed on social media and other marketing outlets. No permissions also means that there isn’t any information available about when or where an asset licensed by an external creator can be used.

Implementing permissions secures assets and simplifies the user experience for your employees. With permissions in place, only the assets that help users do their job well are available to them, making executing a marketing strategy effectively straightforward and simple.

4. Processes

Processes and workflows are often considered before people and standards such as metadata and permissions. However, without people and standards, it’s impossible to determine how processes should be laid out and what tools will be needed to build them.

The key to well-built and intuitive processes in your DAM program is making them easy to understand and follow. Achieving this is as simple as establishing the pillars outlined above and integrating as many of your existing processes with your DAM system.

When standards are documented and easy to understand, processes make more sense to the users following them. Workflows go far more smoothly when the people involved know their roles and the tasks they're responsible for to keep them up and running. These things, when paired with the automations and efficiencies found when you integrate multiple systems, result in a DAM program that's user-friendly and incredibly powerful.

5. Platforms

The final foundational piece of a healthy DAM program is a DAM system that suits the unique process requirements of your organization. For many businesses, this means searching for, finding, evaluating, and implementing a dedicated DAM platform with features that leverage their metadata and permissions standards as well as integrations that support their processes.

Evaluating platforms can be difficult given the sheer number and diversity of platforms on the market. If you need support managing a DAM platform request-for-quote (RFP), contact Stacks.


Establishing these five pillars is vital to building a DAM program that can grow and support your business objectives. However, it requires bandwidth and expertise to build these pillars that many organizations don’t always have. If you need help with any or all parts of this process, contact Stacks today!

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