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DAM 101

The Four Pillars of a Healthy Digital Asset Management Architecture

Ben Owen

By Ben Owen | Oct 10, 2022

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Take a look at the building you’re sitting in or beside right now. Are you confident its walls, ceiling, and windows will hold up? Do you feel secure, even if a storm comes through with howling wind and sheets of rain? If so, it’s because you trust that the people who created it had the necessary ability, knowledge, and skills to build a durable structure.

First, you’re confident that a competent architect did the work of drawing up plans for a building that not only looked good but would stand the test of time. You likely don’t worry about whether they correctly planned which walls were load-bearing, what they were made of, and how each piece of the building supported the others. Second, you’re confident that the contractor who constructed the building laid a good foundation and skillfully executed the plans given to them by the architect.

It’s easy to take the security and stability of any building for granted, but there’s a lot that goes into making it that way. The same is true for building scalable, efficient, and future-proof programs and systems in the organizations we work for. In this article, we give you the tools, like a competent architect, to draw up the plans for a solid digital asset management (DAM) program so it can be built and implemented efficiently and effectively.

The Pillars of a Healthy DAM Architecture

1. Organized Metadata Taxonomy

Every stable building has a solid foundation. Likewise, an organized metadata taxonomy, complete with controlled vocabularies, file naming conventions, and folder structure hierarchies serves as the foundation of your DAM program. In today’s digital content environment, effectively utilizing metadata is the best way to set up your DAM program for success not just today, but in the future. The volume of content you're producing will likely only increase, so building in the ability to filter, sort, organize, and search for assets quickly using metadata, even if your library is small at the moment, will generate significant dividends in the long term.

Start organizing your metadata taxonomy by collecting all your current metadata-related documentation, gathering a group of core stakeholders, and checking out the metadata resources on the Stacks blog. You should also interview your DAM end-users to learn what’s working from a metadata perspective and what isn’t. Be sure to establish goals and bring in help where it's needed from a DAM consultant like Stacks, or another outside source.

2. Defined Roles and Responsibilities

Every building project needs project managers, contractors, and specialists who can execute specific tasks to ensure things stay on track before, during, and after construction. The same is true for your DAM program. You’ll need to outline the roles and responsibilities of all core stakeholders and the person or persons responsible for managing the program long-term. You’ll also need to determine who will govern and expand the program, clean and ingest assets, identify special projects, and educate new users. This can be a single person or a team of people working together.

3. Documented Standards and Processes

After the foundation is laid, every building needs walls and a roof to provide boundaries and keep the people and things within the building safe. As you might’ve guessed, the same is true in DAM. Instead of physical walls and a roof, however, boundaries in DAM are comprised of two things: your documented standards, processes, and workflows and your DAM platform. We’ll discuss platforms in the next section.

Your documented standards and processes are the boundaries that allow your team to operate safely within your DAM program, as well as to know what it doesn’t include. For example, do only your final, finished, approved assets fall within the scope of your program, or does it also include work-in-progress or RAW files? It’s important to communicate this information to your end-users through clear documentation.

It’s helpful to think of these kinds of processes as maps of a building. For example, when someone asks you where the bathroom is in your house, you're likely to give them directions such as, “Around the corner, first door on your right.” Think of your documented standards as a guide for your end-users which allows them to navigate your DAM system and find what they need quickly.

4. The Right Technology

As mentioned above, the second component that makes up the boundaries of your DAM is the technology the program is housed within. In other words, your DAM system. For many organizations, their DAM system is a dedicated, out-of-the-box DAM platform, a piece of software specially designed for managing digital assets.

Each platform offers feature sets that allow users to customize them to meet their unique DAM requirements and use cases. While having the best software won't solve every problem, having the wrong technology creates its own issues. It’s essential to put time and effort into choosing a DAM platform that fits “just right” (as Goldilocks would say).

If you need help organizing your metadata, documenting your standards and processes, or choosing a DAM platform, consider working with a consulting group familiar with the space like Stacks. Our team of DAM experts is happy to help! Contact us today.

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