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Planning and Strategy

Tips for Mapping and Gathering your Scattered Assets

Ben Owen

By Ben Owen | Sep 16, 2021

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One of the core problems that digital asset management (DAM) can solve is the decentralization of creative assets within an organization. When no centralized storage area exists, assets are often saved to local, personal devices. This means they are only accessible to the authorized user of those devices. When users leave the organization, it is difficult for other team members to access their hard drives full of valuable assets. Even if employee turnover is low, brand consistency suffers when marketing and sales teams don’t have access to every asset they may need.

In many organizations, one or two employees are the “gatekeepers” of all creative assets. This means they handle all requests for assets, burdening them with a responsibility not usually listed in their job descriptions. This keeps them from doing the work they were hired for. It also causes delays while other team members wait for them to send them the assets they need.

From Scattered to Centralized

In a healthy DAM system, assets live in a single source, accessible to everyone who uses them. They are shareable, searchable, and organized in a way that even inexperienced users can find what they need. Older assets can be reused rather than recreated, and employees have the content they need when they need it. When someone leaves or the organization has a new team of contractors or freelancers creating assets, their content is available to all authorized users.

While a DAM program solves a lot of problems, it will take work to centralize your organization’s assets. You and your stakeholders need to determine what assets you have, where they live, and what your core needs are in terms of developing DAM standards. These tasks can seem overwhelming, especially for those working in larger brands with decades worth of assets scattered around the organization. Below, we outline some tips for mapping and gathering your scattered assets.

Tips for Mapping and Gathering

1. Identify End-Users

Even if you have extensive knowledge of your organization’s creative assets, you’ll need help mapping and gathering them. This assistance often comes from DAM end-users. This group usually includes asset creators on your design and creative teams and asset users in your sales and marketing departments. These end-users are experts in how assets are currently managed, including where they are stored after creation. If any of your assets live on hard drives and local servers, they may be the only ones with access to them.

After you’ve identified your end-users, contact them either in person, over the phone, in a Zoom meeting, or by using a survey of some kind. The purpose is to help them understand the goal of the DAM program and secure their help throughout the implementation process.

2. Prioritize Assets

The task of mapping and gathering digital assets can be overwhelming, especially in larger organizations. With that in mind, it’s best to break the process down into smaller, more manageable groups. The most effective way to do this is to identify your “priority” assets. These are the most valuable assets in your library.

These assets are typically the ones that are searched for, downloaded, and used the most. However, in some organizations, the most recent assets are the most important. In others, “priority” assets can be categorized based on organizational changes like restructuring, rebranding, or the hiring of a new executive. Other filters like file types or final versions of design files can also help you define this category and make the task more manageable.

3. Map Current Asset Storage Areas

Once your end-users are on board and you’ve identified your priority assets, the next step is to determine where your most important assets are currently stored. Here are a few examples:

  • Hard drives, desktops, or CDs
  • Shared network servers
  • Cloud-based drives (Box, Dropbox, Google Drive)
  • Physical storage

Finding out where your assets live will help you decide how to go about gathering them in one place. For example, if they are located on private storage systems like hard drives, you’ll need to collect them from your end-users. However, if they are found on cloud-based storage systems like Google Drive, you can simply create a new folder and begin moving your priority assets into it.

4. Create a Plan for Gathering

The process of gathering assets requires work from both you and any other users who have access to your storage systems. Here are a few recommendations for how to proceed:

  • For hard drives, collect them together and then load all your priority assets onto either a secure RAID drive, cloud-based system, or server.
  • In cloud-based systems, create a new, organized folder structure and move assets into it.
  • For local servers, if you're at your storage limit, copy priority assets into a cloud-based system as mentioned above. If you have the room, you can also do the same thing on a local server.
  • For physical assets, decide which assets need to be digitized and move them into an organized folder structure in either a local server or cloud-based system.

5. Analyze Assets

Once your priority assets are gathered together, hit the pause button. It may be tempting at this point to purchase a DAM platform and move your assets into it. Before you do that, sit down with all your stakeholders and analyze your assets. See if you can answer the following questions:

  • Are they named in a standardized way?
  • Is the folder structure easy to navigate and understand, even for team members with little or no organizational knowledge?
  • Do we want to apply metadata to our assets?
  • If so, what is our organizational vocabulary and how can we create keyword lists?
  • Do our users know the best ways to upload, download, and share assets in a secure and standardized way?

If your team is unsure how to answer any of these questions, you’ll need to brainstorm a bit longer before pulling the trigger on new software. If you don’t, the new system you purchase will become just as cluttered and full as the old one.


The key to building a DAM program, no matter where in the process you are, is identifying the next small “win.” If you or your team is having trouble knowing what the next step is, Stacks is happy to help. Contact us today to speak with someone from our team with experience helping brands big and small with their DAM questions.

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