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DAM Best Practices

Tips for Tackling a Massive Backlog of Assets

Ben Owen

By Ben Owen | Sep 16, 2021

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Have you ever let dishes in the sink pile up? At first, you place a pan or plate in the sink, thinking, “I’ll get to it this afternoon.” Soon, two days have gone by and the number of dishes has doubled or tripled. Suddenly, washing the dishes has gone from a two-minute task to a twenty-minute one. From there, even starting feels overwhelming, and with each mealtime that goes by, the problem gets worse.

This same dynamic occurs in digital asset management (DAM). Assets accumulate over time unless they are handled regularly. This means that valuable, useful assets are in the same stockpile as ones that are no longer relevant and are impossible to find.

Most organizations can’t avoid accruing large quantities of assets. There is simply too much need for great creative content. In this article, we share some tips and best practices for tackling a massive backlog of assets and preventing the problem from occurring again.

Know Your Situation

To start getting a handle on your backlogged assets, you need to learn more about them. Start by mapping out where they’re currently stored. Are they saved on disparate hard drives, servers, file share systems, or in a DAM platform? How are they organized? Are current and/or “priority” assets mixed in with historical or archived ones? If so, you’ll need to separate these distinct groups and address them differently.

Once you understand the situation your organization faces, identify your priorities and set goals for your DAM program. For example, if your assets live on an outdated system and your users find accessing and searching for them difficult, you may want to migrate them to a new one. Making these decisions first makes the task of managing your backlog far easier.

Best Practices for Tackling Your Backlog

As soon as you’ve identified where you are in your journey towards a fully functional DAM system and have a roadmap for how to get there, it’s time to sort through the figurative pile of dishes in your sink and get them all in the right place. Below, we’ve listed some of the best practices we’ve discovered for tackling a backlog of digital assets.

Separate Your "Priority" Assets

In every organization, there exist two core types of assets. The first group is the “priority” assets. These are the most used, most important assets across the organization. For many organizations, they’re the most recent, most relevant assets. For others, they’re specific file types or versions. Without these assets, it would be difficult for the organization to maintain brand consistency and revenue would be lost. When it comes to DAM, these assets are what their name implies: the priority.

If you face a mountain of assets, scattered on a server or shared drive, the first and most important step you can take is to identify, separate, and organize your priority assets. They should be named, sorted, and tagged with metadata in a standardized way. That way, none of them will fall through the cracks. If your organization is migrating to a new DAM platform, these assets should be moved first, as they’re the key to getting your system up and running quickly.

Deduplicate and Clean

When your DAM system is up and running with your priority assets, what should you do with the massive backlog which still needs to be migrated? While priority assets hold the most value, archived or historical assets can still be useful. In some industries, archived stock imagery can be resold. In others, historical assets serve as a reference point for maintaining brand consistency. No matter the use case, it’s up to you to determine which assets hold value and which don’t.

For useless or duplicate assets, delete or archive them. Don’t be afraid or overly sentimental when making these decisions. Even the most valuable backlogs or archives aren’t the most important part of any library.

Establish Standards

To ensure your DAM system runs smoothly, you’ll need clear, easy-to-understand standards that are relevant to your workflows. Having standards removes confusion and enables simple search, straightforward organization, and secure file sharing. These standards should be developed before you ingest and migrate your priority assets. They include file naming conventions, high-level folder structures, permissions structures, and master keyword lists.

Users also need a standard, documented way to search for, organize, name, tag, and share historical or archived files which still hold value. These standards should be similar to the original ones, but less complex. Since backlogged or archived assets aren’t very important, don't invest too much time applying metadata or restructuring them. Keep your backlog standards simple and easy to apply and understand.

Apply Standards & Move Assets

As soon as your backlog standards are in place, you can begin renaming, reorganizing, and tagging backlogged assets. The easiest way to do this is to create a separate section of your library for your archive. Then you can go folder by folder, gathering, tagging, and migrating your previously backlogged assets to it.

Once you’re done, you’ll have a fully functional, standardized, and clean archive in the same location as your current library. Your creators, marketers, salespeople, and leadership team can easily find and share historical content. Outside users can be given special links to access assets they want to purchase from your archive. The dishes are clean and in the right cabinets.

Develop a "Retirement Plan"

Now that your sink is empty, you’ll want to keep it from getting full again. Develop a “retirement plan” for your current assets. When and how will they move from the current library to your archive? How often will unused or irrelevant assets or those with outdated copyright permissions be archived?

What about assets already in your archive? When do they expire, get deleted, or move out of the DAM system? When making these decisions, remember that the primary goal of your system is to minimize clutter while maximizing value.

Manage the Process

After you’ve tackled your backlog of assets, your job is to manage the DAM system, including its archive. Regularly audit both parts of your library to ensure that standards are followed. Get feedback from your team of end-users. Can workflows be improved or the DAM system expanded to include another department with a massive backlog?


You now have a DAM system with both your current and archived assets in a single, organized location. You have standards that make it impossibly easy for users to search for and find assets and know when to archive them. Your organization is getting the most out of its digital assets and ensuring that from their creation to their deletion they add value and aren’t wasted.

If you aren’t sure where to start your DAM journey or don’t have the bandwidth to get your system where you want it to be, Stacks can help! We provide brands like yours with the expertise and manpower to make DAM easy, obtainable, and actionable. Contact us today!

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