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Planning and Strategy

What Goes Into My DAM?

Ben Owen

By Ben Owen | Oct 18, 2021

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When we ask someone how their organization manages their digital assets, we often get responses like this:

  • “We don’t produce a lot of photography.”
  • “Let me connect you with the person that manages our photoshoots.”
  • “I’m on the creative or digital side, does this apply to me?”

These responses are due to the mistaken belief that digital asset management (DAM) is concerned only with the management of an organization’s photos. Most organizations produce product shots, headshots of the leadership team, game day photos, or pictures from a corporate event. While these photos are valuable on their own, they’re also used to create a variety of other digital assets such as sales presentations, marketing collateral, and social media posts. While pictures are one of the primary types of digital assets, they aren’t the only ones.

For consumer products like KIND Snacks, their packaging is one of their most important pieces of branding. As KIND’s founder, Daniel Lubetzky, said, “Our packaging allowed [customers] to see all the ingredients and know exactly what they are getting.” This enabled KIND to stay true to its mission statement to “empower our community to make better, informed choices about health.” The digital design files for KIND’s packaging played a vital role in the success and growth of the company, not just the photos used in them.

Why Expanding DAM Matters

Many organizations don’t succeed when they try to build a more efficient system for managing their digital assets. This failure is often because they didn’t ask themselves one simple question before beginning the process. That question: “What assets should go into my digital asset management system?”

Below, we’ve outlined some of the main impacts that not answering this question has on implementing an effective DAM system. Alongside these warnings are some recommendations for ensuring that the scope of your program is the right size for your organization.

Consequences for Missing What Goes in your DAM

Failing to Maximize Value

As demonstrated by KIND Snacks, not all types of digital assets are equal in value to their organization. Managers or teams tasked with building a more sustainable DAM program often assume, however, that photos are the most important. This assumption means that the DAM programs they build are incomplete. The mission of DAM is to maximize the value of ALL the digital assets your team is constantly creating by making them available to the right people when they need them. If some of the most useful ones are excluded, your DAM program won’t realize its full potential.

While it’s possible to add assets after your DAM system is up and running, thinking through what kinds of assets should live there to begin with will save your team immeasurable time. By starting with this question, you can ensure that the workflows, standards, and implementation of your digital asset management program are complete and seamless. Adding new standards and practices after the fact leads to confusion and a lack of adoption by your end-users. Save the headache by getting the scope of your DAM program right from the beginning.

Assembling an Incomplete Stakeholders Team

A common recommendation Stacks makes to Creative Directors or CMOs planning to build a DAM program is to identify a team of stakeholders to help them implement it. This team can help map current workflows, identify challenges, and validate standards. It can evaluate DAM platforms, give feedback on folder structures, and determine what can be solved by process versus platform. Picking the right people to be on this team is key.

Without thinking through what kinds of assets will live in the DAM system it’s likely you won’t include all the right people on the team. For example, there may be specific departments in your organization that focus on the creation and management of design files or video assets. If so, representatives from each group should be included in your stakeholder group.

Continuing To Be Disorganized

Along with maximizing the value and life cycle of your assets, an effective DAM program also unifies your creative workflows. When it's organized well, all your asset creators and end-users work together and distribute assets for the good of the business. The DAM system is the single source of truth from which all other processes flow.

However, when the digital asset management system focuses on only one type of asset and fails to recognize the value of others, the opposite occurs. Instead of the photo and design teams working together to find or produce the perfect photos for a creative project, they remain siloed. For example, your social network team may be happy with the new way of managing the photography for their posts but be frustrated by difficulties working with the video team.

Building a Home for All Your Important Assets

Now that you know the dangers of not identifying the proper scope for your digital asset management program, here are a few tips for doing it effectively.

Identify All Channels of Digital Asset Use

The first recommendation is simple. Most likely, your team realized a change was necessary when one core channel for using digital assets slowed down. Rather than attempting to solve the issue for that lone channel, take a step back. What other channels create or use digital assets, and are they struggling with similar issues? For instance, if your web team spends too much time searching for the assets they need, odds are the assets the marketing and creative teams do as well.

Once you know which teams have problems, you need to determine what kinds of assets they use. From there, you can quickly identify what needs to live in your new and improved DAM system.

Map All Workflows Surrounding Digital Assets

Along with identifying who needs help and what assets they use, it’s also important to determine how they use assets. Many managers think of asset use in one direction - pulling assets from the DAM system to use. That’s practical for sales and marketing teams but what about asset creators? They may have struggles surrounding upload speeds and file-sharing or integrating with their creative suites. Mapping out workflows in both directions will give you a clearer picture of your limitations and the needs of your teams.

Make a Plan but Start Small

The secret to an effective and scalable digital asset management system is not bells and whistles. It’s simplicity. There may be complex workflows around video files that your team needs to get a better grasp on before adding those assets to the DAM. That’s perfectly acceptable, as long as you plan how to manage them in the meantime. Maybe your library has terabytes of files and the sheer volume is overwhelming to sort through. If so, break the library up based on priority and implement your system in stages.

Just because you decide you’d like a certain set of assets in the DAM system doesn’t mean they need to be there on day one. However, you do need to plan how and when to add them in the most simple and easy-to-understand way for your end-users.


If you or your team are having trouble identifying what kinds of assets need to live in your DAM system, you’re not alone. Consider seeking help from a digital asset management consultant like Stacks. We help teams discover their needs and move from lost to launch in less time and for less money than if they’d hired a full-time DAM Manager. Contact us today to get started building a scalable program that gets your creatives back to creating.

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