DAM Implementation Best Practices
A Digital Asset Management (DAM) system is often where creative or marketing teams begin their journey into asset organization or, for more advanced organizations, marketing automation. In the past few years, DAM technologies have begun to mature and stabilize. The playing field of DAM solutions seems to be at a plateau and the cream is starting to rise to the top. This is making the selection process a bit easier and less risky. However, a successful implementation of enterprise software is always challenging and regardless of the technological advances and increased options, I continue to see organizations making many mistakes. These mistakes lead to poor adoption and sometimes even abandonment of a solution after a significant investment in time and money was spent.
What follows are the top issues to address when selecting, implementing, and adopting a DAM tool. They are not in order of importance as each organization has its own unique hurdles. If you make sure you have considered each of these, you will definitely increase your chances of success.
Choose the right technology – This is where most organizations spend the majority of their effort, though it is typically the least important. This isn’t to say you should just randomly draw a technology out of a hat. The DAM you choose should fit the needs of end users, be compatible with your specific industry and fit with your current software architecture and integrations. You should also consider your long-term goals; do you see your organization growing to where the DAM is the foundation of a larger marketing automation system or is the organization and retrieval of assets by the creative teams the primary goal? Your company’s focus, be it creative, marketing, sales, or regulation, should help drive your decision in picking the right tool, as various DAM solutions will excel in specific areas.
People and Process – In contrast to technology, this is the most overlooked factor and, in my experience, where the greatest risk of failure lies. Often, there is a feeling that a piece of software is a silver bullet that will magically solve all your asset management needs. Personally, I lay most of the blame for this misperception on salespeople who want you to believe that their product will easily fix all your issues with very little effort.
When it comes to DAM systems this is simply not true. It’s not that DAM systems don’t improve your team’s speed and organization - they do. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking a technology is also going to solve your process and people problems. If anything, it will worsen them by quickly exposing your weaknesses in these areas. Focus your attention on what new roles and new hires will be needed. Yes, you may need additional dedicated FTE’s to be successful. Research both internal and external agency or third party asset workflows and make sure once you’ve adopted them that they are documented. Audit and enhance your operational governance, such as established naming conventions and archiving protocols. Also make sure you are clear about what the purpose of your asset system is going to be, who will have access, and who will administrate it.
Metadata is the lifeblood of a successful DAM. Assets must be properly tagged to allow for efficient searches and retrieval. If your schema is too simple or, as is usually the case, overcomplicated, users will not find what they are looking for. They will either not get any results or get so many results they may as well have searched through folders to find an asset. The quickest way to kill adoption of a new DAM is for people not to be able to find what they need.
Like technology, don’t focus all your attention just on the metadata and without putting it into a more holistic context. Think about the people and processes. Who will apply metadata? Will this be a new effort for your creative or marketing teams; or will you have asset librarians - perhaps a combination of both? You must walk a fine line between having enough metadata to drive results without overburdening your staff with the sometimes-tedious chore of applying metadata.
Buy In – This is an issue that has lately been sneaking up in importance for me. I found that there has been a positive shift in the people tasked with deploying a DAM to consider the needs of the end users, which used to be a significant issue. However, I am still seeing important groups left out of the implementation process and this often can hurt your chances of success later on. You need to think out-of-the-box a little here and expand beyond end-users to those affected by the DAM. Groups such as IT, Sales, and Regulatory/Compliance are often overlooked during the selection and implementation phase, leading to serious consequences after a system is up and running.
Recently, I've witnessed another problem that has been creeping into the implementation process and wreaking havoc and leading to complete failure and abandonment - the C-suite. Typically, a DAM project will have a sponsor at a Director level and the blessings of at least one C-level executive. Here is where the risk shows up - if your CMO is on board but your CIO and CTO don’t even know about your efforts, you have a dangerous risk of failure. What happens when the CMO and sponsor suddenly decide to move on and seek other opportunities? It’s possible then that a new C-level executive swoops in who may want to make his mark and shake things up by focusing on applications. Usually, this is because of some level of prior success with a solution he is more familiar and comfortable with. Without a legacy executive stepping in to save your efforts, or you quickly winning over the new boss, you may be facing having to go through the whole process again with a completely new system, or worse yet, no system at all.
Consultants – I’ve only scratched the surface of a few of the issues you should consider when implementing a DAM, but by carefully addressing them you greatly increase your chances of success. However, these quick tips are no replacement for a seasoned professional who can independently assess your company’s and team’s needs without bias and with a high level of expertise.
An experienced consultant will be able to understand your unique needs and define the gaps that you need to address to ensure success. She can help quickly narrow the field to technologies she knows have been successful in your situation and industry. She will have worked with many implementation professionals before and be able to help you choose the right partner.
When in unfamiliar DAM territory, you may be savvy and lucky enough to get yourself out of the woods, but not without much pain and many missteps and restarts. A guide familiar with the DAM landscape is always the best way to ensure you quickly get to your destination.
Hopefully, the guidance and insights I’ve shared will start you on your journey to successfully implementing a DAM. Follow the map, keep your eyes on the path ahead of you, partner with an experienced guide and you and your organization will be well on your way to efficiently managing all of your company’s digital assets.