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Digital Asset Management Systems: Before You Buy

In a previous post I wrote of the benefits Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems bring to in-house creative teams, so hopefully you’ve realized that your team needs a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system to help secure, find and manage the growing number of assets your group is generating. Whether this is your first DAM system or you are moving to your next generation solution, there are some key factors in the selection process you should consider to help narrow the field and guide you to a shorter list of solutions.

Where to host?
There are different hosting options for DAM systems, the merits of each need to be considered based on your organization’s needs and capabilities. Whether On-premise, SaaS (Cloud) or Hybrid—there are systems for each. Much depends on your organization’s IT appetite for owning/supporting this technology or associated security integrity. There is a strong trend to SaaS solutions, which can provide clear delineation on technology support as well as future scalability.

Who will own the DAM?
A key question is ownership as this helps to provide direction as to who will be empowered to make actionable decisions on choice of DAM technology, implementation and adoption within the organization. Ownership usually resides within one of three groups typically: Marketing, Creative Services or IT. An important responsibility that comes with ownership is the authority and support to evolve the DAM resource for the benefit of the organization.

What size?
Whether the solution is needed for the in-house creative team or for the whole enterprise is a critical consideration. Your choice of DAM systems should be size-appropriate for your needs. You need to plan for both current and future needs.

What are the assets you need to manage?
Photos, graphics, logos, video and more—your assets are what you are trying to gain control over so you are able to generate greater value. Understanding the asset types and their specific needs will help you in evaluating DAM capabilities.

How many assets?
100,000? 100,000 – 500,000? More than 500,000 assets?

Large organizations may have millions of assets and terabytes of storage needs. While SaaS can quickly scale according to storage needs, consideration should be given to speed of the system. Consider the size of an asset as this impacts both storage and speed. For instance a RAW still photo can be 25MB, but a 6K video can be 500GB.

Often the speed issue is not so much the Cloud, but more the firewall / security infrastructure that can significantly reduce speed. Adding on accelerators can partially alleviate the issue, but more important is early alignment and support from your IT counterparts to minimize stepping down transfer rates.

‘Use-Cases’ define scope
A good industry practice is to capture the use cases for a DAM system in the scoping process. Focus on both the DAM users and processes around the assets. By mapping out the use cases you will generate a comprehensive scoping and functional requirements document to use in the process of sourcing, evaluating and selecting of a DAM solution. A good practice is to list your ‘must haves’ vs. ‘nice to have’ requirements and using that list when evaluating systems. 

Will your DAM be a stand-alone system or will it be integrated?
While DAM technology started as more of a digital repository for assets, today’s solutions are more often than not integrated with complimentary IT systems as part of the business technology ecosystem. For instance, do you need a DAM with workflow tools or a DAM with ability to integrate with a third-party BPM technology? It is important to identify integration needs as well as determining the ability and ease different solutions can meet those requirements.

Understand the cost vs investment
Lastly, DAM systems are expensive, but they also create value. There are many vendors marketing different levels of DAM. The costs cover the spectrum, but like many things you get what you pay for. The value equation is important way to understand and communicate the benefits a DAM system can generate for an organization.

Scoping requirements for a DAM system can take time and involve many more questions depending on the needs and complexity of use. With the above fundamentals you will be in better shape to begin your journey of researching and evaluating DAM solutions for your organization. Should you need assistance in your process, our team is here to help.


Mark Pierce

Cella Consultant Mark Pierce is an experienced Design and Creative Resources professional, having worked in Fortune 500, as well as mid-sized and small companies. Mark brings strong domain knowledge drawing from both external and internal agencies to support his consulting projects. His experience has covered a diverse field including consumer-packaged goods, manufacturing and software industries. With a strong focus on process improvement and marketing technology tools, he has helped companies reduce cycle times through workflow streamlining or re-engineering. His experience in Marketing Shared Services, both domestically and offshore, has delivered high-performing, in-house creative resources while reducing costs.

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