“DAM is the management, organization and distribution of digital assets from a central repository. It is a system that allows you to manage all your digital assets from one place”.
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A DAM architecture works like an archive directory, where digital data assets are associated with unique and searchable metadata. Digital files include video, audio, images, presentations, digital documents and virtually any digital data format.
Authorized employees, users or partners may access DAM to review, retrieve, share or edit data through a centralized Web or offline user/application interface. A DAM system also may be classified according to the type of managed information asset, such as:
- Brand asset management: Stores marketing and sales-oriented data for a specific brand or entire organization
- Production asset management: Includes digital data assets that are specific to production
- Library asset management: Includes organization specific images, video and audio files that are large in size but used infrequently.
Of course, any conversation about managing your assets requires knowledge of what digital assets are — photos, videos, illustrations, audio files, documents, design files and presentations. In addition, it’s important to understand that all digital assets have a lifecycle.
Understanding the lifecycle of digital assets is essential to understanding why a central content management hub is important. We have identified four phases of the asset lifecycle:
- Creation: We see creation as more than the action of shooting video or developing artwork. Defining asset needs, generating ideas, planning and development are part of the creative process.
- Management: Includes the approval, version control and the logistics of giving people access to view and comment on digital assets.
- Distribution: Internal and external groups may be part of distribution. Internally, an asset might move between departments, to affiliate partners or be routed to salespeople. Externally, your website, social media platforms and affiliate partner marketing collateral are all destinations for your assets.
- Preservation: Whether an asset is stored for regular use or is buried deep in the archives, knowing what you have and being able to access your assets is a key part of the digital asset lifecycle.
What a DAM system allows you to do
A DAM system enables you to control and manage digital assets throughout their lifecycle. You can ingest, annotate, catalogue, store and share digital assets. Here are a few examples:
- Comment on artwork in one central location.
- Allow access to assets by user rights so that your partners can easily find and download the assets they need.
- Maintain multiple versions of a video under one URL, reducing the possibility of outdated versions being used.
- Include usage guidelines with logos or brand assets.
- Access archived marketing materials to inform projects in development.
These examples merely scratch the surface of the capabilities of a DAM system.
How a DAM system can benefit your organization
A DAM system can revolutionize the way you do business. That may sound a little grandiose, but it’s true. And you can expect these kinds of benefits as a result:
- Save time searching for and delivering digital assets to people
- Save money by moving projects faster, making assets available for repurposing and eliminating lost files
- Utilize the talents of your staff to focus on important and enriching work instead of dealing with outdated methods of asset delivery and recreation of missing artwork
- Improve organizational knowledge through a central, searchable repository for assets that drive engagement and power marketing efforts
The DAM system adoption journey (and your company’s internal policies) will probably necessitate an examination of the return on investment (ROI) of a DAM system.
Types of DAM Systems
When it comes to selecting a DAM system, you have three options: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), on-premise or open source. Below is a short overview of each.
SaaS: Also known as cloud-based or web-based digital asset management, SaaS is delivered to you as a software package accessed over the internet. There is no hardware or servers for you to maintain. A good SaaS DAM system is scalable and can be accessed anytime by anyone with an internet connection. SaaS is a great place for a company on a limited budget to start using a ready-to-use DAM system. That being said, there are a couple of things to watch out for. Make sure you know if upgrades are included in the fees and what kind of support you can expect.
On-premise: This DAM system is purchased and installed on your hardware, meaning you provide the storage space and the machines to run the application. On-premise use is common among organizations that have special security needs for proprietary information. On-premise gives total control over to your internal IT team, and in turn requires a good amount of IT support. Things to consider include how your internal team will manage updates, as well as data backups and making assets available to users as necessary.
Open source: This DAM system can be hosted by a third party or on-premise. Either way, the source code of the software is publicly available. Open-source software is typically developed in a public, collaborative manner, which can be a benefit when it comes to new feature development — but with a downside of less security. Keep in mind that open-source options will require a big commitment from your IT team.
Regardless of type of system you adopt, we recommend the conversation include people from IT, marketing and management. A lot of factors weigh in, like budget, support and capabilities. As always, the key to selecting the appropriate software is knowing what your organization needs from a DAM system.
Metadata & Digital Asset Management
Metadata is the language of your DAM system and is defined as “information that describes and defines an asset,” or “data about data.” Metadata can be descriptive, like title, author/creator, creation date or keywords; it can be structural, referring to the format or dimensions; or it can be administrative, giving important information on digital asset usage guidelines and copyrights. Metadata is important because it contains key information about your digital assets. Good metadata allows you to easily pinpoint specific assets during a search.
Each DAM system differs in the way it organized metadata — from text fields, to drop-down menus, to palettes and checkboxes. When deciding on a DAM system, it’s important to think about your approach to metadata and how you want to develop a metadata schema in order to evaluate vendor offerings. Some systems come with pre-set metadata fields, while others allow you to customize and create your own.
DAM User Roles
One of the great things about a DAM system is its ability to assign different levels of access, or permissions, to users by group. Creating permissions categories allows you to control what users see and what they can do with digital assets in the system. For example, you can enable your graphic designer to upload assets, edit metadata fields and post new versions. You can also give your webmaster permission to retrieve embed codes, and allow your sales team to simply view and download digital assets.
As with most aspects of a DAM system, the user roles you choose and the level of access you give each role will be contingent on your business goals, workflow and user groups.
Here’s how one manufacturer has determined the roles and permissions for their digital asset management user groups.
DAM as a Department
I think it is important for the leader of your DAM department to possess four main skills. Before we go into each of those, I want to point out that I deliberately used the term “department.” I have seen many companies try to tuck DAM into an existing department within their organization and, generally speaking, it never works very well.
DAM is unique. It is its own kind of animal. It involves a little bit of a lot of things, such as software engineering, database design, operations, licensing, product design, account management, etc. But DAM is not enough of any of these things for it to make sense to fold it underneath any one of these headings.
DAM really needs to be considered its own department that works closely with each of the other departments in the organization, but is viewed as its own discipline, with its own resources, release schedules and budgets. Recognize this early and you will avoid a number of problems, and you won’t inadvertently set up the members of the DAM team for failure.
Skill #1; The first skill on my list for a DAM department lead to possess is strong workflow management and troubleshooting skills.
Skill #2: A second area of focus, which I think is a very important trait to have in the field of Digital Asset Management, is to have a passion for metadata modelling.
Skill #3: Another trait that I feel is necessary for a DAM department lead, and cannot be ignored, is a strong background and interest in new technology.
Skill #4: The last skill that I think is important in a DAM department lead is a good understanding of intellectual property rights.
What are some DAM job descriptions?
“Mind readers wanted.”
This is first line from an actual Digital Asset Management (DAM) job description posted this year. More on that later.
Aside from asking where to post and find DAM jobs, several people are asking what are typical DAM job descriptions. After presenting this information during a DAM Conference, here are parts of actual DAM job descriptions and knowledge shared by several DAM professionals on the job market today.
This is part of the equation that involves people along with process and technology for DAM.
While some people may use Digital Asset Management (DAM) sometimes within an organization, there is an increase in the need for people who may work full-time on DAM within an organization. We’ll explore several of these positions so you can have an idea of what some organizations have for talent and resources for those who do this type of work.
Here is a part of a job description for a Digital Asset Manager:
- Responsible for leading overall strategy, implementation and workflow of the Digital Asset Management system for [organization]
- Acts as primary liaison between [organization] and various photo studios with regard to image names, new photography and archiving
- Responsible for assigning appropriate metadata for assets to ensure accurate usage rights
- Manages the Digital Asset system and facilitate the uploading of assets as well as maintaining and upgrading the system
- Registers internal and external users to the Digital Asset Management system based on permissions
- Facilitates retrieval of previously catalogued images/shoots
- Processes raw images using the appropriate software
- Archive assets as necessary
- Generates asset download reports
- Maintains accurate procedures and records for the system
- Keeps informed of latest Digital Asset Management technology trends and innovations
- Other duties as identified and assigned
What we call the position (job title) is less important than what they actually do.
DAM professionals who communicate with management need to have an understanding of high level business needs and how DAM can meet those needs. Why? Because it is important to quantify:
- Cost savings
- Time savings
- Reductions in risk (with knowledge of rights)
Yes, Digital Asset Management is a business need, not just a technology or another database.
If you are looking to hire a DAM professional, such as Digital Asset Manager, have potential candidates include their answers to the following questions as part of the job application:
- Have you worked with a Digital Asset Management System? Where? How long?
- How much experience do you have creating Metadata Schema?
- Do you have any training experience? What type?
That should help gauge the level of experience of most candidates.
Now about that “mind reader” job posting. Often, management and human resources do not know what DAM professionals are supposed to do (a bit difficult to write a job description that way), but they are slowly realizing there may be a need for Digital Asset Management and that is followed by realizing the need to fill a position with a DAM professional. That professional may be assigned (or volunteered) within the organization. The professional may be hired from the outside. Beside that, DAM professionals should use best practices and notice common behaviors when these practices are not followed. How?
- Follow up
That does not take any mind reading. I am not a mind reader. I am a Digital Asset Manager.Luckily, the key phases in the DAM journey build on each other, so your efforts pay off every step of the way.