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Preparing for successful digital asset management

Enterprises today are faced with a dizzying pace of marketing and content development.  This all leads to the rapid proliferation of digital assets.  Unfortunately, it also often leads to assets being randomly spread across shared drives, desktops, laptops and assorted cloud storage.  Rarely are digital assets well organized, named, or tagged, which also means they’re not discoverable in any meaningful way.  This widespread problem has moved Digital Asset Management (DAM) to the forefront of digital marketing.  While DAM has been around for a long time, there is a new generation of solutions on the marketplace today that are better suited to the needs of modern digital marketers.

However, while the tools have gotten more advanced and easier to use, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t work to do to get ready for the move to a DAM system.  If you are considering DAM, there are a number of key things you need to take into consideration to ensure a successful implementation:

1. Setting Your Objectives:

Defining your objectives for DAM is the right place to begin.  Some of the key objectives for implementing a DAM include:

  • Improved discoverability – assets may be spread to numerous shared drives and lack consistent naming or tagging conventions making it hard to find the asset you need
  • Version control – ensuring that people are using the right version of a logo, an image, or other assets can be challenging without a DAM
  • Rendition creation – a good DAM can automatically create thumbnails and all of the different sizes and types of an asset that are required, which saves designers a huge amount of time
  • Workflow – the workflow around content creation, approval, publishing and usage without a DAM can be difficult to track and manage
  • Metadata – assets often have inconsistent or missing metadata that also impacts discoverability.  While this isn’t necessarily fixed by a DAM, workflows can be used to enforce tagging at a certain point during the asset management process
  • Digital Rights Management – being able to track licensed assets and what assets have expired or may require renewal is an invaluable feature of a DAM
  • Asset creation – it is important to keep in mind that DAMs are for managing assets not for creating assets, however a DAM can streamline the process of creating new assets and ensure that updated assets can be updated across a number of other assets (such as an image in an InDesign file)

2. Planning for DAM Implementation:

Once you have defined the outcome you want from your DAM implementation, the next step is to begin getting organized around your assets, your taxonomy and your metadata needs.  While a DAM can do a great deal to create governance around metadata, it can’t automatically create a taxonomy that is a good fit for your organization and it can’t infer metadata that doesn’t exist somewhere.   Therefore, thinking about how assets are used and what metadata will drive your requirements and meet your success metrics is key:

  • Take inventory – put together a working document of all the assets you have that you want migrated.  Start to look for any structure that can help inform your taxonomy (organized by department, by product line, by country, etc.).  Do the assets have a naming convention that allows us to infer certain metadata and enable discoverability (i.e. /Dept/Products/Widget1/Widget-WingNut.jpg)?
  • Assess your metadata – take a look at what metadata the assets currently have and how consistently it is applied.  If there is little or no metadata, then creating the metadata will have to either be done prior to DAM import or after.  There are some streamlined ways to do this.
  • Clean house – this is an opportunity to dump old or unused assets.  Taking a close look at assets that have not been used in years, came from old campaigns or are no long on brand and eliminating them before migrating to a new DAM can help create a clean starting point
  • Naming and metadata planning – while all the assets can be imported as is into the CMS, that will likely result in a solution that doesn’t meet your stated goals.  You will need to determine the gap between the current naming conventions and metadata and what you want from your system moving forward.   This can also be handled as a phased process, where an inventory is built and the top priority assets get new naming conventions and metadata loaded into a spreadsheet that informs the import process.  This will also be used for the set up of the taxonomy within the DAM prior to import
  • Projects – some of the modern DAM systems, such as Adobe, have the concept of Projects, which are key types of initiatives that your team may use within the DAM.  In some cases, it may be as simple as logos and approvals.  In others, it may be more complex creation of assets with a large number of links.  Again, asset creation does not happen within the DAM, but Projects help you to manage that process to ensure the right assets are always used and that there is an approval process for the creation of those assets.  Identifying all the key tasks that need some structure and organization that need to be managed in the DAM will help to ensure a smooth implementation
  • Asset Creation – for users who leverage InDesign extensively and need to have links to digital assets that may change quite often, those documents will need to be updated within InDesign to point to assets in the DAM rather than using local versions of assets from the desktop.  This process can be time consuming.  It is recommended that you identify the top priority assets first and update those and then build a roadmap for updating other documents as required

3. Phased Implementation

While the specifics of your implementation will depend on the platform you have selected, if you follow the aforementioned steps, everything should go smoothly.   The one additional piece of advice is to plan on a phased process.  Trying to do everything at once tends to be less successful than taking this on in chunks.  Focusing on your top priority assets and projects can help you to get familiar with the tools and optimize for your productivity and usability.  That will enable you to make changes to your subsequent processes once you have learned more about how the tools work for you and how you will use them.


A DAM can be a powerful tool when implemented properly.  Thoughtfully implemented DAMs can create huge time savings and simplify a great deal of processes and work efforts.  However, if your organization is not comfortable with all of the steps and processes, then finding an experienced advisor to support you through the effort can save a great deal of rework down the road.

Talk to us if you’d like help on your DAM strategy.