Why you should regularly optimize your DAM
By Kyle Henke
If you’ve had your digital asset management (DAM) system for a while, you probably have a growing list of things you wish it did differently (or did in the first place). If you’re like a lot of people, you’re making it work with compromises and workarounds, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Let’s make your DAM system work FOR you.
We address four key components:
And for each component, ask:
- What's working?
- What's not working?
- What's on your wish list?
We suggest conducting regular DAM System Reviews to answer these questions:
- Are all your components compatible?
- Should you update to the latest version of software?
- Are there plugins or other software that can help your staff work more efficiently?
- Is your hardware meeting your needs?
Digital Asset Management (DAM) System Review
A DAM system review will provide a clear overview of your technology – how it works and where it falls short – and will help you generate a plan of action to make changes. As a DAM manager, you might be able to perform the review yourself, but this might be an opportunity to get the help of experts who have the experience to successfully identify issues that impact your system and team. Even better, experts can fix your problems—configuring your system to work the way you need.
Your DAM is full of potentially valuable stuff – your stuff, your marketing team’s stuff, the stuff that freelance artists created way back when. But it’s only valuable if you can FIND it, and metadata is the key.
Metadata makes assets discoverable
In short, metadata is data about data. We’re going to focus on three types of metadata: technical, administrative, and descriptive.
Technical metadata includes information about:
- File format
- How the data is structured
- How to use and render the asset
- Behind-the-scenes details that may not affect your day-to-day
In a well-optimized system, technical metadata doesn’t need to be entered manually; it’s automated.
Administrative metadata includes information necessary to manage the asset over time. This can include information about the asset’s preservation and accessibility, as well as rights management. You can set up access and permissions in your DAM with user roles and groups, and you can even automate the process upon ingest if you want.
Descriptive metadata contains everything that describes your assets and answers questions, like…
Who is in the image? What are they doing? Where was the footage shot?
A common problem in DAM systems is that descriptive metadata isn’t standardized and structured with identified rules and a clear strategy. Even with the best intentions, individuals describe things and search for things differently. That’s why metadata design and management is vital to your DAM and long-term success. It establishes an internal taxonomy, workflows, and organization – and it enhances your ability to find and reuse your assets.
The success of your DAM system depends on people working in the system with some level of consistency. Let’s look at a few ways to ensure that consistency.
DAM governance is the Who, the What, and the How of your DAM program. It doesn’t sound exciting, but DAM governance is never-ending work that includes all levels of engagement and participation, and if you take the time and energy to establish a solid governance plan, it pays never-ending dividends.
The Who determines who does what within the system and establishes clear roles and responsibilities: implementers, strategists, maintainers, ingesters, and so on.
The What are the assets, and you need to establish rules for how they are stored and accessed early in your DAM program. You’ll need to answer these questions:
- What determines its purpose and use once an asset is in the DAM?
- Are there copyright or licensing issues to consider?
- Do assets have a life expectancy?
- Should everybody have access to the asset, or is it only relevant to a defined group?
The How is the day-to-day work that must be maintained and reviewed, to define how daily tasks get done. The How can be as simple as how a file gets uploaded into the DAM, or how keywords will be applied to individual assets for search and discovery. (Or: How often does a systematic review of policies and workflows need to be completed? How often should training be provided for current and new team members? You get the point.)
All of this is determined and worked through your DAM governance strategy: the playbook your team follows every day.
Workflows are how everything comes together on a sustainable basis. Successful workflows are repetitive and precise, and define three things:
- How you ingest data
- How you describe data
- Who can access the data
Automation saves time and effort
Some workflows can be automated and save a lot of time while improving the searchability of your assets. Automation can also reduce many steps normally performed by humans.
A common type of automation is file conversion. For example, a system user requests a download, but they don’t need the original file, just a smaller version to review before further work or reuse possibilities are determined. The system can allow this functionality with a simple click, and it could even be the default, based on a user’s permission levels.
Permissions themselves are a form of automation. The system determines what the user has access to based on the permissions you provided them up front.
Automation raises personal productivity and saves everyone a ton of time and extra work – and opportunities for automation will become more apparent as your DAM scales.
A successful DAM is more than hardware and software. Ideally, it’s a system, and a set of repeatable workflows, and a well-trained staff – all of which evolves and grows with your needs. If your DAM isn’t performing how you need it, reevaluate… and optimize.