Frustrations and Fixes

What questions should I ask when looking for a DAM?

In the early stages of the Digital Asset Management (DAM) discovery process, you have to take in a lot of information and assess its value to your organization. Information can come in the form of research, vendors, demonstrations, RFPs, etc., and distilling it all can be a challenge. There is no standard list of questions that applies to every organization… but there is a checklist of sorts that ensures you ask and answer the right questions for your unique situation.

Establish your baseline requirements

If you’re not a DAM expert, all the better, because this is your chance to articulate what your company needs, in practical, ‘layperson’ terms. Think like an owner of your organization, and force yourself to paint a picture of ‘what good looks like’ once the system is in place. In other words, big-picture, why are you investing in a DAM? This exercise will naturally lead to baseline questions you’ll want answered by any potential DAM vendor.

Leverage your in-house expertise and unique capabilities

Bring in people from different parts of the company who offer unique skill sets that are relevant to your DAM, and allow them to participate in the discovery process. Different questions will come up from different groups. Your IT department, especially, will undoubtedly provide an invaluable perspective. They’ll get into the technical specifications and requirements of a system, consider any existing technical realities or resources, and how the old and the new will or won’t integrate.

Drill down to concrete features your organization requires

With the help of the cross-functional group, get down to the nitty-gritty. For example, if you have a server that needs to support both Mac and PC users, then confirming that this is possible becomes part of your short-list of questions. It might feel like you’re dealing with trivial matters, but this is the time to put all the cards on the table, no matter how small or inconsequential they might seem.

Remember your needs and don’t get distracted by shiny objects

It’s easy to be attracted to and distracted by specific features and capabilities of a proposed system. And that’s not all bad. Your initial wish list was probably based in part on the solutions you thought existed, and learning about new developments can change your wish list. Great. Learn about what’s possible, but develop the habit of re-grounding yourself and constantly ask yourself, “Okay, but will it meet our needs?”

The RFP process is not an end in itself

A proposal from a vendor in response to an RFP (request for proposal) can provide an interesting baseline to build from and a direction to navigate, but it’s not a project plan. By definition, an RFP response is not informed by the kind of deep knowledge that will come with a full Discovery process of a DAM project. And until you can be shown a feature or functionality in action you can’t be certain it will work for your needs. Keep asking questions.  

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