Digital Asset Management Systems: Is it Time for You to Consider One?

  • Greg Ellis
  • August 7, 2015

Many companies today have an extensive digital asset base. Between images and content for the website, marketing, sales and training materials, and internal content for employees, asset management can become a sizeable task. This is where digital asset management (DAM) systems come in.

A digital asset management (DAM) system is a central repository that lets mid-to-large enterprises store, find, organize, retrieve, and share their digital assets. It’s a scalable solution for handling images, videos, audio files, and presentations – basically, any kind of consumable content. This is true whether the content is internally owned or licensed for use. These systems not only improve operational efficiency and workflow across multiple teams in (and outside of) an organization; they also reduce legal risks related to content use.

Market Scope: DAM Systems are NOT Just for Retailers

Many organizations mistakenly assume that DAM systems are only for big retailers or e-commerce companies. But any enterprise – publishing outfits, medical companies, consumer product manufacturers, and more – can benefit from a DAM system because it isn’t just a tool for storing assets – it can also serve to streamline processes and reduce the costs involved with asset management.

Purchasing and implementing a DAM system usually involves a significant investment, which is why companies struggle to decide whether they should adopt these platforms. Although the benefits listed above are valuable, many of them are hard to quantify and involve risks avoided rather than revenues realized. This can make it hard to prove that the returns of a DAM system implementation justify the required investment.

In this post we’ll walk through the benefits of these systems by looking at specific use cases, with the ultimate goal of helping you determine the ROI of a DAM system for your organization.

Applications of a DAM System

Efficient Asset and Workflow Tracking

Consider the needs of a publishing company with multiple media and magazine brands. Separate teams are responsible for creating the content, images, and other collateral materials within each brand and each team uses numerous systems along the workflow.

Authors store story briefs and article drafts on one server, photographers load their images on another, and print designers store cover designs on still another. Then there’s the marketing and sales copy for each individual magazine, some of which might be written – and stored - by outside agencies.

All these users have to remember logins and URLs for different systems and it’s likely that there are varying rules and limitations for uploading assets to each system. If the organization is using manual file storage, they must rely on experience to remember where and how to upload assets or look for them. Uploading and locating assets can become thoroughly inefficient and time-consuming as a result.

Using a DAM system empowers an organization to just upload these assets once to a centralized repository, following which anyone with access to the system can locate all available content in seconds. Metadata can identify the most current versions of assets, when they were uploaded, and by whom.

Quick Access to Any Desired Assets

Imagine that the same publishing company is releasing new titles in a line of books that share many features with existing titles. To give the marketing or sales department something to build on, a manager might need to locate a presentation or other marketing collateral from previous lines.

If the company is still using shared drives, the manager first has to find out where the previous line’s collateral was stored, get access to the drive in question, and then find a file on that drive whose name and folder location are unknown. He or she may also have to get the necessary permissions to download those files.

All this assumes that the materials were created in-house; if a creative agency still has the collateral, a whole new search is necessary, not to mention the potential rights management issues that may come into play.

But with a DAM system all that manager has to do is log in and search by category or keyword tag. He or she can look at previous campaigns and collateral, determine their workflows, learn from how their assets were used, and identify if there are any expirations or rights management issues in the metadata.

Monitoring Usage Rights

For example, imagine an organization that has just redesigned its corporate site. After launch, ownership of the new site’s support and maintenance gets diffused to multiple parties, and regular updates languish in the absence of a single point of direction. In this scenario, with no one keeping track of the site’s various assets, the company can easily find itself faced with legal and financial difficulties related to the use of expired licenses for stock assets.

This issue can quickly get out of hand considering the back license fees and penalties that can pile up when usage rights aren’t monitored. Some companies have found this out the hard way. Out of the blue, they’ve received bills for thousands of dollars for two or three years’ worth of unlicensed stock images.

If the company in this example had been using a DAM system, the assets would have been flagged to notify admins that their usage rights were about to expire. The images could have even been automatically removed and automated notifications could have been triggered to procure additional licensing. This would spare the company the need to manually monitor image rights – and protect it from unnecessary fees or legal action.

Cost Savings on Storage

Another consumer products client of ours in the pharmaceutical space tasked several creative agencies with creating videos, photography, logos, and print-ready layouts for brochures or mailings. Different agencies worked on the company’s various product lines and regional locations.

When one division of the company needed to create marketing material and signage for trade shows, they had to discover which agency handled the product line and contact it to track down old Photoshop files, high-resolution images, TV commercials, radio ads, and raw video feeds. After 5 years, 50 TV commercials, and 200 gigs of raw high-definition video, this client had racked up a significant amount of billing for storage at different agencies. Not only was the expense considerable but it was also so decentralized that nobody was aware of how sizable it was.

Consolidating this data storage in a DAM system could not only reduce the company’s storage costs but also make the expense easier to track and manage. And instead of relying on five or six outside agencies to have the right backups, redundancies, and disaster recovery strategies in place, the company could have control over these factors itself.

A Critical Asset to Your Operations

Historically, DAM systems have had a reputation for being expensive platforms that duplicated functions already available through shared file servers and internal storage. They have since matured, however, to become extremely useful - maybe even a necessity for organizations that want the most efficient and cost-effective workflows and operations. So if your organization is facing one or more of the scenarios outlined above, it might be time to evaluate whether a DAM system is right for you.

We’ll be continuing this thread over the next couple of weeks to review the landscape of DAM system providers and considerations for integrating these platforms with others in your content experience management suite. Feel free to join the discussion and comment on your experiences with these solutions.