The Resurgence Of DAM: What You Need To Know


Digital asset management has been around as a marketing tool for years, with varying degrees of success, ranging from well-documented ‘best practice’ examples through to anecdotal evidence of systems that have not lived up to expectations. Regardless of that history, DAM is currently going through a period of growth. Forrester Research predicted that 23% of firms intend to invest in digital asset management (DAM) in 2014-2015. This is echoed by research carried out by eMedia on behalf of North Plains: 43% of respondents are looking at implementing digital asset management systems to improve access control, while 52% have systems that they are seeking to improve.

So what’s behind this sudden surge of interest in DAM? Drivers fall into three main categories: the increasing demands around the management of marketing and brand assets; the people spearheading DAM adoption; and the evolution of the underlying technology, making implementation far easier than before. Let’s look at each of these in turn, starting with the content that DAM needs to support.

Dealing With An Increasing Volume Of Content

As every brand professional knows, the volume of marketing assets being created and distributed is growing at an exponential rate, with rapid turnaround often required in today’s ‘always on’ highly social world. Add to this the sheer diversity of assets used – documents, video, audio, social and web content, packaging and POS material – and it is hardly surprising that finding better ways to control all this content is climbing higher up the CMO’s priority list.

Plus, many brands – whether large or small – are operating in increasingly global environments, with the need to ensure that employees and agencies spread across the world have clear access to the right content. As well as ensuring that everyone is ‘on message’, other concerns include making sure that the latest versions of marketing material are being used, and that compliance, rights management and protection of Intellectual Property (IP) are all being observed.

All this matters, because the extreme, bad management of marketing assets can lead to fines and legal action, while on a more everyday level, it can contribute to unnecessary duplication of effort, wasted expenditure or time lost trying to find the right content.

Marketing Is Leading DAM

We’re seeing a shift in who is driving adoption of DAM. Traditionally, DAM implementations were typically led by IT departments, perhaps in conjunction with marketing teams. Now, the CMO – or indeed, other C-level executives who see the value of DAM outside the marketing function – are increasingly taking the lead. They want a solution to their problems and fast.

The good news is, this is being made possible by the changing nature of DAM systems themselves, with the trend away from proprietary ‘on premise’ solutions towards cloud-based systems, where the content is hosted remotely by the vendor, without the user needing to install lots of new server hardware or software.

The cloud-based approach means that DAM tools have minimal impact on existing IT infrastructures, plus can be adopted very quickly, without creating workload for the IT department (though they will probably – and rightly – want to give the DAM solution their blessing). The increasing sophistication and security of cloud technology has also reduced any concerns around this ‘outsourcing’ of brand IP outside the enterprise firewall.

There’s also an important financial argument: as no major capital expenditure is involved, cloud-based DAM approaches can be far more cost-effective , bringing DAM within the reach of far more organisations than previously possible.

From the DAM vendor’s perspective, cloud-based systems are also good news, because they enable experts to spend less time on the pure implementation aspects and more time innovating new features, or working closely with customers to provide advice on ‘best practices’ around DAM, from configuration through to maximising adoption by employees. This is vital, because however good the technology and strategy behind DAM, the way it is introduced to the organisation can be the difference between success and failure.

Best Practices

Areas that we consider particularly important to focus attention on include understanding workflows, integration with other systems, scalability, ability to handle different types of content and encouraging the right culture around DAM adoption. Let’s look at those aspects in more detail.

Workflows are at the heart of good marketing practices and systems , so any DAM system must be focused around these, ensuring that the workflow needs of different users are accommodated. For instance, the workflow of the InDesign or Photoshop user is different from the librarian’s. Nor is it always necessary to throw out existing workflows when implementing a new DAM system. In fact, it often makes sense to maintain the status quo and design the DAM system to support those workflows.

Interlinked with workflows is the need to ensure clean and simple integration with other marketing systems, such as eprint or CRM. Once upon a time, integration was something that the buyer had to request, whereas these days, in many cases the relevant vendors will have already sorted out those integrations. Today’s modern DAM system also needs to be able to handle many different content types – for instance, 3D and CGI for product packaging, rich content such as video and interactive media – plus the ability to scale to accommodate growing content volumes or numbers of users. Despite the complexities of technology, having a DAM solution makes life simpler.

The Right Culture

This last point is a crucial one because organisations rarely adopt DAM across the entire body in one single step and indeed, I advise against this in most cases. It makes more sense to roll out DAM to one department or team, work with it intensely for a number of weeks, then roll it out to other employees progressively. This is far more efficient than creating a mammoth one-step project that takes many months to get off the ground (by which time the original motivation and enthusiasm may have waned).

Also, however intuitive a DAM solution may be to use, it needs to fit into the enterprise’s culture, and that means getting the input of users, right from the get-go. Having a committee of representatives from different parts of the organisation is a good starting point, including marketing, IT, legal, HR and procurement. Above all, ensure visibility of what is happening, communicating progress to the whole organisation and that will help drive demand.

These best practice approaches are as important as the technology itself. While DAM definitely seems to be back in the spotlight, as a means to manage brand content in a highly dispersed, always-on and fast-moving world, the success of DAM will only be as good as the supporting processes, people and culture. Fortunately, we are already seeing enterprises achieving just that, and I believe they are just the beginning of a new wave of DAM pioneers.