Are You Ready for Digital Asset Management?

Before you get too deep into your digital asset management initiative planning, it is important to make sure your need is justified and reasonable. While the promise of Digital Asset Management is attractive to virtually all organizations, in some cases, DAM initiatives fail because the organization’s needs and expectations were not in line with the realities of DAM.

Policy Matters Most

Organizations can sometimes confuse a lack of policy with the need for technology. By not recognizing what is essentially a policy failure, many organizations have spent fortunes on software solutions they expect to fix the unfixable.

Policy breakdowns are not something DAM software can solve for you. DAM software supports business policies; it does not define them. In fact, DAM software is typically configured to honor existing policies. Without policies in place to dictate how your workflows should work, your DAM can become nothing more than a digital version of manual chaos.

Here’s a good example of where a lack of policy can be easily confused with the need for technology. If your coworkers spend too much time hunting for files or recreating files that they can’t find, you might assume that file management software is the answer. But files that cannot be found aren’t always lost. For example, if a file you need is on vacationing Jim’s laptop, that file isn’t technically lost, even though it’s as good as lost to you.

If policy dictated that all completed works be copied to a central server–and Jim had adhered to that policy–you’d be able to find your file, even without DAM software to help you.

In virtually all cases, DAM software can improve functional workflows that are driven by sound policy. DAM rarely, if ever, improves bad workflows that are based on bad or no policy.

Assess the Current State of Things

A good exercise to undergo when justifying your need for DAM is to document the digital asset management processes and policies you have in place now. This doesn’t have to be a formal document. Just draft something that explains how everything currently works.

For example:

If file naming matters in your workflows, does everyone know how to name files?

  • Does everyone know where to store completed works?
  • How are users notified when a new file becomes available?
  • What happens after a file has been updated? Are update notices sent? Who receives them?
  • What file formats do you use for the images on your website?
  • What is your preferred format for archival storage? For example, do you store your original images in Photoshop or TIFF format, or something else?

The answers to some or all of these questions might be known to you and your coworkers, but they will not be known to your DAM software or to the people who implement your DAM software. When implementing a DAM initiative, you’ll be training software and strangers to a degree that even most employees don’t experience. Virtually no detail is too miniscule to be considered in your process document. (Note that this is a process document and not a policy document. The intent is to document the how of things and not yet the why.)

Share your process document with others at your organization to find out if everyone agrees that it is accurate and complete. If you find that people disagree about what you’ve written because everyone does things differently, you know you have a policy problem that you need to address.

Do your best to reconcile differences with others and come up with a process document on which (most) everyone (mostly) agrees.

Define your DAM Vision

The next step is to append your process document to describe the way things ought to work. This important step starts you and others thinking about the ways in which you expect DAM to improve existing workflows, rather than just emulate them.

Share this draft and rework it until you’ve come up with a digital asset management “vision” that makes sense to everyone.

The value of having a process document that describes current and proposed processes is twofold:

  • It forces you to examine and evaluate how things are done now. This helps you determine where your weaknesses are so you can prioritize where improvements are needed.
  • It encourages you to envision how a properly designed DAM solution will work for you. This helps align user expectations and it helps you stay focused on your final goal. This, in turn, will enable you to more easily recognize software that will work for you.

The development of this document will also yield another important benefit: It will help you discover who your allies and adversaries might be with regard to planning and implementing your DAM solution. You won’t likely be able to make DAM happen at your organization without the help of others, so the team of advisors you create through these exercises will become a valued resource later.

Your process document is also likely to answer the very first questions your DAM advisers are going to ask. It is better that you have those answers now, before you’re sitting with a consultant who charges by the hour. That way, when your advisers ask why something is done a certain way, you’ll be able to explain it without a shoulder shrug.

Know your Boundaries

A final step in assessing your needs comes from identifying and understanding governmental or corporate regulatory restrictions that might limit your options with regard to DAM policy, software or storage.

For example, some IT departments limit the software that is permitted on their networks to applications that have been approved by them, or that have been granted certain certifications.

You might also be limited with regard to where you store your data. In some cases, organizations are not permitted to use Cloud-based systems that store data storage on foreign soil. In other cases, the use of shared systems (Cloud) might be banned entirely.

Conversely, some IT departments favor outsourcing many of their systems, so you might find that they ask or require you to find a Cloud-based DAM.

If your only Cloud restriction is that you must store your data on servers that reside within your own country, find out which Cloud DAM providers offer data centers in your country. DAM vendors should be able and willing to disclose this information to you.

Your information technologies (IT) or information systems (IS) department should be able to provide you with any information about the restrictions it imposes, and about restrictions imposed by corporate policy.

Identifying and understanding governmental regulations can be more complex. If you have access to corporate legal counsel, that might be a good first step. Internet searching should provide some additional information that might help you ask the right questions. Pay attention not only to laws that currently stand, but also to try to get a sense of whether any pending legislation could affect you. The Cloud DAM you buy today might cease to be a legally viable option for you in a year.

Among the industries most affected by data storage and processing regulations are:

  • Healthcare providers
  • Insurance providers
  • Government agencies
  • Research institutions
  • Military contractors

When speaking to vendors about Cloud DAM solutions, ask the following questions:

  • Do you have an on-premise (installed) version of the software that I can move to if I one day choose to or need to?
  • Where are your data centers located and who manages them?
  • Is your data encrypted when stored and/or transferred?
  • Are dedicated storage media and/or databases used?
  • Do you have any Cloud DAM options that are hosted and managed by reputable professionals in my region?
  • Are any security breaches on record with your solution or at your data centers?

This post is an excerpt of Picturepark’s DAM Prep in 7 Steps digital asset management eBook »