Choosing between digital asset management software solutions can be time consuming and confusing. Make the wrong choice and the consequences can costly and far reaching. Picturepark offers this page to make the process easier for you.
Focus on your goals
Long before you start speaking with DAM software vendors, be clear about your organization’s goals with regard to digital asset management. By staying focused on your needs and goals, it will be easier to recognize DAM software that will and will not work for you.
Here are some examples:
Who will use the DAM? Will your DAM need to serve multiple departments, divisions or clients? Not all DAMs make it easy to securely provide DAM services to multiple stakeholders.
What problem are you trying to solve? Though a DAM can solve many problems, it’s a good idea to focus on a few core “cures” that are easily measured. For example, if a primary problem for you is that people can’t find files, make sure your DAM makes finding files easy, without undue training or fuss. If your problem is the global coordination of ad campaigns, make sure your DAM includes features for notifications and collaboration between users. If sharing and publishing content to the Web is a problem, then make sure your DAM offers sharing features that make it easy to leverage approved content.
If you focus on too many problems, you’re more likely to compromise on the important points while trying to solve as many problems as possible. The last thing you need is a DAM that offers a million features but barely solves any true problems.
Are you looking for on-premise or Cloud-based DAM software? If you must have DAM software that’s deployed either in the Cloud (SaaS) or installed onsite, it’s good to know that up front. Picturepark and a few other DAM solutions are available as Software as a Service (SaaS/Cloud) or for installed on-premise use, but most DAMs are available for only one or the other. If you’d like to start with one deployment now and perhaps switch later, make sure your DAM makes that easy and affordable.
How do you envision the DAM working? This sounds like a loaded question, but it’s not. Even though you might not know much about DAM at this point, you probably have a good idea of how you imagine the system will help improve things. That vision is good enough. In fact, if you stay focused on realizing your vision, you’re less likely to get sidetracked by features and other aspects of the DAM that might seem interesting, but will ultimately not solve your primary problems or satisfy your goals.
If you’re new to DAM, set aside some time this weekend to read DAM Survival Guide. There’s no better resource for understanding all the steps required to plan a digital asset management initiative. You can buy DAM Survival Guide from Amazon or you can download a free 100+ page excerpt from Picturepark right now.
Come up with a shortlist of vendors
Another advantage to focusing on your most important goals is that you’ll be able to come up with a short list of DAM vendors much sooner. For example, if you know you need a Cloud DAM, this enables you to cut the field in half right away. Or, if the use of industry standard technologies is important to you, you’ll be able to pare down your list even further.
The Enterprise DAM Checklist from Picturepark was designed to help you come up with a short list of DAM solutions by outlining which technologies are most important for enterprise-wide, scalable DAM solutions that are based on standards. It’s a quick, easy read that uses non-technical terms that everyone can understand.
Get customer references
The DAM customers that are most happy to speak about their experience are usually those who are most satisfied or most frustrated. Either way, this is a win for you during your software evaluations.
The easiest first step you can take is to look for a page of DAM customer testimonials on each DAM vendor’s website. No DAM vendor would want to hide such things, so if there are satisfied customers, you should be able to find a list. In addition, ask your prospective DAM vendors for contacts you can speak to personally, without a DAM vendor representative in attendance.
Another option is to post questions on public forums, such as the various DAM discussion groups on LinkedIn or the ControlledVocabulary.com website. Make sure you don’t ask for DAM software recommendations, because those questions most often lead to “try us” responses from DAM vendors who really aren’t paying much attention to your original question. Instead, ask to speak to some users from DAM solution X. No one needs to know all the solutions you’re considering. Be specific in your question and you’re more likely to receive specific responses that will be helpful.
Keep in mind, you’re trying to find people to talk to who can tell you about the software’s quality and the vendor’s support. Be careful not to assume that just because one DAM solution works for one organization that it will work for yours—even if your organizations are similar. When it comes to digital asset management, “use case” similarities are much more relevant than industry associations.
See the proof
Note that all of the previous suggestions can occur before you spend any time trying DAM software or getting software demos from DAM vendors. By the time you’re exploring software hands-on, you should have a very good idea of what you need. This will save you time and enable you to better judge the software you’re considering.
When the time does come for DAM software demonstrations, have a good idea of what you want to see. Let your vendor know ahead of time what you expect. During the demo, make sure your demonstrator shows you what you’ve asked to see.
Most importantly, don’t accept being shown features; insist on seeing how the DAM solves problems. For example, if file sharing is a concern, make sure you see how files are found and selected for sharing, how they are shared, and then see what recipients see and experience. If the process seems at all awkward to you, it probably is. Though it is true that a properly configured DAM will be easier to use, any DAM should be usable “out of the box.” If it is not, you can expect to pay a lot of money for custom configurations.
In some cases, it’s not reasonable to expect to see something in action. For example, if you plan to integrate your DAM with your CMS or another business system, your DAM vendor is not going to be able to show you how that works. Customer references can be helpful here, or you might have to take it on faith, reputation and contract that your DAM vendor will be able to deliver what it promises.
Watch for “red flags”
It can be difficult to determine which DAM vendors are financially healthy and stable because most DAM vendors are privately held companies that don’t disclose financials. But a DAM software purchase is an investment in software and the company behind that software, so it’s important to learn what you can.
Here are some tips that can help you identify a DAM vendor that’s doing well from one that’s in trouble.
Earnings press releases – When DAM vendors close good years, they typically issue press releases to announce their good fortune. Earnings numbers might not be disclosed, but earnings can be less important than growth anyway. Look for percentages that show increased revenue and other signs of upward movement.
Personnel changes – When a DAM vendor is undergoing a large number of personnel changes—particularly when those changes are for senior or key people—this can be a sign of trouble. Sure, every now and then a CEO leaves for what could be reasons not related to the company, but when a CEO leaves, and then other key figures go (or have already left), this can be a red flag. Ask how long the company’s directors and product managers have been with any DAM vendor you consider.
Also look for signs of personnel turnover at lower levels too. Frequent (or currently frequent) turnover in sales, marketing, technical services and other departments can be a sign of real internal turbulence.
When companies are doing well, their employees tend to stay.
DAM vendor expertise – When you speak to a DAM vendor sales person, ask how long that person has been with the vendor, and how long he or she has been involved with DAM in general. Ask the same about the people who will be supporting you. Digital asset management has been around for more than 20 years, so there are plenty of people in the industry with experience. If experienced DAM professionals are not working for a vendor you’re considering, this could be another red flag.
Product update history – Vendors who are doing well tend to provide regular and useful updates to their software. Check press releases to see which software updates have been issued, and how relevant the new announcements were. For example, if a DAM vendor has only recently introduced statistics or asset processing, this might be a sign of an immature solution that isn’t yet ready for enterprise deployment. Or, if the updates you read about don’t seem to offer anything interesting, this might be a sign that the vendor is lacking ideas.
DAM vendor transparency and honesty – If a DAM vendor makes claims you find to be difficult to believe, chances are there is some “creative storytelling” going on. For example, if a vendor claims to have sold “thousands of systems” or it claims to have “millions of users,” ask how these numbers were calculated. For example, if Customer A buys version 1 of the DAM and then updates to versions 2 and 3, is this three systems sold? Some DAM vendors say yes.
More important than number of systems sold is the number of still-active customers, and the company’s annual customer retention rate. These numbers are harder to fake.
Cloud DAM is another area where some DAM vendor definitions can be misleading. A true “Cloud” solution, also known as SaaS (software-as-a-service),” describes a system through which customers can each have their own unique accounts, without having to pay for any upfront license purchases or perform software updates on their own. Software that is intended for on-premise deployment can be installed in an Amazon instance, for example, but this is not Cloud software; this is on-premise software installed on a remote virtual machine.
True Cloud software is scalable, maintained entirely by the software vendor, and it requires no upfront license purchases. If a DAM vendor tells you they have a Cloud solution, ask to see the price list. If you see a license purchase, it’s not true Cloud DAM. If you see annual renewal fees, it’s not Cloud. And if there are any fees for hosting or something similar, it’s not Cloud.
If you’re in doubt, ask a DAM vendor whether it’s so-called Cloud solution is true SaaS or just installed software that’s hosted in a virtual instance.
You can install and run a copy of Photoshop in an Amazon instance, but that doesn’t mean you’ve created a Cloud version of Photoshop. DAM software is no different.
Consider a DAM partner
DAM vendors can offer sales and services in more places by partnering up with companies qualified to sell and service their software. These partners might conduct business in regions not served by the DAM vendor directly, they might speak a language the DAM vendor doesn’t speak, or they might offer specific expertise that could benefit customers in specific vertical market segments.
Partners might also provide add-on products that extend the DAM’s functionality, which is something that can benefit customers worldwide.
Some people say DAM partners can provide more personalized service because they are closer to the customer and, if they have configured the DAM, they know the customer’s system and use case. If you do need special configuration of your DAM, this can be a good reason to use a DAM vendor partner.
DAM partners can also serve as a buffer between customer and vendor that can be good and bad. The good comes from customers having an ally that might have more pull with the DAM vendor. This can be good, for example, if the customer has run into a problem that requires a software fix fast.
The downside of using a DAM partner comes from partners that lack experience. In these cases, customers find they have to wait extended periods of time while their partners seek assistance from the vendor. Ideally, if the DAM vendor has properly certified its partners, this shouldn’t be an issue.
The final cost of the DAM might differ between vendor and partner, though this is typically more related to the cost of services than it is the cost of the software itself.
When you shop for DAM software, consider getting bids from a DAM vendor and one of its partners. You might also let both parties know this is what you’re doing. It’s in both their interests to sell you the software, so you might find they’re willing to work together to give you the benefits of both relationships.
Consult an analyst
DAM industry analysts can be a great source of advice. They evaluate and compare scores of different systems, interview customers, and publish reports on their findings.
There are a few things to consider before you align yourself with a DAM analyst, though:
- Can you afford it? Analyst consulting can be quite expensive, though if you plan to pay six figures or more for your DAM, a good analyst can be a minor and valuable investment.
- Has your analyst been influenced by any DAM vendors? Picturepark policy prevents us from paying an analyst for coverage of our software, but not all companies share this policy. If your analyst accepts gifts of any kind from DAM vendors, or participates with vendors in webinars or other events, it’s a good idea to specifically ask about this. Some analysts might be able to accept a gift and then write up a warranted bad review, but this isn’t a sustainable business practice.
- Are you likely to take your analyst’s advice? There’s little point on spending money on a DAM analyst if you don’t think your company is likely to take his or her advice. Keep in mind that after speaking with your about your current workflows and needs, your analyst might recommend you hold off on a DAM system purchase while you cleanse some internal processes first.
A less expensive way to leverage the expertise of an analyst firm is to purchase their research reports. Though a single report can still cost in the thousands, a good report could put you on the fast track to a DAM software short list.
Picturepark offers this resource as part of our #LearnDAM initiative to help the DAM community by making it easier to find quality digital asset management educational materials that are not sales focused. #LearnDAM materials developed by Picturepark are provided without cost or obligation, and are each authored by Picturepark employees—no ghost writers or freelancers. We hope our #LearnDAM resources enhance your understanding of and success with digital asset management.