Digital asset management involves more than just DAM software. As a corporate investment, the cost of DAM must be justified. DAM ROI (return on investment) can help make the case for digital asset management, but accurately calculating the return on a DAM solution can be difficult.
Calculating DAM ROI
Digital asset management ROI calculations usually involve arbitrary numbers that are difficult to quantify. They involve calculations of time saved, the avoidance of time wasted, and the hourly cost of each employee.
It seems simple, but it’s not a realistic way to measure DAM ROI. The problem with this approach is threefold:
- It’s difficult to quantify the amount of time it takes an employee to find a digital asset. Some employees work faster than others. Plus, employees with institutional knowledge usually know where to go to find what they need, whereas freelancers and new hires must request assistance.
- Determining the hourly cost of each employee is difficult. As digital asset management moves into more areas of an organization, we see CEOs and VPs self-serving assets, alongside receptionists, interns and everyone in between.
- Determining how much time a DAM solution will save your organization is difficult. If employees have trouble finding files in your digital asset collections, this might be an indication that your current method of storing and classifying digital content isn’t working. If you move that same system into a DAM system, you’re likely to see only marginal improvements. DAM makes good workflows better; it cannot make bad workflows good.
The Cost of Change
Also not factored into traditional DAM ROI calculations is the cost of change. Users will need to be trained, policies will need to be updated (or created), and user support requests will likely increase as people adjust to a new way of doing things.
The result is that you might see no first-year DAM ROI. Unfortunately, this is the time frame in which others at your organization will be looking for the returns you promised. Your personal credibility could be compromised and your entire DAM initiative could be defunded if you rely on overly simplified measurements developed by someone who was likely trying to sell DAM software or services.
How to Make a Good Case for Digital Asset Management
Instead of thinking about DAM ROI in the same easy-to-quantify terms that FedEx thinks of truck purchases, make your case for DAM by citing the wider scope of benefits DAM can offer.
DAM can make (all) employees more efficient – If your DAM is properly configured, it shouldn’t require lots of training to use. Further, it should require no institutional knowledge, so your freelancers and junior employees will be able to find things as easily as your senior employees can. DAM software levels the playing field so that workflow efficiency is less about personal skills.
DAM can reduce the staff time required to handle asset fulfillment requests – When employees, partners and customers can directly access the assets they need, your designers and other “goto” people are freed from having to find files for others. DAM software can make it easy for users to self-serve what they need, 24/7, so your creative professionals can focus on being creative.
DAM can increase the quality of your creative works – When users look for images to use in a brochure or social media campaign, they’ll either find the perfect image right away, or they’ll get bored searching and they will just pick something that’s “good enough.” DAM software can make it easier for users to find the best content for the job so that every job is the best that it can be.
DAM can strengthen the quality of your brands – It’s important that your partners, subsidiaries, franchise customers, remote offices and the media all use the digital assets you want them to use. By ensuring that the correct version of your logo is placed in a localized brochure, or that the most recent advertising message is used in a commercial, you build stronger brands on the markets you serve. DAM software can hide the assets you don’t want used, and it can even proactively notify users when new assets become available.
DAM can decrease your exposure to liability – By making usage restrictions clear, your organization is less likely to waste profits on legal defenses. Ignorance is no excuse in court, but it’s often the reason the wrong asset is used. DAM software can help you communicate the rules to users, it can take digital assets offline when licenses expire, and it can show you a log of who has downloaded what, so you can take preemptive corrective actions, if ever required. DAM software can serve as a gatekeeper that protects your digital asset collections using rules you define.
DAM can preserve institutional knowledge – Digital asset usage history and workflow processes don’t need to leave with departing employees. Base your DAM solution on clearly defined policies, and make it easy for users to enter the metadata you’ll need tomorrow to know what happened today. That way, when a key employee is gone, your organization won’t start making mistakes or losing momentum while you try to understand how everything works. DAM software can archive the histories behind your digital assets, in addition to the digital assets themselves.
DAM can generate revenue – If you choose a DAM that supports multi-tenancy (more than one stakeholder can use the system at a time), you can resell DAM services, or charge clients for access to your system. Agencies that develop digital assets for clients can find this to be a business model that not only generates revenue, but makes development easier for the agency. When all your clients’ assets are in a single location that you can access, you won’t waste time asking them to send what you need. DAM software can enable you to offer a new service to clients that will deepen your relationships with them, while it helps you offset the cost of your DAM software.
Notice the use of “can” in each justification. This is because not all DAM software is the same, and not all DAMs are properly configured. In fact, a poorly conceived DAM initiative can cause the opposite of all the benefits above.
DAM ROI Over Time
Among the most important things to keep in mind about digital asset management ROI is that a properly designed and maintained DAM system will improve with age. As the system is molded to fit your organization, and your organization adapts to having it in place, you’ll see increased returns over time.
The key is to expect a learning and adjustment curve during the first year. When budgeting for your system, try to budget for the costs of running the DAM for at least a year and a half. By then, you should have a better idea of the true returns the system is offering then, or could offer with some professional assistance. This will help you plan for addition years, and it will help you justify the expense.