Creating a successful DAM RFP

10 November 2023

In the world of digital asset management (DAM) system selection, requests for proposals (RFP) are ubiquitous. This is for good reason. A strong RFP includes a user-centered approach outlining priorities, usage scenarios, and requirements. It also provides vendors with an explanation of and context for technology needs, and clear instructions for their proposals. The RFP brings all of the details together in a way for organizations to perform apples-to-apples comparisons of vendor proposals. 

In this post, we provide everything you need to get started on your RFP journey. You’ll learn what is unique about DAM RFPs, how to structure your RFP, and questions to ask vendors. Follow along on our downloadable DAM RFP checklist.

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What is an RFP?

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a business document, sometimes managed by a procurement or purchasing office (and sometimes not). RFPs announce an organization’s need for a new technology, detail the requirements for that technology, define its purpose, and solicit bids for the financial commitment for purchase.

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RFPs allow qualified vendors to showcase their technology solutions and demonstrate how they align with those requirements. They act as a gateway for vendors to promote their expertise, capabilities, and innovative technologies to meet the needs of the organization. 

It is important to note that RFPs are not mandatory in all contexts. However, they are commonly used in government settings to counteract favoritism, prejudice, and nepotism. RFPs level the playing field. They ensure that vendors are evaluated solely based on the quality of their proposals and the cost of investment. This approach promotes fairness and impartiality, allowing all vendors to compete on an equal footing. By eliminating biases and providing a transparent evaluation process, RFPs enable organizations to make informed decisions that prioritize the best interests of their stakeholders.

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Download the DAM RFP Checklist

How do I create an RFP?

The good news is there are lots of examples of RFPs on the web. And, if you have a procurement office, you can always reach out to get examples of how your organization creates them.

That said, the examples you’ll find online are often generic, not specific to DAM selection. While generic RFP templates can be helpful starting points, they do not always provide insights into how to gather the information to complete the RFP, including business objectives, functional, technical, and format requirements, usage scenarios, and user profiles. All of these are necessary to provide vendors with a comprehensive understanding of your organization’s needs for new DAM technology. 

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What is unique about DAM RFPs?

Before we jump into the checklists, let’s take a moment to review what makes a DAM RFP unique. First, DAM selection projects will have many internal and external stakeholders. From marketing to creatives and archivists and their constituents, there are many perspectives to represent. It is key, then, that time is spent understanding their broad set of needs, through interviews, surveys, and focus groups.

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The digital asset management market offers a multitude of options, with numerous systems available at varying price points and complexities. For organizations unfamiliar with the wide range of choices, sifting through these options can be a challenging endeavor, especially given the intricate nature of DAM systems. These systems often share common functionalities but also possess distinctive features that set them apart.

An RFP can provide your organization with a side-by-side comparison of the vendor proposals. This includes a qualitative comparison, but if done correctly, can offer a quantitative assessment, as well.

Factors to consider in DAM procurement

  • Content-centric approach: DAMs focus on the challenges of organizing, managing, and distributing digital assets. By focusing on the content itself, DAM systems enhance the accessibility, searchability, and utilization of digital assets. DAMs make it easier for users to find and work with the specific content they need.
  • Emphasis on metadata and taxonomy: A successful DAM will enable effective search, discovery, and retrieval of digital assets. It will categorize and describe assets with rich metadata and a structured taxonomy. This ensures users can quickly locate and make sense of their content. 
  • Integration: DAMs are rarely standalone systems. They often integrate with content management systems (CMS), creative software (think Adobe products), e-commerce platforms, rights management systems, or workflow applications.
  • UX and collaboration: Digital Asset Management systems (DAMs) play a pivotal role in facilitating the collaborative efforts of diverse teams and stakeholders both within and outside an organization. This includes enterprise-level DAMs, which may extend across international borders, necessitating support for multiple languages. As such, these systems should offer user-friendly interfaces and accessibility to accommodate the varied needs of their users.
  • Permissions and security: Digital assets often have distinct rights that require strict security measures to regulate access and downloads. A robust DAM system safeguards digital content, ensuring that user permissions are securely managed to maintain data integrity and privacy. 
  • Scalability and performance: When dealing with quickly growing digital collections, the efficiency of your DAM system becomes crucial. It needs to handle growth in the volume of files and accommodate the evolving needs of users without compromising speed and responsiveness. The choice of storage providers and methodologies significantly influences the system’s scalability, ensuring it can seamlessly adapt to increasing demands.
  • Vendor expertise and support: Considering a vendor’s track record is an important component of the decision-making process. Hearing from current clients, and investigating reputation, customer support options (often defined in a Service Level Agreement, or SLA), training offerings, and ongoing product development are critical in identifying if their DAM solution is the right one for your organization.


Before diving into RFP drafting, first take a step back and think about the complete RFP process. Start by gathering comprehensive requirements to clarify and document your organization’s needs. Establish a clear timeline, complete with milestones and deadlines that include the drafting phase. Finally, begin identifying and researching potential vendors — you might want to adjust your RFP based on what you find.

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Administrative Tasks

To simplify your RFP process, begin by checking if your organization already has an appropriate digital asset management system in place or conduct a discovery process (as detailed in the section below). Secure written approval, establish a budget, put together a timeline, and consult with your procurement department to review RFPs and purchasing regulations. 

The timeline should cover all essential phases, including RFP creation, distribution, vendor demonstrations, evaluation, and the often-lengthy procurement phase. Practical considerations such as staff vacations and holidays should also be accounted for to mitigate potential disruptions. By addressing these elements, the timeline becomes a comprehensive and practical plan for the entire RFP and DAM selection process, reducing the risk of unforeseen delays.

Finally, consider hiring an experienced DAM sourcing consultant who can leverage their expertise and knowledge of the marketplace to match your organization with the most suitable system for your users.


In the process of DAM selection, the discovery phase involves a comprehensive investigation of the organization’s digital asset management needs. This typically starts with in-depth discussions with stakeholders and decision-makers. These conversations help identify specific requirements, challenges, and objectives to manage digital assets.

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The discovery process often includes a thorough examination of the organization’s current workflows, analysis of the volume and types of digital assets, and an evaluation of the existing systems and technology infrastructure. Data collection methods such as surveys and data analysis may also gather information on user expectations, content lifecycle, access requirements, metadata needs, user permissions, integration considerations, and long-term preservation strategies.

The active engagement of key stakeholders and thorough review of pertinent in-house documentation are pivotal aspects of the discovery process.

Following the completion of the discovery phase, you should be able to fine-tune the problem statement, establish measurable objectives, and rank your functional and non-functional requirements. At this stage, broaden your vendor research efforts by attending industry events such as Henry Stewart DAM, and by exploring resources like online vendor directories and seeking recommendations from peers and professional networks. 

Once you have a feel for vendors, try to narrow down your vendor list to just a handful for the most effective evaluation. A shorter list makes managing internal resources easier, allowing for a meaningful comparison of proposals and identification of strengths and weaknesses. With well-structured discovery and vendor selection processes, your DAM journey is off to a promising start!

Download the DAM RFP Checklist

RFP Structure

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If you have a procurement department, it is likely they have an RFP format you must follow. In that case, consider how you can fit the following information into the existing structure. For those organizations that do not have an internal RFP format, use the following structure:


This is the initial point of contact and sets the tone for the entire RFP. Start with a concise introduction to your organization, capturing its essence in just a few sentences. Next, provide a brief background on the DAM selection project, highlighting the driving factors and context behind the need for a DAM solution.

A well-crafted problem statement is vital to ensure that vendors understand the challenges you face and the specific pain points you aim to address. Clearly articulate your business objectives, outlining the goals and outcomes you hope to achieve through the implementation of the DAM. 

The overview document should include key details such as the current number of digital assets, their size in terabytes (or gigabytes or petabytes), and the primary formats you work with. If possible, provide a growth estimate in percentages, e.g., year-by-year growth of 10%. These specifics will help vendors tailor their solutions to meet your unique needs.

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The overview also serves as a guide to vendors on how to navigate the RFP process. Include a timeline with key dates such as the RFP issue date, the deadline for vendor questions, when your organization will respond to questions, when vendors are required to confirm their intent to submit proposals, and the proposal submission deadline. Also, mention the subsequent steps, such as the notification of selected offerors for potential demonstrations and presentations, and the final selection process.

Make sure to specify the preferred delivery format and method for proposals and the required deliverables. Additionally, provide an overview of the evaluation criteria and scoring process that will be used to assess the proposals.

Include relevant contact information for any inquiries, and consider including a glossary of terms specific to DAM and the RFP. Clarify aspects like incurred costs to vendors, retention of submitted documentation, external partnerships, market references, and the importance of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements (NDA).

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Requirements Spreadsheet

In the process of crafting your DAM RFP, it is essential to establish a well-organized structure for your requirements. To begin, let’s define some key terms. 

Functional requirements refer to specific capabilities or features that the digital asset management system must possess to meet your organization’s needs. These requirements can be structured as user stories, framing them in the context of “As an X, I need to Y, so that Z,” to clearly define who needs the functionality, what they need, and why. These functional requirements are essentially the building blocks that shape how the DAM system will operate, focusing on the user experience and the desired outcomes.

On the other hand, nonfunctional or technical requirements relate to the broader technical aspects that the DAM system should meet. These may include performance, security, scalability, and other technical considerations that are essential for the system’s effective operation. Additionally, format requirements specify the primary file formats and expectations for managing digital assets within the DAM. These include image formats (.jpg), videos (.mp4), documents (.pdf), and other file formats (e.g., Adobe and Microsoft file formats). They outline how the digital asset management system should handle and support these formats.

For further clarity, identify stakeholders and categorize them into three main types: DAM Administrators, Content Creators, and End Users. Defining their roles and capabilities, and noting the number of each, is particularly valuable for vendors, especially those who charge based on the number of user seats. 

This structured approach not only helps DAM vendors understand your needs, it enables them to provide comprehensive and customized responses to your RFP. A helpful tool for organizing this content is a simple spreadsheet with distinct tabs for each requirement category. This provides a clear distinction between functional, nonfunctional/technical, and format requirements. 

Usage Scenarios

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Usage scenarios are your secret weapon! They prioritize the user and bring your requirements to life.

A usage scenario, sometimes referred to as a “use case,” is a detailed narrative describing how a system or product is used in a specific real-world context. These scenarios provide a human-readable representation of functional requirements, offering a comprehensive view of how the system behaves and responds within different situations. Use cases help stakeholders and vendors, including both technical and non-technical individuals, to grasp how the system’s features and functionalities align with practical user needs and operational processes.

We highly recommend including three to seven usage scenarios in your RFP. If you have more, consider combining and prioritizing them. Each usage scenario should have a brief title, an objective that explains its purpose, and actors identified from your User Descriptions in the Requirements Spreadsheet. Provide background context and describe the main steps or interactions that actors will perform in the future system. Remember to allow flexibility for different solutions to the same problem. Usage scenarios are the heart of your RFP, so craft them to effectively convey your requirements.

Download the DAM RFP Checklist

Vendor Questionnaire

As you delve deeper into crafting your RFP, don’t overlook the significance of your vendor questionnaire. The vendor questionnaire is a comprehensive list of questions that go beyond requirements and use cases, focusing on higher-level aspects of the DAM vendor company, their implementation and support procedures, and proposal costs, providing valuable insights into their capabilities and suitability for the project. 

The questionnaire serves as a vital component of your DAM RFP. It gathers in-depth information essential for the side-by-side evaluation of different systems. Number the questionnaire so that vendors can easily refer directly to the questions in their proposal.

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A vendor questionnaire should cover general company information, product details, technical support, and references from comparable organizations. It should also include specific questions about the costs associated with the system, including license fees, implementation costs, and support expenses.


The Request for Proposal is a key component of the DAMS procurement process. RFPs provide structured and transparent frameworks for evaluating and selecting a new DAM system. They enable a fair and consistent evaluation process by clearly defining requirements and usage scenarios, evaluation criteria, and submission guidelines. This allows organizations to compare proposals from multiple DAM vendors objectively, ensuring that the selected vendor best aligns with their needs and objectives. RFPs help mitigate risks by providing a systematic approach to DAM vendor selection, fostering accountability, and minimizing subjective decision-making.

Are you ready to embark on your own DAM RFP process? We’ve got you covered! [Click here] to download our comprehensive DAM RFP checklists. 

These valuable resources will guide you through planning, development, and distribution of your RFP, ensuring you achieve the best possible outcome. Don’t miss out on this essential tool to streamline your RFP journey.

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Preserving Digital Assets: A Gap in the DAM Marketplace

17 August 2023

Desk with large Apple computer monitor displaying "Do More"
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Cultural heritage organizations increasingly seek out a digital asset management system (DAM) that integrates robust digital preservation capabilities for preserving digital assets. They often recognize the importance of investing in digital preservation but struggle with the challenge of maintaining separate DAM and digital preservation systems due to limited resources.

While DAM systems typically prioritize security, permissions, and utilize cloud storage—all found in digital preservation systems as well—they still lack the comprehensive functionality that cultural heritage organizations and others consistently seek to help with preserving digital assets.

Despite the maturity of the DAM market, there remains a persistent gap between the preservation functionality that cultural heritage organizations desire and the systems currently available. 

At AVP, we have witnessed this shift in what organizations are seeking first-hand through our work assisting organizations in finding the perfect technology solutions to meet their unique requirements, from digital asset management and media asset management (MAM) to digital preservation systems and records management systems. 

In light of this issue, I would like to delve into the reasons behind this disparity and share AVP’s recommendations on how organizations can navigate the technical landscape for preserving digital assets effectively. Let’s explore the evolving needs of organizations and uncover strategies for achieving their goals within the realm of digital asset management and digital preservation.

Why can’t Digital Asset Management just “do Digital Preservation”?

It is crucial to grasp the fundamental differences between these two types of systems and their respective functionalities.

According to IBM, a DAM is “a comprehensive solution that streamlines the storage, organization, management, retrieval, and distribution of an organization’s digital assets.”

The lending library

To paint a visual picture, envision a DAM as a lending library.

Hand reaching for a book on a shelf
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Just like books neatly arranged on shelves, digital assets are meticulously organized, described, and managed within the DAM. Library users can navigate the catalog using various criteria such as subject, author, or date to locate specific assets, just as they can in the DAM. And, similar to needing a library card to borrow books, access to the DAM requires registered users to have appropriate permissions to access and utilize the digital assets.

Essentially, a well-managed DAM ensures that your digital assets are securely stored, easily searchable, and readily accessible. It functions as a virtual library, providing efficient organization and control over your organization’s valuable digital resources. 

The offsite storage

Building upon the library analogy, let’s delve into the unique characteristics of a digital preservation system.

Large book warehouse
Princeton University Library offsite storage facility

Imagine the library books that are not frequently accessed. Instead of occupying valuable space on the main shelves, they are often relocated to a secure, climate-controlled warehouse. These books are packed in containers on tall shelving units, accessible to only a select few individuals. Browsing becomes nearly impossible, searching becomes challenging, and obtaining one of these books typically requires assistance from a librarian.

In the digital realm, a digital preservation system serves as the digital counterpart to this offsite storage. It replaces physical locked warehouses with secure user permissions, ensures file verification and fixity testing to maintain data integrity, employs packaging mechanisms called “bags,” and utilizes cold data storage for long-term preservation.

Room with computer servers
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While a digital preservation system focuses primarily on safeguarding and preserving digital assets, it also prioritizes security and protection over immediate accessibility.

Same-same but different?

From these descriptions, it is evident that the fundamental purposes of DAM and digital preservation systems are significantly different, although there are areas of overlap. For instance, both the library and warehouse prioritize secure storage of their respective materials. (Ever walked out of a library without checking out your book only to set the alarm off?) 

Likewise, both DAM and digital preservation systems maintain strong user permissions to ensure security. Similarly, while libraries may employ climate control measures — albeit less stringent than those governing the warehouse’s temperature and humidity levels — some DAMs may also implement “lightweight” functionality for preserving digital assets, such as fixity testing upon upload.

This distinction emphasizes the intrinsically divergent purposes of DAM and digital preservation system. 

DAMs primarily excel in efficient asset management and user accessibility, allowing organizations to easily organize, retrieve, and distribute their digital assets. On the other hand, digital preservation system places paramount importance on long-term preservation and data integrity, safeguarding valuable assets for future generations. 

How can I use a DAM system for preserving digital assets today?

Increasingly, DAM vendors are adding digital preservation functionality to their systems. At a minimum, most DAM systems perform:

  • Checksum hash values (e.g., MD5) creation on ingest
  • Event logging (whenever an action is taken on a file)

Some DAM systems can also do the following:

  • Virus checking on ingest
  • Hybrid (tiered) storage (a combination of hot and cold storage or online, nearline, and offline storage)

Only a very small number of DAM systems may also:

  • Make checksum values visible to users
  • Test existing checksum values on ingest
  • Enable manual and/or regular fixity testing
  • Run reports on or export event logs

And at the time of writing, no DAM performs automated obsolescence monitoring of file formats (to our knowledge).

With this in mind, the question to consider is: what’s good enough when it comes to digital preservation functionality in DAMS?

“Good enough” digital preservation

The concept of “Good enough” digital preservation has been circulating since at least 2014, thanks to groups like Digital POWRR. Essentially, it recognizes that not everyone can achieve or maintain the highest levels of digital preservation, such those defined by level four of the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation or full conformance with ISO 16363 (Audit and certification of trustworthy digital repositories), for all digital assets (for all eternity).

For many, these guidelines can feel overwhelming and unattainable. When organizations search for a DAM solution, they often have an expectation that it will solve all digital preservation planning challenges and result in a perfect A+ in digital preservation. However, as we have come to realize, this expectation is not in line with reality.

So, what should you do?

Let’s dive into some ideas on how we can tackle these issues.

Understand the difference between DAM system and Digital Preservation system functionality

First and foremost, organizations should focus on developing a clear understanding of the distinctions between a DAM and a digital preservation system. This knowledge forms the foundation for informed decision-making and empowers organizations to choose the right path.

Clarify your appetite for risk

Person walking on tightrope across cliff
Photo by Loic Leray on Unsplash

Next, organizations need to assess their risk comfort levels. What functionalities are essential for their peace of mind? Are there specific data management or digital preservation regulations they must comply with? Can a DAM system meet these requirements effectively? If not, organizations must determine the functionalities that take precedence and decide whether a DAM or digital preservation system is more suitable for their needs.

DAM vendors play a crucial role in this process. It is essential for them to familiarize themselves with basic digital preservation software functionality. This understanding enables them to respond effectively to client requirements and deliver solutions that align with their specific needs.

Request standards compliance

DAM vendors should actively consider aligning with some guidelines from the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation, for example. By doing so, vendors not only benefit clients with a need for digital preservation but also contribute to the long-term accessibility of assets within the DAM for all users. This alignment has the potential to promote industry-wide best practices and ensures the preservation and availability of digital assets beyond individual client needs.

However, it is essential to recognize that not all DAM systems need to encompass complete digital preservation functionality.

 The reality is, some organizations heavily invested in digital preservation may have a particularly low risk tolerance for loss and, despite DAM’s other capabilities, may choose not to depend on it alone to achieve their preservation objectives.

Choosing a solution for preserving digital assets

In light of these considerations, it is crucial for organizations to engage in internal discussions to determine their specific needs and priorities. These conversations should address risk levels and the functionalities that are essential for their peace of mind and compliance with their data management requirements. 

By having these dialogues, organizations can collectively define an acceptable level of preservation within the realm of DAM. Although reaching a consensus may present challenges, the goal is to find a comfortable middle ground that satisfies the needs of everyone in the organization. This process not only addresses their requirements effectively but also has the potential to drive innovation within the DAM industry as a whole.

Neon sign that reads "do something great"
Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

If you are considering acquiring a DAM in the near future and have digital preservation requirements, we are excited to discuss the possibilities with you. AVP is here to assist you in exploring your options and finding the ideal system for your organization. We eagerly await the opportunity to assist you on this journey.