A DAM Operational Model

24 January 2023

Running a DAM System? Here’s an Operational Model for Success

Choosing digital asset management (DAM) software is the easiest part—onboarding users, integrating it into your existing tech stack, and weaving it into the ways of your company is when the real difficulties can begin. But those challenges are easier managed, and the value of the DAMS easier realized, if you employ an operational model for your DAM system.

We’ve customized this approach from years of experience, working with highly varied organizations, to correctly implement and scale DAMS. Our operational model shared here is a supported, systematic approach that isn’t included with your digital asset management software.

A DAM operational system (OS) is a method and mindset for managing and mastering your DAM system that utilizes a blended approach of program, product, and service management.

Think of your DAM OS as the literal roadmap toward a complete implementation, long-term ease of asset management, and delivery of value to your organization. To achieve lasting success—and what we will lay out in full detail in this piece—your DAM OS should account for the following components:

Purpose Process Diagram
Starting from right to left
Process
Measurement
Technology
Culture
Governance
People
Centered: Purpose

What does implementing these components look like in a business that has many of the same concerns and goals that you have? We’ll spell out exactly how to navigate these seven components of a DAM OS and explain how they both build upon and interact with one another.

Table of Contents

Purpose: Defining the value of your DAM system

Everything begins with a purpose, including enterprise technology initiatives like implementing a DAMS. So what’s the purpose of your DAM system?

Most likely, it’s so you can get a better handle on your brand assets, but dig a bit deeper and think about the larger problem or opportunity your DAMS is meant to serve, and the value that it is meant to add to your organization. There are a few key results many managers look for when adopting a DAM system: saved time and money, reduced risks, and improved new value creation.

Here’s how your DAM system achieves those goals:

Saved Time and Money

Around 48% of employees across multiple industries report that their productivity is hampered by the constant need to search for and effectively reuse their assets. With a high-functioning DAM system in place, those employees can spend as much as 28% less time searching for assets.

Why? Because when a DAM is implemented well, finding what you need is fast, intuitive, and straightforward. With features like centralized asset storage, optimized search and browse, clear usage information, and opportunities for collaboration, employees of all skill levels can easily find and put assets to good use.

Improved New Value Creation

Adopting a DAM system can open new opportunities for content creation, distribution, and even monetization. Since your employees can more easily access approved assets, they’ll have greater confidence in what they can and can’t use, and how to appropriately caption and credit what they do use. Assets with full context—like source, subject, location, and rights (which a file store can’t provide you)—help employees gain insight and tell better stories.

Add to that, your DAM system’s reporting capabilities help you track how your content performs, giving you a true understanding of the value of certain assets. Integration with other key business technologies can enable a 360 degree view of asset investment, use, and performance.

Reduced Risk

Unmanaged assets are much more easily lost, deleted, misplaced, and certainly misused. There are measurable risks to not using a DAM system. In fact, the legal risks surrounding asset misuse can be some very expensive errors, especially for larger brands. By implementing and effectively operating a DAMS, you’re protecting the integrity of the brand and organization in many ways, all through one system.

What’s Your Purpose?

Before we go any further, remember this: Your purpose for adopting a DAM system drives how every other component in your OS operates. So what’s your purpose? This element of a systematic approach is at the core, and is important to get clarity on before you dive into implementation. Discuss your reasoning with a representative team, and maybe ask yourselves:

  • Is there a specific problem you want to solve?
  • What do you want from the investment of a DAM?
  • What value should the system deliver, and to whom?

Whatever your purpose for taking on a DAMS, be sure to keep that as your focus as you go through the long-tail process of implementation and ongoing DAMS operation. Document it, post it prominently, and share it with your stakeholders. Remember, this is not a once and done exercise completed when you are first implementing a DAMS—the purpose should drive all decisions throughout the system life cycle. Purpose should have staying power, but may be revisited and revised annually, always keeping value delivery at the forefront.

Companies with a DAM report:
Improved brand integrity
better version control and tracking
improved visibility of asset usage
better visibility of asset performance

People: The power behind the DAM’s success

The purpose of your DAM system is likely tied to both the needs of your people and the pain points of their roles. The team members who are served by a DAMS usually fall into the following user groups:

  • Content Contributors: your team members who create new digital assets, adding brand and content assets to the DAM system directly
  • End Users: anyone in the organization who can access the DAMS, search and download assets, and create new content using those assets
  • DAM Product Managers & Asset Managers: your team who manages the DAM system and program,  defining rules of the road for the system, ensuring quality and process are maintained, and continually adding new features, content, and users.

It’s important that each of these user groups are considered and connected in the operational model. If any group isn’t on board, the whole DAM implementation can lose effectiveness, suffer in quality, and ultimately prevent widespread adoption. Delivering value to these users should always be a top priority for DAM system decision-making.

Conducting exploratory work with each user group sets a strong foundation for implementation and ongoing operations. Integrating and aligning the people in your organization who manage and use the DAM system to the purpose is the second step in the operating system we recommend. 

Governance: Critical for integrity and quality

Proper governance of your DAM system can enable long-term effectiveness and sustainability. How so? Governance includes your policies and standards that ensure data quality, create an effective user experience, and mitigate risks.  Essentially, it’s a systematic way to maintain the integrity of your DAM system.

There are five main components of DAM governance:

Policy Icon

1. Policies

Policies help maintain system health. You should outline your system policies into at least a few categories:

  • Collection policies: What assets are and aren’t in scope for the DAM? What formats and variations are accepted? What metadata is required upon submission?
  • Curation policies: Are all assets given equal treatment in terms of processing and metadata? What metadata is required prior to making assets accessible to end users?
  • Lifecycle management policy: How long are assets retained in the DAM system? What happens to the asset after it’s removed from the system?
Standards Icon

2. Standards

Standards assist the system’s hygiene and data quality. It’s critical to have standards defined and in place as you implement and operate your DAM system, but it is equally as important to define how to handle changes and updates that are necessary over time.

Consider developing local standards and ongoing review processes for:

  • Metadata: What fields are used and how should they be populated? Are different fields used for different assets?
  • Taxonomy: What terms are used to describe the assets? How do these terms enable navigation through the DAM through search and browse features? How is the taxonomy in the DAM aligned with enterprise taxonomy?
  • Classification and Categorization: This is a subset of taxonomy, but a distinct question: How do you categorize and classify assets so that users can easily understand what is available in the system? How are assets grouped for easy access and proper selection for the use case they are needed for?
Permissions, Rights, and Security Icon

3. Permissions, Rights, and Security

  • Permissions: Who has access to the system? How is access granted? What functionality does each  user group have access to? What assets can each user access in the system? What can they do with them? 
  • Rights: What rights information is tracked in the system? What are the different levels of access rights for various user groups? What data fields are secured to maintain asset integrity? How do you establish rights to a licensed asset?
  • Security: What enterprise security policies and systems govern access to your DAMS?
Roles and Responsibilities Icon

4. Roles and Responsibilities

The user groups we broke out earlier in the people section all should have very clear parameters. It’s critical that all continuous functions of the DAM system are monitored and supported by a specific role function. This means role descriptions that are highly detailed, example based, and likely come with a set of standard processes as well. 

Consider the following:

  • Who is/are the primary business owner(s) who has the authority to make strategic decisions, guide DAM administrators, and continually align the DAM system to business objectives?
  • Who are the domain stewards responsible for tactical steering, decision-making, and planning to enable strategy for different functional, content, or business areas served by the DAMS?
  • How are the responsibilities for the day-to-day operations of the DAM system defined? If multiple people, how are the roles divided?
  • How are responsibilities for asset ingest, organization, tagging, and publication delineated between content contributors and DAM administrators? 

You may opt to divide responsibilities across multiple teams or keep DAM system resources together. However you approach assigning, just make sure the responsibilities are clear.

Issue & Change Management Icon

5. Issue & Change Management

The final component of governance is establishing a protocol for issue tracking and resolution. This should involve the creation of mechanisms and tools your teams can use to identify and prioritize issues, as well as creating pathways that resolve the issue.

Protocols should also be in place for change management. A DAM system is constantly changing, growing, and scaling. How is that process managed? How are milestones planned, tracked, and executed? How are new features validated? How do requests and problems that users report get gathered, ranked, fixed, and reported on? How frequently are new features released? How are they communicated to users? 

Technology: The DAM software

Let’s revisit that purpose we started with. From your purpose, you can envision what success should look like and what the users need in order to succeed. You also understand how the use of a DAM system aligns with or supports those goals.

What you don’t know is exactly how your DAM system should function to deliver on those goals. This is where technology comes in. Your DAM system should be configured so it can fulfill your purpose of taking on a DAM in the first place.

How you use the technology entirely depends on your business objectives, users, use cases, and the value you want the system to deliver.

Configuring Your System

Once you have your base system, it’s time to configure it for impact. Again, this should be driven by your purpose and usage scenarios for the people who will be using the DAM. Here are seven steps to help you configure your system:

  • For each user group, determine the jobs-to-be-done that the DAM system can help fulfill.  Draft narrative and graphical scenarios that illustrate how those groups expect to interact with the system to fulfill those jobs.
  • Determine how your system can be configured to best address those scenarios.
  • Configure the DAM using approaches that are as simple as possible and as complicated as necessary
  • Validate internal user acceptance by testing with a DAM implementation team.
  • Validate once more with real users.
  • Gather feedback and revise where necessary.
  • Repeat the cycle often to perfect the functional performance and user experience of the DAM system.

When you are starting a new implementation, consider which features are most important to your purpose and users, and roll those out incrementally. Start your configuration with the highest value and biggest impact features and functionality. As you build on more advanced features, such as workflow automation and AI enrichment, take a moment to go back to your purpose and people to ensure implementing these features will create value and impact.

Integrating Your System

Your DAM system shouldn’t be an island—it is most successful when it is connected to other business systems that use and/or deliver your managed assets. But don’t overdo it; integrations can be hard to pull off and should be reserved for only when they have the potential to create the most impact. 

For every integration, consider:

  • What is the expected impact of the integration?
  • What data is being shared?
  • What is the system of record for each type of data?
  • What is the direction of data flow?
  • Who is responsible for setting up the integration?
  • Who will maintain the integration as systems change?

Remember: whatever integrations you do apply, make sure they are aligned with the governance standards you established earlier.

Dam System | Tech Checklist
-analytics
-asset display & interaction
-asset management
-collaboration & personalization
-delivery
-export / exit strategy
-ingest
-integrations
-localization
-metadata / description
-asset organization
-preservation
-search & browse
-security
-taxonomy
-workflow

Process: Scale and integrate the DAM system

Along with governance, which sets boundaries and guidelines for your DAM system, you must also establish and document processes. Processes can help establish trust and a sense of consistency when working with your DAM system.

Like everything else, the development of your process goes back to purpose and people—the usage scenarios will become workflows, which can then be configured into the system. You can then create documentation that will help enable your users to fulfill them effectively.

When Should You Develop Processes?

We recommend developing a DAM process for all of the following areas to help your users correctly contribute to and utilize the system:

  • Intake and ingest
  • Work-in-progress content development
  • Review and approval
  • Asset organization
  • Asset description/terminology/tagging
  • Asset delivery and quality assurance

What Makes a Successful Process?

Successful processes should be:

  • User-centered and easy to use
  • Clear and simple
  • Able to accommodate reasonable exceptions
  • Well-known among your employees
  • Easily accessible when needed
  • Communicated in such a way that the user understands the downstream impact of their actions in the system.

Note: Many DAM systems already have workflow features that can help you automate processes. But you still have to make the key decisions to configure what the steps are, and who the players are at each stage.

Beyond processes that describe how to use the system, don’t forget processes that are about the system. For example: how are the latest updates communicated, by whom, and at what frequency? Don’t forget, your DAM system needs marketing too.

Quote 
"With people in place, roles and responsibilities defined, and your DAM system configured, process becomes very important to adoption, quality, and trust."

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Culture: The driving force of your DAM program

If purpose is the core of your DAMS implementation, culture is the driving force. This is because DAMS implementation is most successful when its value is understood by everyone in the enterprise. 

The best way to spread awareness? Embedding it into your culture, which in turn develops the behavior of your employees. 

Here are some examples of how culture can be integrated into each of the previous six components of DAM implementation:

  • Purpose: A culture of commitment to not use technology for technology’s sake but to solve business problems.
  • People: A culture of reliance and trust—DAM systems can’t run on their own, and your people should develop a culture of trust to encourage others to do their part (with support and oversight from dedicated DAM administrators).
  • Governance: A culture of “our data, not my data,” helping decision-making change for the better.
  • Process: A culture of simplicity, clear and transparent communication, and training and documentation (you care how things are done and that they are done correctly).
  • Technology: A culture of forward-thinking where users are at the forefront to implement features and configurations that have the most impact.
  • Measurement: A culture of goal setting and tracking with a commitment to continuous improvement.
It's Time for Some DAM Success

If you read this operational guide fully, you are well on your way to improving your DAM system. Keep this in mind: reading and learning are always easier than execution. Bookmark this page, come back often through your journey, and keep returning to your purpose when you feel overwhelmed. 

We recommend evaluating your DAM system’s operational health on a cyclical basis. The DAM will continually be asked to solve new problems, support new users and new types of assets. The DAM OS framework that we’ve shared is meant to help ensure you have a continuous process of DAM operational success.

We’ve helped a lot of big companies successfully integrate DAMS. Often, we act as a guide along the road of uncertainty, helping to support a positive experience for your teams.

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