As a niche application, evaluating software for Digital Asset Management (DAM) would seem to be a relatively easy undertaking. Yet a search of Capterra, a website that provides information on software applications across a number of market sectors, came up with nearly 180 results for “top digital asset management software”!
So where do you start and how can you begin to reduce the range of choices to a manageable and best-suited few? The right selection will depend on a number of factors above and beyond the merits of any particular application. Frankly, we would be reluctant to make off-the-cuff software or system recommendations without a clear understanding of the business needs and goals, project scope, technical considerations, user qualifications, distribution and other requirements.
There are certainly leaders across different specialties, but rather than offering a list of “best” rated DAM vendors and tools, we will focus instead on the importance of understanding and documenting your needs. These broad considerations as you begin the evaluation process will help you to hone in on a short list of possible vendors and platforms that can provide the maximum benefit and be the most suitable for your needs.
Basic DAM Software Considerations
No matter how you approach your own DAM system software evaluation, the process should begin with these basic questions:
What are the core business functions that will benefit from this DAM initiative?
It’s really a simple question…what are you trying to accomplish and what are the business reasons for implementing a Digital Asset Management system? How will it benefit the overall business? What will be the opportunities, both internally through improved efficiency and ease of workflow and access to this content, and perhaps externally through monetization and revenue generating goals?
What types and quantities of media files are in your collection?
Are you working with a large existing collection? Are you upgrading from a legacy system or will this be the first time your collection will be managed in a digital form with a digital asset management system? Do you have or expect to have a diverse assortment of file types and formats?
There are different technical, storage and infrastructure consideration when you are managing data / text vs images and video. Robust systems will be needed for files that are inherently large, like streaming video or high resolution images, as well as for high volume collections.
Additional consideration should be given to rights management. What are the sources of your digital assets and what are the rights and restrictions (if any) for further access and re-use? They may include files that are created within and owned by your organization, user-generated from customers, partners and the like, or stock content purchased from vendors like Getty Images. Most large enterprises have collections that include all three, making digital rights management an increasingly important consideration.
How will your digital assets be used? Who and where are your users?
Will your digital assets be part of a larger digital workflow? If your new DAM system needs to work with other applications, those complementary systems should be a consideration in your selection criteria.
Some of the more common uses of digital assets include:
|Use of Digital Assets||System Integration / Support|
|Online publishing (website, social media)||Content Management System|
|Training videos and learning materials||Learning Management System, Knowledge Management System|
|Product development and support (manuals, how-to videos)||Product Development & Lifecycle Management Systems|
|Sales presentations and support||Presentation software|
|Marketing (advertising and other marketing communications)||Creative Applications (e.g. Photoshop), outside agency systems|
Use of a DAM platform and digital assets can vary by business sector, but it’s often centered on creative and engineering types in production or marketing, users who are generally the most knowledgeable on how to work with this content and assure proper usage and further re-use. However, the trends toward user-generated content on personal devices and social media networking have opened the flood gates. That means a wider variety of people from administrative assistants to executives may need DAM access, be it at the enterprise-level or via public sites designed to support access as well as ecommerce and digital delivery.
Geographic consideration also comes into play when considering digital delivery of materials. File size, bandwidth and “last mile” connectivity all factor into the user’s ability to access and interact with assets.
Members of AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) or anybody willing to join as a community member for free can view an infographic on the benefits of combining enterprise content management systems with process management.
Beyond budget, have you considered the expected ROI and the lost opportunity costs from not acting now?
Budget and ROI have to be part of any DAM initiative and are critical factors when considering a potential solution. While no one ever wants to pay for it, everyone generally agrees that something needs to be done. It’s important to manage costs in relation to stakeholder expectations and benefits.
How will metadata be managed and used to facilitate access, automation and transparency?
With the afore-mentioned trend toward more user-generated content and greater demand for rich media content on social networks and websites, there is interest in digital assets that goes well beyond the usual user groups like engineers, creatives and publishers. As such, attention to access levels and rights, repository structure and metadata such as keywords, creator, dates and other context are becoming as important (if not more so) than the software itself.
In fact, without attention to usability, a DAM system will never be much more than an archive. We find too many situations where employees believe that it’s easier to find the kinds of images and graphics they need on the global internet than within their own organization! And of course, general internet searches often lead to copying, poor quality and unauthorized use of content owned by others.
Therefore, once a system is chosen, organizing your digital assets and user training are critical. The proper development of metadata, portals and other features to help people use the system will facilitate easy search and retrieval, ensure digital rights management and IP compliance and maximize the return you can attain from your DAM system investments.
Justification for DAM System Investments
As you evaluate the cost and commitment it will take to evaluate and implement or upgrade a DAM solution, it pays to remember an important reality: we live and conduct business in an increasingly digital, graphical and multimedia world.
Our own digital asset management expert, Phil Spiegel, sums up DAM systems this way:
“To me, DAM is an enabling tool that removes barriers and creates opportunity. It offers a nimble platform for efficient and effective collaboration of shared assets that enables both internal and external users to find and use content in new, smart, productive and creative ways. For archiving, it has the added benefits of digitizing fragile physical assets and to illuminate dark archives in ways that add value far beyond dollars and cents.”