6 steps on the path to DAM success

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LAC Group recently partnered with DAM technology company Bynder in a webinar on successful DAM (digital asset management) implementations and how to avoid common pitfalls along the way. Our own DAM expert Phil Spiegel and Emily Kolvitz from Bynder were co-presenters.

The key theme of the webinar, The Path to DAM Success, was this:

DAM is not only a technology solution. It’s also people, processes, requirements and plans, working harmoniously together.

Supporting that premise are six critical factors that lead to DAM success, shared by Phil and Emily in the webinar. (Links to the slide deck and webinar recording will be included at the end of this article.)

As part of the LAC Group marketing team, I am constantly working with digital content, yet I have never viewed the files as “assets” until learning more about the principles of digital asset management and how digital content files are transformed into assets.

Six critical factors that lead to DAM success

  1. Start with a roadmap

The adage, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there,” applies to many of the DAM client engagements involving LAC Group. We might be called in months after a system implementation to help figure out if a DAM initiative is going to work. According to Phil, the conversation begins with the client saying something like:

“We bought this thing 12 months ago and it’s still not really operational.  Is it a lost cause or not?”

Phil says this can happen when DAM technology selections are “preordained” without consideration of all the work that needs to be done or the business case for doing it in the first place. Some of the client projects involving Phil and his team were simply a high-level overview—assessing the state of a current situation and recommending next steps. Yet a preliminary roadmapping process optimizes any DAM implementation and sets the stage for ultimate success.

  1. Treat your digital asset collection like a library

Phil likes to say that librarians are the ultimate DAM gurus because they place the collection and the needs and desires of the collection’s users first. Librarians think about order, classification and organization…all key to successful DAM’s. As a provider of library services, LAC Group approaches every DAM project with a library-centric view, starting with a basic question:

How best do we organize the items in this collection for easy, relevant discovery and utilization?

That includes metadata, the “data about the data” that provides the needed context to explain just what a given asset is, looking at it from different angles.

Both Phil and Emily, who happens to hold an MLIS degree (the master’s degree of librarianship), emphasize the need for a solid metadata structure for digital assets. As Phil said in the webinar,

“It’s not the sexiest part of the exercise and it often needs to get deep in the weeds, but it’s absolutely critical to know what the metadata structure is going to be and how it will be used. Getting junk in is getting junk out. You just move the same problem to a different solution.”

Phil struck a nerve with me by saying that digital assets without proper metadata are like grains of sand at the bottom of an ocean. I’m sure my peers in marketing and other digital asset user groups like engineering have experienced the same frustration and time-draining productivity of searching for relevant content or trying to find the file you know is there, but where?!

  1. Marshall the necessary resources

The question was asked in the webinar, when should a company bring in a consultant, to which Phil responded:

“I would say when it’s beyond your core competency or knowledge. Or it’s a complex project, involving legacy data, diverse user groups, multiple systems and such. Or if it’s too big to fail. Those three biggies right there—you want someone who really knows what they’re doing to walk through this with you.”

LAC Group client engagements often entail the migration of legacy data and merging of multiple systems into one enterprise platform, with lots of different ways of viewing the same thing across a large organization. Streamlining that process is key and often needs to occur in parallel with other parts of a DAM project. As Phil says, it can become a real “gotcha” if not considered soon enough.

Phil recommends a focus on priorities and understanding of the resources that will be required, either marshalling them internally or being honest with yourself and seeking out external assistance as needed. Those resources include budget, skilled people and the necessary knowledge base and industry-wide understanding on approaches and solutions.

  1. Manage the change it will bring to your organization

Emily stated that both a grassroots level and a top-down level of support are necessary to help with adoption and success. Phil mentioned situations he has seen, especially in larger organizations, in which some people were fully on board while others were pushing back.

Digital asset management involved change management. Often people have a vested interest in continuing the status quo. As Phil said,

“Some people want to stick to the way they’ve done things for as long as they’ve done them. They’re going to challenge any change just because it’s different.”

To counter that, you need to build trust and demonstrate the greater good, and involve all stakeholders in the process, from start to finish. And make sure you include groups like marketing, engineering and other prime creators and users of digital assets. Their needs and concerns are paramount.

  1. Take small steps and limit scope creep

Both Phil and Emily have seen DAM initiatives that ended up nearly out of control, often due to scope creep or mission creep.

Phil suggests knowing the “why” and pressing on the why, pushing from the most important part for now as the best way forward. He says in his experience that it’s the best way to move forward, saying,

“My style is not to try and win arguments outright but to find consensus in order to move forward in small steps toward the greater goal. If I can make a step forward today with one part, then I can move forward to the next part tomorrow.”

Phil advises that you define what truly is a “must have” right now versus what would be a “nice to have” at some point. It helps to involve all stakeholders in the creation of this list, and to get their express commitment to adhere to it.

  1. Prepare for regular care and feeding

Often DAM technologies require customization; either in total or because the out-of-the-box implementation is not enough. As Phil said in the webinar,

“You’re making something that’s going to last for a long time. It’s not just a one-off, discrete project. You’re not buying something, plugging it in and it’s done.”

The webinar slide deck includes a slide that compares DAM to a puppy! You’ve got to care for it, teach it, feed it and give it regular attention, training and care.

Digital asset management recognizes the inherent value of the content contained within those digital files. That value could come from a branding and marketing aspect or engineering and product development. It could be time- and cost-saving productivity gains, or monetary value or even historical value. In a creative production environment, not having to recreate content over and over provides notable cost and time savings that add to the overall value add these systems can provide.

Whatever it is, that value can be realized by choosing the path to a successful DAM system.

Webinar materials:

Phil Spiegel

Phil Spiegel

Phil Spiegel is Vice President of Corporate Client Engagement at LAC Group. Phil delivers insights and advice based on more than 20 years of media archive and asset management experience gained from companies like National Geographic Television, Corbis Motion, Image Bank and Getty Images.
Phil Spiegel

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