In our recent report on common metadata standards, we examined some of the more familiar metadata schemes in current use. Most of these standards were developed for and by librarians and archivists; many of them for books and other text-based documents.
We didn’t discuss the bigger picture for organizations now grappling with large, diverse and rapidly expanding collections of digital files. These files are referred to as “assets” because they have intrinsic, usable value in areas from product development to sales and marketing:
- Podcasts and other audio files
- Video files
- Technical drawings and other illustrations
- Graphs and graphics
The shortcomings of digital file storage
What transforms digital files into digital assets is a methodical approach to storing them that incorporates capabilities for easy discovery and retrieval, controlled sharing and long-term preservation. Yet, many organizations don’t think they need a digital asset management (DAM) system because they already have other file-sharing and content management systems in-house.
The big difference is that internal network drives, cloud storage options like Google Drive and even document management and collaboration applications like Microsoft SharePoint are basically digital filing cabinets.
Limitations of SharePoint and basic hard-drive storage:
- Files can be stored according to multiple schemes that may not make sense to everyone.
- Items can easily get misfiled.
- Metadata structure is either nonexistent or limited and doesn’t support detailed information about every asset type.
- Full text search functions are not helpful if you’re looking for multimedia formats.
Basic file storage and document management applications may work for some situations; yet for many organizations those solutions can fall short.
Indicators that your organization needs DAM
DAM was once the realm of advertising agencies, stock photo agencies and other companies in media and publishing. That’s no longer the case. Organizations that can realize gains in productivity, economics, competitiveness, compliance and security include the following:
- Companies that develop and manufacture products, to manage technical plans and drawings and facilitate their supply chains.
- Companies that distribute products—wholesale and retail—especially those who produce catalogs or have a strong ecommerce component.
- Any medium-large corporation to manage their marketing and branding, particular companies with multiple brands and business lines.
- Government agencies and other nonprofits with a variety of digital content and unstructured data to support and promote their missions.
Yet the ultimate reasons to adopt a more professional, systematic approach to digital asset management include the following needs and situations:
People can’t find the content they need
Lost productivity involved with searching for files is one of the biggest reasons to consider DAM. If people are looking through multiple shared network drives or SharePoint to find an asset, they’re not doing something else that’s more important. Out of sheer frustration, they’re more likely to use whatever they find, and that could be an older version they had stored on their own hard drive or in email. This poses a risk, especially if the asset is central to your brand, such as a logo.
A DAM repository ensures that files are stored in a single system, using a consistent taxonomy and that every file type can be associated with the most relevant metadata. It also removes both the inefficiency and security risk of using email to transmit files.
One system becomes the single source of truth for the current version of a digital asset, secure links replace file attachments, and no one goes back to a previous version if they know where to find the current one.
Files need to be shared with external parties
If you regularly need to share assets with outside agencies, partners or clients, you know how annoying it can be to constantly email files and figure out with multiple versions. What happens if an asset gets updated? It must be resent with the hope that your partners actually replace the older version. On top of that, you may run into situations where a receiving email platform won’t accept larger files. Yes, you could use Box or Dropbox or other shared folders, but you may not want one external party having access to the same folder as another party. Then you end up with multiple shared folders and multiple file versions. It’s a mess.
DAM systems make it possible to provide role- and permission-based logins to people outside the organization who need access to your digital assets. You can create workspaces that draw files from elsewhere in the repository without duplicating them. So, updates are as easy as changing one master file. Each group of stakeholders can have their own private areas for access to your branded resources, collaboration and secure file sharing.
You want to protect assets and monitor their use
If your digital assets represent an important element of your intellectual property, then you’ll want to ensure their proper use. This area of DAM is called digital rights management (DRM), and its purpose is to prevent unauthorized redistribution of digital media and restrict the ways it’s used.
While there is plenty of controversy over DRM, for organizations where digital assets are monetized or need to be tracked for copyrights and other intellectual property requirements, DAM can provide the means for doing this. Even in simple cases where a digital asset may not be ready for widespread use, a DAM can add a watermark to deter unlawful distribution.
Similarly, you may use media licensed from others and need to inform your users how the media can be used. When it’s stored in your DAM, the license and usage requirements can be clearly stated.
Part of your enterprise content management system
If you’re worried about having yet another system to manage, today’s DAM platforms can be fully integrated with other enterprise platforms, such as those for customer relationship management (CRM), source code management, marketing automation, website content management and more. This allows the entire organization to access the digital assets they need via the systems they’re already using.
Imagine these DAM use cases:
- A product development team has the latest images and logos for incorporation into an application’s user interface.
- A marketing team can share graphics, mockups, and videos with outside agencies and vendors.
- A salesperson can send a watermarked image to a potential customer as a sample.
- Engineers can securely store and retrieve sensitive design schematics.
DAM is going to streamline and simplify the process of locating, managing and protecting your organization’s valuable digital assets. Today’s cloud-based subscription services make it possible to integrate DAM with other vital enterprise systems and eliminate digital silos. The return on investment will become quickly evident in increased productivity, better asset re-use and decreased risks.