Learn How To Select The Right Digital Asset Management (DAM) in Four Simple Steps

Digital asset management (DAM) systems are becoming a key part of the marketing operations infrastructure. As marketing organizations work to keep pace with digital lifestyles, their communication programs have to move faster and connect to more and more channels. Digital Asset Management (DAM) solutions are fast becoming the central hub around which distributed marketing teams, as well as their agencies and partners, operate.

Learn How To Select The Right Digital Asset Management (DAM) in Four Simple Steps
Learn How To Select The Right Digital Asset Management (DAM) in Four Simple Steps

Read on this article to discover:

  • The fastest way to uncover your critical DAM requirements
  • How to get measurable objectives and define success
  • How to select the appropriate deployment process for your DAM
  • How to evaluate the best solutions for your project

Content Summary

The Early Years of the DAM
Expanding Use
DAM in the Cloud
Selecting the Right DAM
Step 1: Uncover Critical Requirements
Step 2: Set Measurable Objectives
Step 3: Select Appropriate Deployment Option
Step 4: Evaluate the Best Options

Evaluating DAM solutions has gotten tricky for several reasons.

  • There are more choices as the category grows up.
  • Boundaries separating DAM from adjacent categories are blurring.
  • Deployment options now include on-premise, private cloud, and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service).

This article will help you sort through the alternatives to find your best solution.

How to choose the right DAM
How to choose the right DAM

The Early Years of the DAM

Flatbed scanners found their way into mainstream business use in the late 1980s. And, as with any new technology, when you solve one problem you often create a new one. What do you do with all those digital files you create when you scan images? Digital asset management systems soon emerged as the solution.

Early solutions from companies like Canto and ADAM provided a central repository for digital image files. Since DIM (digital image management) wouldn’t make a very good acronym, they settled on DAM (digital asset management), and a new software category was born. It took off quickly.

Based on the ruling architecture of that time, DAM systems were client-server solutions managed on-premise. DAMs were largely viewed as middleware that provided a place to put all the files that came first from scanners, and later from design solutions like InDesign and Photoshop. DAMs were purchased and managed by IT.

These DAM solutions weren’t typically very user-friendly. They didn’t have to be. Creative workflow and adjacent processes were managed in other environments. But that changed quickly during the next phase of the DAM category evolution.

Expanding Use

As DAMs became central to creative and marketing processes, customers found more ways to use them and began to demand more functionality from them. On-premise DAMs today have dozens of features that satisfy lots of different use cases.

But the underlying architecture remained. DAMs were on-premise systems run on in-house hardware. They remained IT solutions even though they were used primarily by marketing and creative teams. DAM software updates were managed by IT, and new hardware required for expanding DAM use was typically paid for with IT budget and bought on IT timeframes.

DAM in the Cloud

A new DAM era was ushered in with the emergence of cloud computing. Enterprise systems no longer had to be managed on proprietary hardware. You could buy software and computing infrastructure as a service. Marketers, no longer dependent on IT, could take a more decisive role in buying solutions.

As a result, the DAM split into two categories of solutions: on-premise software and SaaS offerings. Traditional on-premise providers trying to provide some of the benefits of SaaS have created a third option – private cloud – by offering their single-tenant software in a cloud environment.

DAM deployment options include on-premise, private cloud and SaaS.
DAM deployment options include on-premise, private cloud, and SaaS.

Selecting the Right DAM

As marketing organizations adapt to take advantage of all the new ways they can interact with their customers, many are taking a new look at their digital asset management system. Some are replacing home-grown solutions based on shared file servers or cloud storage. Others are looking to update an on-premise DAM with a cloud solution. No matter the situation, selecting a DAM can have far-reaching consequences and deserves careful consideration.

So how do you choose? Here’s a four-step process that will help you choose the right DAM.

Step 1: Uncover Critical Requirements

DAM systems are used by lots of constituent groups. Start by gathering feedback from all of your stakeholders. These are different for every company, but often include marketing, design, photographers, sales, agencies, distributors, communications, and IT. Identify the most common challenges end-users face, and focus on the end-users first by developing a list of requirements that a DAM solution must meet. It’s helpful to understand the use cases and then prioritize requirements so that the really important things receive more influence than the nice-to-have things. Forced ranking exercises can help. Give stakeholders a point budget and ask them to spend their points on the things that are most important to them.

Step 2: Set Measurable Objectives

There are several ways to measure the impact of a DAM – improved productivity, increased effectiveness, faster cycle times, reduced operational costs, etc. These high-level objectives need to be turned into specific, measurable targets to evaluate success. So if the goal is to speed up creative cycle times, how long do current cycles take? And how fast do they have to be for the project to be considered a winner? Make sure every high-level goal has a clear, quantifiable outcome.

Step 3: Select Appropriate Deployment Option

As described earlier, there are several architecture and delivery models for DAMs. You must choose the best option to support the vision you have for a DAM system and, of course, conform to the IT reality of your business. Some industries – financial services and government, for example – have historically had a strong preference for on-premise software. But even these industries are beginning to convert to SaaS. You’ll also need to decide whether integrations with other enterprise components will be necessary and determine how these will be accomplished.

Step 4: Evaluate the Best Options

This is where things start to get interesting. Since not every DAM vendor offers every deployment model, you can narrow the field based on service architecture – on-premise, private cloud, or SaaS. Use references, objective analyst reports, or product reviews to narrow the field further. Some non-product criteria like company size and location can also be considered to get to a list of finalist candidates.

Source: Bynder | Digital Asset Management‎