As I work in the area of in-house creative operations management and technologies, I am frequently discussing the merits of digital asset management (DAM) systems as part of the creative tool set. In the same way that we look at Adobe's Creative Cloud as an important tool, DAM systems are accelerating in importance as an enabling tool in the creative process and beyond.

So whether this is new to you, or even if you have been using DAM in the creative process for a while, the following will provide some top reasons it should be on your radar.

1. Findability
Searching for assets is a key driver for DAM systems being implemented with 84% of businesses reporting that searching for assets as their greatest challenge[1]. 'Search' is a word of desperation, so I tend to think 'findability' is more positive activity--more an experience, perhaps even discovery. The Gleansight benchmark study noted that the average creative team member will spend 5x the amount of time looking for assets as compared to someone with a DAM system (!). Google has trained us to look for things based on keywords or tags; it is this type of information that makes up metadata that is the essential DNA to finding specific and similar assets. DAM tools take advantage of this strategy and enable more intuitive finding of assets.

2. Centralized resource
Historically we grew up backing up our files and assets to ensure this valuable work was handy, secure and our computer storage not maxed out. But today it is old school thinking to store your assets in a multitude of ways ranging from share drives and local computers to external portable drives and DVDs. DAM systems are able to hold master assets of almost any type. Assets can be stored in a variety of sizes and formats in a central resource that can be made accessible to all user types. An equally important point is you can manage the master assets as your 'single-source-of-the-truth' to reduce the risk of using outdated assets. DAM systems allow you to look across the available assets to identify the most current approved assets for use--a valuable time saver in creative workflows.

3. Workflow and asset usage
Increasingly DAM systems are either being developed with workflow management capabilities or are integrated with specialized third-party project management tools to track the use or creation of assets. Each approach has its merits based on the organization or solution needs regarding assets use. By some estimates a DAM solution can save upwards of 2.5 hours per resource per week--which is roughly $5000[2] per person year; so a team with 10 designers could be looking at $50,000 of time that can be redirected. Some productivity advantages with utilizing workflow tools within a centralized system are:

  • Ability to leverage existing assets,
  • Ability to track creative development in a system of record while providing collaboration space with greater visibility to progress,
  • Automated reviews and approvals
  • Ability to release completed and approved assets directly to the DAM for access

4. Sharing
DAM systems are intelligent technologies that have built-in capabilities to share assets either manually or in an automated manner. Instead of using a variety of file sharing tools (e.g., Dropbox, YouSendIt, SharePoint, ftp sites), a DAM system can standardize sharing. In the process DAM systems have the capability to convert images and video on-the-fly to formats desired by the end user saving time of creative team members who may traditionally receive requests like this. DAM systems can also dynamically distribute assets to internal and external teams, as well as link to CMS systems and other tools in the ecosystem.

5. Asset repurposing
There are a number of value propositions for DAM systems; a key one is the repurposing of existing assets across media and channels. A primary benefit is reducing duplication of effort and costs in developing new creative where assets already exist. Speed is also important with shortening cycle times. The rapid expansion of 'always on' digital and social media has a growing need to nimbly access and manipulate assets for marketing and communication advantage. It is the Oreo 'dunk in the dark' reality that is a driving need for rapidly repurposing assets, as well as emerging Marketing automation needs--and DAM is the enabler.

6. Brand Consistency
Beyond published brand guidelines, a DAM system provides a platform to deliver and manage approved brand assets at a global level as part of your overall brand strategy. DAM technologies enable the possibility to launch multiple projects on a range of platforms (print, web, social) utilizing master brand assets in a more cohesive and consistent manner. This increases control through leveraging the master asset base and providing more visibility across creative execution to help with management of the brand voice and related campaigns.

7. Rights Management
Whether it is a stock image, a model in a photo shoot or a celebrity--licensed assets have grown significantly in recent years. The management of rights to use these images has become even more important to minimize risk of incorrect use that could lead to significant additional costs or even legal challenges. DAM systems are equipped with rights management tools for licensed and restricted assets to help creative teams identify and use only approved assets. DAM systems can identify the usage license requirements of an asset as well as limit access. It can also link to other functions such as Legal or Trademark for approval verifications--speeding up creative workflows.

While not a comprehensive list of benefits, this is a good primer for where DAM can play a role with in-house creative resources. There are a growing variety of DAM solutions ranging from on-premise to SAAS (cloud) hosted services. Later this year we will publish a follow-up to article looking at what you should consider before you buy a DAM solution.

If you need assistance in creating a business case or selecting a DAM system for your team, please contact us for more information on how we can help.