The Four C’s of DAM

There’s a familiar parable about some men and an elephant. You’ve almost certainly heard it before: these guys approach an elephant in the pitch black night to figure out what it might be. One finds the leg and decides it’s a tree, another feels the trunk, another the tail, another a tusk. Each decides that the elephant is something different based on their limited view.

And so it is with DAM systems, in a way. People with different roles use the system differently, require different features, and have different tolerances for complexity. A good digital asset management system gives each user only the features they need, and hides the rest. Hiding unneeded features from the users who don’t need them reduces training effort and stress, and reduces the chance of errors and misunderstanding.

A broad way to underscore the need for adaptability in the DAM user interface is to define the major types of DAM users. I prefer to classify users into roles represented by The Four C’s.

Creators submit assets to the system, usually as files. This category includes people inputting assets created by others and collected for storage in the DAM. A modern marketing department may rely heavily on private stock imagery and graphic art assets, where traditional users employed many skilled photographers to constantly update the library.

Curators edit metadata, collections and taxonomy, and set rules for who can see and use what kinds of assets, in what ways. Curators organize the corpus of assets. They also serve as administrators and may be the first stop when something goes wrong.

Consumers users whose job role allows them to browse the collection and view assets in Merlin without outputting them anywhere. Consumers in an enterprise use the DAM as the viewing platform for content: they use the DAM to view videos, photos, and text in the DAM’s own application and possibly nowhere else. They’re truly “end users” of the assets. Some of them may prefer a simple mobile device app to a more ornate a desktop/laptop presentation.

Composers (otherwise known as Publishers, but the acronym CCCP was already taken). Composers use the DAM as a platform for delivering assets in the correct format to other publishing platforms like websites, social media networks, brochures, catalogs, magazines and newspapers. Their most-used application is likely not the DAM, but a CMS or an MRM or a publishing layout application like WordPress, Photoshop or InDesign.

Of course these categories overlap: a user who is a Curator may also be a Composer. In modern marketing and content creation (design) departments, one user may do everything! Or in a more complex environment, a business might have different kinds of curators depending on the asset types being managed, or whether they curate the organization of the whole corpus – e.g. a librarian function – or just work on individual assets.

In most businesses there is no need for every user to see every feature, and in fact it’s disadvantageous for them to do so. People who only use the system once or twice in a typical week might be overwhelmed or intimidated by the full range of options open to them, and would be inclined not to use the DAM at all.

A good DAM system allows an administrator to configure the system so that a person in a given role sees only and exactly the features and assets they need to do their job. The result for employees is higher productivity, lower stress, and a less cluttered work environment.

So as you plan your DAM deployment one of the first things to consider is what kinds of users you have, and what needs they have that the DAM will satisfy. And then, give them exactly that.

Andrew Forber
Title: Chief Technology Officer
Email: aforber@merlinone.com
617-328-6645