So, Just What is a DAM System Good for Anyway?

Many different assets to keep track of. Photo by Mike Kullen Nearly everyone I know has at least one half-forgotten shoebox full of pictures. You know, the pictures that you keep meaning to sort through, but never quite manage to actually organize? Now that most of us have moved onto using digital cameras, that problem has only gotten worse. Now, instead of easily flipping through photos in a box, we’re faced with files with obscure camera names, files that might be scattered among 20 or 100 different folders, multiple drives or even multiple computers.

As difficult as that might be to get a handle on, imagine that you’re a business or a non-profit with mission-critical files that might be just as disorganized. I don’t have to imagine it – for over ten years, it has been my job to fix it.

For even the most organized of offices, with files carefully sorted by the date the photo was taken, or the event where it was shot, remembering the date or event for the file they need RIGHT NOW can be a daunting task. One that gets harder as they add more and more files to their collection: even a well organized folder-based system becomes unmanageable when it gets to about 3000 documents. They’re also usually relying on the one person who knows where everything is – and eventually, that person is going to want a day off, right?

For the years I’ve worked at MerlinOne, one of my tasks has been taking new customers from the chaos of individual file storage to the ease of keeping their data in a shiny new digital asset management system (DAM). I’ve worked with customers who have shipped me boxes filled to the top with hundreds of CDs, full of carefully organized files that I’ve brought into their new system. When users begin to learn the system, they start to realize every file is there, every file can be found through an easy search interface, and retrieved with a few mouse clicks.

They can’t believe the difference. Every site has been amazed at how much simpler the system has made their jobs, how much more easily they’ve been able to find what they need and how much easier it has become to store more information about their files and events in their DAM – and this has been true whether they’ve been a newspaper wrangling an archive of a million pictures or a non-profit trying to manage 50,000. That is exactly what a DAM is good for.

Do you have a file organization nightmare story to share – a critical file lost and never found or an afternoon lost to hunting for that one document your boss needed? How do you think you could make a digital asset management system work for you?

Posted by Jennifer Cox
Photo by Mike Kullen

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