What is Digital Asset Management? Definition of DAM, Benefits, Best Practices, and More

By Angela Stringfellow - Last updated

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what is digital asset management

What is digital asset management (DAM)? In a word: efficiency.

In a world of ever-growing digital assets, digital asset management (DAM) is essential to the efficient structure, organization, retrieval, and access of files held by an organization, educational institution, or company.

Definition of Digital Asset Management

There are many ways to describe DAM but in a nutshell, digital asset management is an organization or company’s method of storing and organizing digital capital, for easy retrieval when needed.

But, let’s be a little more precise. DAM is, essentially, a digital library solution for all your digital assets – documentation, images, audio, video, presentations, podcasts, animations, and any other digital or multimedia content – in an easy-to-access, quick-to-search, centralized location.

At its root, however, DAM boils down to one thing: efficient organization and storage of your digital assets, in order to enable creative workflow automation, foolproof archiving and backups, and possible usage tracking, to further company knowledge, power e-commerce, and provide other solutions.

Benefits of Digital Asset Management

There are many digital asset management solutions available, from anything as simple as organizing your digital capital into files, and as robust as enterprise-level management software with cloud storage, various permissions, and other complex features. The one thing they all have in common: DAM is an always-up-to-date, adaptive database solution.

The most important (and first) objective of DAM is that it must be easy to understand. After all, if you can’t access, modify, and use your stored digital assets, when and how you want to, then your DAM solution isn’t working for you. Good digital asset management supports workflows that allow for content modification, including for content that requires approval or is currently being modified.

In other words, with DAM, you’ll never have to wonder if you have the most up-to-date version of a presentation, or if Creative is still working on the images you need; just search the DAM, and the answer’s there. Digital asset management simplifies and streamlines your workflows.

How to Develop a Digital Asset Management Strategy

If you have any digital content at all, you already have DAM. It may be haphazard, it may be nearly impossible to access, and it may be poorly documented, but it’s there: your assets live somewhere. Now, your intent is to improve and formalize your current management methods. Here’s how: Developing a DAM Strategy

  1. When approaching formal digital asset management, the first step is always to coordinate. The problem with so many businesses is that they have no documented DAM strategy; they’ve created a slew of assets without any coordinated approach to their identification, storage, and use. So, gather together your company or organization’s leaders, and discuss: what is the best way to standardize your approach to DAM? What matters to you? Audit your assets to discover what you have and how it’s used.
  2. Consistency is key. One goal of DAM is to foster brand consistency across all departments and channels. So, develop a laundry list of any and all items – workflows, distribution channels, etc. – that are important to your digital asset management. We’ll discuss this below, but a good DAM system will allow you to filter this laundry list by department and employee, so you can create custom solutions for each. The important thing is to develop a strategy that encompasses all needs.
  3. Next, define DAM project objectives. What are the most critical issues you hope good DAM will solve? Once you can put your finger on those answers, it will be easier to map out your corresponding objectives (e.g. more efficient coordination between your graphic designers and marketing team).
  4. And finally, determine minimum requirements for DAM software. For this, it can be useful (and price-conscious) to develop a standard DAM system use scenario; find a solution that fits this standard, and from there discuss how you can adapt other DAM needs to the system you choose.

Best Practices for Choosing a DAM Solution

Once you’ve identified your DAM needs, it’s time to look for a system to match. And, while there’s no one-size-fits-all DAM solution, the best systems all demonstrate a few core principles:

  • Flexibility: DAM has no value if you can’t find and retrieve your assets. Therefore, your digital asset management system must support flexible metadata schemes, so you can modify fields and labels to suit your specific needs and enable intuitive search and retrieval.
  • System Adaptability: In the words of MerlinOne’s own Andrew Forber, “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.” This results in higher productivity, lower stress, and a less cluttered work environment.
  • Collaboration: Today’s workplace is collaborative, so your DAM must be so, too. Look for a system that provides varied tools to assist in your collaboration. Example: Instead of email, use your DAM to enable more efficient, native, and well-organized discussion around a specific digital asset, including the creation or modification of that asset.
  • Distribution: Some digital assets are created for distribution, and a good DAM system will reflect that by allowing you to quickly and easily distribute files to various platforms (including social media), email, your desktop, and other destinations.
  • Analytics: Chances are, you have questions about your digital capital: Who has been accessing your assets? Where are they published? Who’s uploading/adding new assets? What assets are currently being modified or in production? How has a specific asset been used? A good DAM system can deliver a wide range of custom reports.

Companies that leverage the right DAM solution gain efficiency by streamlining workflows, ensuring brand compliance, and getting more traction from their digital assets. Taking the time to develop a clear and consistent digital asset management strategy amplifies these benefits.

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