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12 Steps to a Clean Digital Asset Management System

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Tidying Up Your DAM Content Marketing Platform

Your DAM doesn’t have to be a mess. To help you keep it clean Sam Schnepf, Widen’s Customer Experience Manager, and Megan Seman, a Widen DAM Consultant, presented a simple 12-step program to getting clean this year at the Widen Summit. If you missed it, this popular session was re-broadcast as a webinar.

Of course, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Sam and Megan also offered a process they call the “clean collection search,” which helps track progress as you clean up your metadata. This article will cover the 12-step program and provide an overview of the clean collection search.

Sam and Megan’s tips and techniques are great for DAM system users of all experience levels. If you’ve been a DAM administrator for more than a month, you’ve probably found at least one thing on your site that needs to be cleaned up, changed or updated. If you’ve been at it for more than a year, I bet you have a laundry list. Recognize any of these?

  • Unused metadata fields that need to be populated or removed,
  • Roles and permissions that aren’t working right,
  • Filters and search functionality that needs tweaking on the global scale, or
  • Old and stale visual content that needs to be audited and archived or deleted.

If reading that list make your eye is twitch, or makes you bite your nails, heads up that you might be an OCD, librarian-type (like me).

12 steps to a tidier DAM system

The process of doing a thorough and effective clean-up is the biggest project you’ll take on since implementation. Going through the steps — which address everything from carving out the time and setting a deadline to addressing metadata, roles and permissions, user interface, and governance — will result in step 12, a celebration with those who supported your efforts to get clean. 

Megan and Sam’s 12 steps can be split into a couple of key areas.

Set the Stage

The main theme for the first four steps is to make it official. Secure resources, schedule time for yourself and with your colleagues, as well as talking to users to decide what to focus on and how your DAM content marketing platform should change.

  1. Admit you have a problem. “Hi, my name is John George, and my DAM is a mess.”
  2. Allocate staff time. Don’t just try to do it in spare moments.
  3. Make it official. DAM cleanup is a project, and should be managed like one. Set deadlines and involve others.
  4. Interview users. Make sure that your improvement efforts benefit system users.

Heavy Lifting

Now that the foundation is set for your digital asset management cleanup, it’s time to do the work.

  1. Divide and conquer. Be specific about the areas of your DAM to work on. For example, adding more information to the stock photo metadata is a lot different than a vague task like “make metadata better.”
  2. Review roles and permissions. They tend to get cluttered. Figure out how to simplify them.
  3. Customize the dashboard. Make your DAM system welcoming and easy to use.

Maintenance Mode

Like keeping your home tidy, cleanup is an ongoing process. Creating good governance documents and spending time with users will keep your visual content, and your DAM system, well organized.

  1. Provide governance documentation. Outline the rules and practices for managing your DAM.
  2. Train, train and then train some more. Provide basic and advanced training for everyone!
  3. Evaluate. Regularly ask your users if DAM is working for them.

Finally. . .

  1. Celebrate! Get together with the people who helped with their time, thoughts and energy. Rewarding users is important for adoption, too. Keep people involved, acknowledge them — and in return you’ll have happier users.

Each step will take you closer to the clean DAM life you want to live.

The clean collection search

Megan and Sam highlighted a helpful process for cleaning up your metadata. It’s called the clean collection search and it is a key component of Step 6, “Divide and conquer.”

The idea is simple: save a search that identifies visual content with missing metadata. For example, if you want to make sure all your assets include an entry in the “Brand” field, create a search that provides results where the “Brand” field has a value “Is Empty,” like the example below.

Digital Asset Management and Missing Metadata

During the break-out session, Megan had all the attendees run a search to find visual content in which a specific metadata field was empty. Participants chose which field to target and then either chose “Is Empty” from the drop down list, or used the Boolean operator “isempty” in a text field. As you add the missing metadata, the assets you’ve cleaned up will disappear from the search results and you can stay focused on the assets that are still missing metadata. Here’s the how-to:

  • Identify the field you want to clean up. Examples include location, asset type, or brand, like you see above. The clean collection search could also be used be to find and correct a spelling error, or to move data from one field into another. Make sure your goal is clear and simple.
  • Build and save a logical search. The search should find all the visual content that you want to address and exclude what’s already been taken care of. It could be a one-step search query, or you might have to check two or more fields. In the example, as I added information to the brand field, the updated asset would fall out of the search results.  

You’ll do this multiple times during your metadata cleanup, addressing one field at a time. Think of it as a bookmark that allows you to pick up where you left off, working your way through assets systematically as you clean up your DAM content marketing platform. Stay focused on that field and search, and then BANG! Clean metadata field. Here’s how I used the clean collection search on a recent implementation. We had a large group of assets that did not have the “Brand” field populated, so I wanted to identify and address those assets.


Remember, the clean collection search is a tool you can use in your digital asset management clean-up project. Kicking the habits that led to a dirty DAM can take months to complete, but it’s well worth the effort. The clean collection search will make the project go more smoothly and logically. Take the time to complete the clean-up and the people who use your visual content library will thank you — and congratulate you on getting clean.

Holistic Digital Asset Management John GeorgeAbout the author

John George is an independent information professional who develops holistic digital asset management solutions designed to make it easy for users to find resources they are looking for.

George has worked on electronic collections for museums, academic libraries, and corporations, implementing software, developing metadata and taxonomy, and establishing governance policies. In every instance, George works to make rich media easily findable, ensuring that assets are fully cataloged, the metadata structure supports the client's and their users' needs, and the search is properly configured.

Read a profile on John George on



Topics: Widen Summit, Marketing

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