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A DAM admin’s guide to making it all work

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DAM Admin Guide to Brand Asset Management

Organizations can achieve a lot with a digital asset management (DAM) system. But not all vendors will emphasize how critical a DAM admin is to making it all work.

There’s no tool that magically delivers brand consistency. A DAM admin is required to set up governance structures to make sure the right people are uploading, downloading, and accessing brand-approved assets in the DAM.

There’s no tool that’s launched and instantly adopted across the organization. A DAM system requires a champion who understands how to communicate its value and capabilities to the organization and the individual teams.

There’s no tool that… well, you get the point. Your DAM system requires an admin for it to deliver its benefits.

In fact, we found that companies who have an admin dedicating 50 percent or more of their time to their site have two times the amount of on-brand asset downloads than companies with an admin who is only able to dedicate 20 percent or less of their time to DAM administration. If your organization could make an investment that would double the number of times an on-brand asset is downloaded and used, how could they say no?

Brittany Hathaway shares a great example of the impact a dedicated DAM admin can have for a company. After joining UMASS Amherst as a DAM admin and assisting with metadata entry, logins have doubled and downloads have almost tripped.

So, now that you’re aware of how critical DAM admins are to the success of coordinating the access of content across teams, here are core areas that an admin should own to create the best DAM experience for their organization.

Beyond a task: What it really takes to be a DAM admin

Being a DAM admin isn’t just a task. It requires vision to align the DAM system’s mission statement with business objectives and needs. It requires creativity to problem solve and engage others. And it requires strategy to coordinate all the data and people involved. Here are some key abilities of a DAM admin and how to learn them.

Engage current and potential DAM users

Don’t think that a DAM admin is someone who just sits at their desk tinkering with metadata fields. That’s important, but engaging with current and potential users will guide your metadata and overall digital asset management strategy.

By connecting to others via calls, surveys, interviews, and emails, you’ll better understand users’ expectations and desires for the DAM system. You can then take that information and make adjustments to your site to meet those needs.

User experience (UX) research for DAM admins

To get the most out of your information gathering from current and potential DAM users, consider applying UX research methodologies. While you might think UX design is just the vendor’s responsibility, it’s the DAM admin who tailors the structure, settings, and data to the organization’s needs. So both are important!

Speak to any organization that’s failed at launching a DAM system and the UX will be factored into it. The 2017 Widen connectivity report found that 67 percent of our interview participants said that the usability or user interface (UI) would make them more loyal to one tool over another.

There are three steps you can use to guide your UX research journey.

  1. Discover. Start by finding the baseline of site usage to understand where your current system stands. How is the DAM system functioning and performing? Find the pain point and base problem.
  2. Research. Dive into the reasons why the problem exists. Use metrics, phone calls, conversations, observations, meetings, and email to investigate your problem.
  3. Change. Implement a targeted change based on the research. Then monitor the progress of your efforts and share updates with the organization.

Light the fire

Change management is a real challenge for DAM projects. Digital asset management doesn’t exist in a silo. It’s a digital media management hub to marketing, creative, IT, HR, and more, though not every team gains the same benefits from the DAM tools. Your UX research will help you understand the opportunities to improve specific teams’ workflows and inspire ideas on what to communicate to those teams.

“Inspire users with experiences showing how DAM gives [you] a competitive edge. Catalyze teams to look past DAM as static storage and instead as a strategy to drive business results and priorities,” Michael Shattuck shared when speaking about New Balance’s award-winning DAM system launch in 2017.


Metadata is the key to effective searching. As the DAM admin, your ability to create a sound metadata strategy that matches user searches to the data describing the files will help foster findability and usability within your DAM system.

Whether you own the majority of metadata application or you empower others too, controlled vocabulary lists (CVLs) bring consistency to your metadata.

CVLs help you prevent:

  • Inconsistent terminology: Is the shoe color steel blue or blue-gray?
  • Spelling errors: Is it calendar or calender? (It’s calendar.)
  • Lost time: Trying to remember what that new term leadership wants us to use?

There are four options available for CVLs:

  • Checkbox: A shorter list option to select one or more answers.
  • Palette: Ideal for long lists that can have multiple answers.
  • Autocompleter list: Ideal for a long list that has one answer.
  • Dropdown list: Ideal for a list with one answer.

To improve the health of your metadata with controlled vocabularies, try this activity.

Connecting digital asset management software to other tools

Integration is another key to the value of DAM and optimizing the value of your content. Instead of driving everyone to the DAM system, sometimes you need to bring the governance and structure of DAM to them.

When content is more easily accessible from the tools your teams already work in, it makes everyone’s life simpler. When digital assets are easily located, you get fewer “can you find me …” questions.

By extending assets and metadata to and from other systems and customer touchpoints, your organization can generate much greater reuse and repurposing value of content investments.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a developer or technology expert to make DAM software connections happen. An understanding of how your teams want to work and a discussion with your DAM partner are great starting points.

Here are three types of integrations.

  • Out-of-the-box connectors can be installed as an add-on or plugin. These allow your DAM system to add UI elements inside another app and typically have pre-defined functionality.
  • Managed integrations work in the background to sync files, links, and metadata between the DAM system and other tools. They’re a flexible way of integrating tools with customizable middleware solutions. Since they run in the background, there’s nothing to install and no new UI.
  • Custom APIs provide syncing apps and deeper connections.

For more, read “Where to start with digital asset management integrations to connect teams.”

DAM maintenance

DAM sites can get cluttered or messy over time. Sometimes it happens when your workload is greater than the time allotted to DAM maintenance. Sometimes it’s just a slow buildup. But staying on top of recurring tasks and initiatives will help keep your DAM system running smoothly.

DAM maintenance tasks

Outlining what to focus on weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually can make maintenance more manageable and ensure important tasks are receiving the appropriate level of attention. Here are examples of tasks that should be considered and addressed regularly.  


  • Check uploads. Keep an eye on empty metadata fields and duplicate uploads.
  • Monitor the DAM system alerts to identify areas of concern. For example, digital assets without categories.
  • Review new login requests.
  • Keep an eye on recent upload/download activity to understand who’s uploading/downloading what.
  • Train users. If people are simply searching and downloading, a video may suffice. For users who will be uploading and editing, an in-person or live webinar training is advised.


  • Send regular emails to users, perhaps monthly, that are concise but keep them up-to-date on new content and features.
  • Leverage analytics tools like the Widen Insights app to see how the system is performing. Create reports to share with your leadership team to communicate the DAM system’s performance and user engagement.
  • Review and delete inactive users.


  • Ask for feedback from users with a survey, meeting, or desk visit.
  • Go through the Admin Dashboard to review the tools, permissions, and asset groups.
  • Refresh the Dashboard and/or login page.
  • Review the deleted assets in the Pending Delete queue.


  • Review standards and store them in the DAM system as a resource for users. Include information on filenames, abbreviations, keywords, expiration dates, etc.
  • Review governance policies. This ensures a consistent passoff if the DAM admin changes.

These tasks are a great jumping-off point, but should be adjusted and added to based on your site’s governance plan and DAM strategy.

DAM site cleanup

Following admin maintenance tasks will keep your digital asset management system running smoothly, but you should also be aware of signals that it’s time for a DAM site cleanup — which is a larger endeavor than maintenance tasks.

One sign that it’s time for a site cleanup is crabby users. Do you hear conversations of people complaining about the DAM software? Are users frustrated because they can’t find what they need? Another sign is lost assets. Does searching for an asset in your DAM result in feelings similar to losing your phone when it’s on silent? You know it’s somewhere, but where!? And if you’re constantly having to tell people how to find things, or if you’re unsure of how to categorize or tag things, it’s time for a DAM cleanup.

What are the results of a DAM site cleanup? One Widen customer set out to clean up metadata, roles, asset groups, upload profiles, and assets. Here’s a look at some of their results.

Digital Asset Management Software Site Cleanup

Kerry Ingredients, another Widen customer, was able to grow their user base by 215 percent over the course of a year and increase downloads of on-brand assets by 134 percent as a result of their cleanup efforts.

To learn more about how to perform a DAM site audit and get started with a cleanup, read “The four stops you need to make when plotting your DAM site audit roadmap.”

Inform content strategy and execution

The data in your DAM site can also inform how your content is performing and if it’s headed in the right direction. Data helps identify opportunities for your content, enabling you to enhance your customer experience, strategically coordinate assets across channels, and make informed decisions to evaluate and improve your content.

One activity that will help inform your content strategy across the customer experience is a content audit.

A content audit is a systematic review of your content. To start:

  1. Form a question. To narrow the focus, identify a specific question you want to answer with your content audit. It will help prevent you from wandering around aimlessly in your data.
  2. Uncover what you have. Before you start evaluating, make sure you’ve collected all the content and data about your content that you want to evaluate. Cross reference the data in your DAM with data from other relevant sources, like web analytics and marketing automation analytics.
  3. Evaluate your content’s performance. How does your content perform when it comes to its goal? Is what you’ve created for your sales team actually being shared?
  4. Inform your teams and improve your content. Once you’ve evaluated your content, identify what needs to be optimized, what needs to be archived/deleted, and what needs to be created.

You got this

Yes, being a DAM admin is no simple task. It requires a variety of skills, from cataloging, to UX research, to change management. But you don’t have to go it alone. Surround yourself with a strong DAM team. This can include co-workers with skills that complement yours, other DAM professionals who are working through similar initiatives, and your DAM vendor.

When you need help, our teams are here for you. Let us know what we can do.

Topics: DAMsters, DAM

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