Deciding to invest in a digital asset management (DAM) system is a big decision. If your content operations are minimal and a simple file-sharing tool does the trick, that may be a cost-effective way to go. But as your organization and content needs evolve, you’ll likely need a more robust solution. So, how do you know when it’s time for a DAM system? While the answer is different for every organization, here are a few telltale signs to look for.
1. Nobody can find files
Do people spend hours looking through your shared drive (aka the black hole) only to leave empty-handed? If you have hundreds of assets, a cleanup session may help. But, if you have dispersed teams and your asset library is growing larger by the day, there’s a good chance you’ve outgrown your current tools.
A DAM system stores content in one central and searchable place. So rather than digging through messy file structures — or worse, asking a designer to recreate digital assets that already exist — you can easily find what you’re looking for. DAM systems have advanced search capabilities that are powered by metadata, or descriptive information about a piece of content.
Most DAM systems allow users to search across metadata values or within a specific field, and then refine their results using filters. Some systems also have the option to search by asset category or asset group, use spotlight searches, or leverage artificial intelligence (AI) tools to find assets with a specific visual feature. Together, these search strategies give users quick and friction-free access to the content they need.
2. Your assets need a little extra explanation
Do your photographs and videos increasingly have restricted use cases or special instructions? Has your marketing team been fined for violating usage rights on licensed photos (without even meaning to)? If you need assurance that your digital assets are being used and distributed properly, a DAM system can help.
Metadata fields in DAM systems can help support an organization’s digital rights management (DRM) strategy, or processes to control the use of copyrighted digital material. These fields can be used to capture usage rights, expiration dates, or project details for each asset. Users can also attach files, such as a model release form or contract, so teams have everything they need in one place. This can be especially valuable when managing stock photography, which often has very specific use parameters.
Additional tools — like watermarks, end-user license agreements (EULAs), version control, and analytics — also regulate how and where content is used, and help ensure proper compliance.
3. File conversions are eating up too much design time
Are your designers constantly fielding file conversion requests from other departments? This workflow interruption creates a bottleneck for all involved and can bring creativity to a standstill.
A DAM system can automate file conversions once and for all. Just preset conversions in the system based on common use cases, and from there, your team can automatically download files in the size and format they need. For example, you can set role-specific conversions so your social team can always download photos for Instagram in the required 640×640 JPEG size.
Your design team will thank you, because all they need to do is upload their master files directly from Adobe Illustrator or InDesign, and the DAM system takes care of the rest — relieving them from endless file conversion requests. And with quick and easy access to the format they need, your users will no longer risk crashing their PowerPoint presentations with huge TIFF files (insert roaring cheer)!
4. Your systems don't communicate with each other
There’s no denying that the right combination of technologies can make your marketing and creative operations easier. But, if they don’t work together, you may end up with workflows that are redundant and inefficient. If you’re currently using a file-sharing tool that only integrates with a small portion of your marketing technology (martech) stack, or it takes hours to organize, release, and communicate content requirements for an upcoming campaign, you’re wasting time and energy.
If you have multiple systems that need to access your content, a DAM solution with the right cross-system integration capabilities can help you to extend your assets from a central source of truth. This single content hub ensures teams across departments and time zones are working with the same current and approved content, giving you greater brand consistency, productivity, security, and trackable data!
5. You need a strong brand presence
A consistent, cohesive brand experience is important in fostering connections with consumer audiences, as well as internal teams and partners. And organizations are faced with the mounting challenge of finding better, more organized, and productive ways to manage their omnipresent brands. Brand management — and the software that supports it — is increasingly the solution.
A DAM system supports brand management processes and goals by ensuring all stakeholders only have access to approved and current content. Version control, access permissions, embed codes, and customizable templates work together to help teams create cohesive and consistent brand experiences.
In addition, many DAM systems can be customized to reflect an organization’s brand. Logos, favicons, images, and colors for buttons and links can all be updated to align with unique brand guidelines. This puts the brand front and center for every contributor and stakeholder across content workflows.
Ready to start your DAM journey?
If these telltale signs sound familiar to you, it may be time to consider investing in a digital asset management solution. Resources like our DAM Evaluation Toolkit offer exercises and tools to guide you through your unique DAM selection process. And if you’re interested in exploring how Widen’s functionality maps to your workflow needs, today to learn more!
Note: This article was originally published in April 2018 and has been updated to remain current.