Digital asset management (DAM) is a new area of technology which aims to solve increasingly frequent workflow problems across a range of business departments.
A DAM platform is typically a centralised database of photos, videos, documents and other related media files, including design assets, branding assets and brand guidelines.
A DAM platform helps with locating, manipulating and sharing digital media, which ultimately improves digital task efficiency. A DAM platform is also the single source of truth for the digital assets owned by an organisation.
Managing your digital assets is fundamental for the smooth day-to-day operation of your organisation. Particularly within the arts and culture sector (infamous for sprawling, un-managed data), digital assets are used on an hourly basis for most modern marketers, fundraising teams, collections management teams, systems managers etc.
Why you need a DAM
As with most purpose-built software, DAMs have a huge number of specific features. Ultimately, a DAM is designed to solve the conundrum of identifying and locating files in the digital soup of platforms at your cultural organisation.
All DAM platforms provide a similar set of features; some are more suited to specific industries than others. DAM platforms are often quite bloated software and subsequently overpriced.
Typical benefits of implementing a DAM are listed below. Some of these benefits are realised with other file storage systems, but none do it quite so well as a dedicated DAM:
- Simple, fast and efficient tool in the cloud
- Understand what you own – a searchable single source of truth for all digital assets
- Quickly search using keywords and query your entire asset database
- Free up space on your local hard disk or shared drive
- Easy access for your entire arts and culture organisation
- All of your photos, linked forms and meta data in one place
- Consolidate your Dropbox / Google Drive / Flickr accounts
- Save time – tag photos manually or sometimes automatically with AI
- Hook up your website or design suite via API
- Merge and remove duplicates
- Set permissions and expiry dates for individual assets
There’s no denying DAMs are a convenience tool, but with increasing pressures on organisations in the arts and culture sector, a small investment in DAM software and digital processes can free up valuable resources within a your workforce.
Quick case study: The current state of DAM at Hampshire Cultural Trust
As a digital transformation manager I am tasked with the modernisation of Hampshire Cultural Trust, a charity founded in 2014 to manage 23 cultural venues across Hampshire. These diverse venues are made up of 16 museums, 3 arts centres, 3 art galleries, a dance academy, and a professional costume hire business.
Digital transformation is fundamentally about people, culture and processes and can be grouped into three broad categories across our organisation: communication, collaboration and customer experience.
Technology is the enabler for our digital strategy. I research, implement and manage a variety of platforms, including digital asset management.
What we have
- We currently own 190,000 image files. These are stored as various image sizes and qualities and equate to 650Gb in hard drive storage on a shared drive.
- In addition to these image files, we also own a vast number of related or linked files – consent forms, captions and source documents.
- The collections management team currently store images on the shared drive, and use an array of external hard drives. They also have a dedicated collections management system MODES.
- We neither have the infrastructure nor the tools to organise, locate or manipulate image files efficiently. There is no ‘single source of truth’ and there are many known duplicates.
As a small and fun experiment, we kept a tally of ‘DAM moments’ on the whiteboard in the marketing and fundraising office.
The team recorded 51 ‘DAM moments’ over a typical 4 week period. Using a crude average of 15 minutes per ‘DAM moment’, approx. 13 hours per month was spent searching for assets. Multiplied across other related departments and venues ie. community managers, arts marketers, collections and exhibitions staff, the need to improve workflow(s) becomes evident.
What we need
Based on an initial planning session with a small project team, our current criteria for buying a DAM are:
- Self service – simple to use for anyone at HCT without need for support
- Intuitive UX – limited or zero training required for standard users
- Powerful search – quick & relevant search by keyword, filter, tag or category
- Copyright – record image copyright and/or licensing information
- Consent – record image consent and attach relevant document(s)
- Deduplication – proactive system which identifies duplicates
- 3rd party access – simple tools for external photographer or partner access
- Batch actions – simple batch processing for bulk tagging and organising
- User hierarchy – simple user access and permission controls
- Archiving – store old assets and limit access to redundant/expired images
- 3rd party content – save images and record rights eg. artists / performers
During the session, many overlapping criteria were recognised as collections management system (CMS) functions. Based upon DAM/CMS market research and general software availability, there is currently no benefit in merging a DAM with a CMS.
Relating to collections functions, the project scope is clarified below:
In scope – Digitised photo collection, object marketing photos, fine art photos
Out of scope – spectrum compliant collections database (MODES replacement)
After many hours of research, we whittled down a long list of potential DAM platforms to a short list of 3: Bynder, Swivle and Brandfolder. We have watched a number of DAM demos and are currently playing with product trials to make our decision.
If you’re not ready to invest in a digital asset management platform, you might be able to solve some problems with everyday cloud storage:
- Dropbox, Dropbox Business or Google Drive – simple solution; less sophisticated but entirely feasible.
- Sharepoint – a bit old school, but might be a free addon with your Office365 package.
These platforms are all familiar tools for your stakeholders, and are very cost effective (often free) compared to a dedicated DAM.
I will aim to post updates once we have chosen a DAM platform!
Main image credit: Swivle.com