All right, so you've made the decision to move all your videos, photos, graphics, and other related marketing and brand materials to a digital asset management system (DAMS), and you've done the hard work of finding and selecting the DAMS vendor you believe is right for you. Now what?

I'd love to tell you that the hard part is over; unfortunately, though, you've still got a few hurdles to clear:

  • How do you know your DAMS will be future-proof?
  •  How do you make sure your users can easily find what they are looking for?
  • How do you engage your audience and make your DAMS a big success?

With this handy little guide we'll steer you through the best-practices of setting up your DAMs and show you that it's as easy as running a bake sale (but maybe not as tasty!).

Step 1: What cakes are we going to sell?

Think of your assets (the images, videos, etc. you want to store) as your cakes: There might be hundreds, thousands, or more, stored in different places. Before you can set up your stall, you need to pull them all together into one place to assess what you have.

Doing so can be an eye-opening experience. You might find you have more assets that your first thought...

It's also a good opportunity to begin getting others involved (your chefs), those who can help you locate or even make new assets (or cakes) to go into your bake sale. By involving others early in the process, you'll ensure support further down the line and give your organization a sense of ownership.

Step 2: OK, we have lots of cakes. Now what?

It's time to start setting up your cake stand. First, we need to separate our cakes into types or categories. The important part here is to think about your customers: There will be many people with lots of different needs, so it's important to think about your stall from their perspective and arrange your cakes in a way that makes sense to them.

Don't just rely on how it was done in the past. It might make sense to group your cakes by type—chocolate, sponge, fruit, and carrot—and within those groups you could then break down further into cakes with layers or just plain, with icing or without, and so on...

Similarly with your digital assets, you need to consider how people will look for things. Will someone from your marketing team look for things the same way as someone from your training team?

The categories you create need to sensibly group your assets. Consider creating sub-categories to further separate your assets. Ideally, you want to avoid having more than a few hundred assets in any one category, as it will become too hard to find anything.

At the same time, you want to avoid having too many categories. No one wants to have to go in and out of a dozen categories to find what they are looking for. A rough guideline: try to avoid having more than five levels of subcategories.

By the end of this step, you should have all the categories you will need to group you assets (cakes!).

Step 3: Who does what?

So we already identified some of the people who will be coming to your stall—your customers—but you also want to consider who else will be interacting with your cakes and what their role will be.

You'll need some chefs who will work on certain types of cakes; you might have someone looking after chocolate cakes and someone else who has a talent for cheesecake... You might also have someone who is an expert at icing and so will need to have access to all the cakes.

In your DAMS it's equally important to identify your users and roles. Some end users will just want to browse and download assets; they will probably make up the majority of your users. Other users will have more powers, such as the ability to upload or edit assets, and you may wish to restrict these users to a certain type or groups of assets, like our chefs mentioned above, or maybe they can access everything, like our icing specialist. Finally you'll need some administrators, "head chefs" who can keep everything in order.

Step 4: Help people find what they need

Your cake stand may be well organized, but customers might still need some help to find what they are looking for. Maybe they don't care so much what type of cake they are looking for—so long as it's gluten-free. Or maybe they just really want a cake with pink icing!

That's where tags or keywords come in handy. You can use them to store additional information along with your asset: You could tag cakes as gluten-free, or containing nuts, or having pink icing. That way, if customers just want to see cakes with those attributes, they can quickly and easily find them.

Similarly, you need to create a way to describe your assets.

Your keywords help to describe your assets and they can form a vocabulary that all users can use to tag and search for assets. Keywords can be useful for describing the contents of an assets, such an image, or they could record the photographer or where the shot was taken. Those keyword combine to become the "metadata" for your asset repository.

Step 5: Control quality: Only the finest cakes make it to the stand!

Your customers expect the best quality cakes from your stand—and of course you don't want to disappoint! So how do you ensure that only cakes which are of the best quality make it onto your table? That's where workflows and approvals come in.

Your DAMS should support various workflows that allow contributors to submit assets for approval. Only assets that have successfully passed through this process should be made available to the community. Approval can be as simple as an administrator's reviewing the asset, or it could involve multiple users' signing off on an asset before it becomes publicly available.

You can even look at your established processes for approvals within your organization and recreate those within your DAMS.

Step 6: Sell, sell, sell!

So you have the most organized cake stand and the best-tasting cake at the fare, but how do you attract customers and keep them coming back for more? Your stand will be a success only if you can rely on repeat customers. So keep your selection fresh, and make sure there is always something new to try. And find like-minded people who love your cakes and will spread the word for you: You need product champions!

Your DAMS may be perfectly organized, but if you fail to engage with your community and capture their attention... all your work will be for nothing. Fear not, though; here are some great tips for attracting and maintaining their interest:

  • Exclusive content: Ensure that at least some of the assets in repository are available only in your DAMS and nowhere else.
  • Exciting content: Your DAMS doesn't have to be used just to store old product photos or user manuals. Bring it to life with photos from the last office party (the more scandalous the better!) or even just the latest product shots from your new line.
  • Champions: Find others who love the platform as much as you do and ask them to spread the word. Ensure they are using it for their projects and keeping the enthusiasm going.
  • Processes: Gently introduce processes and procedures that require the teams in your organization to use your DAMS. For example, any assets sent to clients must be sent via the DAMS to allow usage to be tracked.

* * *

By following the steps above, you'll be on the right track to creating a DAMS that is future-proof and widely adopted.

I hope you enjoyed this guide—and that it didn't make you too hungry!

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A Guide to Implementing a Digital Asset Management System (It's a Lot Like Running a Bake Sale)

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image of Rob Morris

Rob Morris is the manager of customer success at MediaValet, a 100% cloud-based digital asset management system, and the only DAMS built on Azure, Microsoft's Cloud solution.

LinkedIn: Rob Morris