No longer viewed as simple systems and processes for basic asset handling and archiving, digital asset management (DAM) has expanded into the functional areas of digital workflow management and digital rights management.

Now armed with self-service client portals and seamless integration into content-dependent enterprise systems and creative tools, along with specialized video asset handling, DAM is truly creating exciting new possibilities for creative directors.

If you're looking to tap into those possibilities and need to justify an enterprise DAM investment, look no further than the following top 7 reasons creative directors need DAM.

1. Remove workflow bottlenecks

Digital asset management presents a compelling opportunity for creative directors who are tired of wasting creative resources hunting for, locating, reformatting, and emailing assets.

Creative departments often learn through their first DAM deployment, or major DAM upgrade, that once you put in the effort, new workflow processes greatly speed and improve the overall quality of digital asset flow across departments and channels. Works in progress and final approved content can be made available real-time, without delayed file transfers log-jamming the system.

That's because with enterprise DAM in place, collaborators no longer need to wait for face-to-face meetings; they can instead respond naturally within the rhythms of their day-to-day schedule, as creative assets flow through the system, across organizations, geographies, and time zones. That helps free up time for creative directors to do their number-one job: directing creative, not getting bogged-down in logistics.

2. Engage distributed teams

Let's take the example of a photo shoot. With enterprise DAM in place, a field photographer could upload images to the DAM system—with metadata automatically ingested, including geospatial data, color space, and camera details—where production editors could review the assets using a star-rating system, or directly annotate the images with "sticky" comments.

Once approved, the annotated images could be made available to production artists to correct, and ultimately to designers to incorporate the selected and corrected images into digital or print collateral.

Furthermore, a robust DAM system could be configured so that final versioning of the new collateral is shared with an accounts team, or even directly with an internal or external client via a shared collection or external portal.

3. Ensure compliance and protection against infringement and liabilities

Systems and processes for safeguarding against the wrongful use of licensed creative works are still often in an early stage of development for many creative departments. This is especially true with regard to the ability to not only communicate but also govern usage rights and expirations for acquired digital assets across the entire organization.

For many creative departments, a DAM system may centrally manage licensed digital assets, but does not necessarily govern their actual retrieval or delivery in accordance with license and copyright agreements. So the digital asset rights information may "be there" in the metadata, but the DAM system would need to be configured to "go the extra step" and have usage access rights, at either the system or asset level, actually help safeguard unauthorized use by restricting asset retrieval from the DAM system based on governance rules.

Also, no creative director wants to face a damage claim from an outside party with regard to the improper use of licensed creative content—as penalties can range from thousands, to hundreds of thousands of dollars and up. Creative directors need their sleep, too. The right DAM system, with robust DRM capabilities, can help you get it, knowing that the assets under your responsibility are being used in accordance with their usage rights.

4. Keep creative assets safe

Fortunately, sophisticated DAM systems can be configured to align user access permissions with digital rights information for image review, selection, delivery, and usage in full accordance with accompanying usage restrictions. They can also interface with policy servers like Adobe LiveCycle or FileOpen. This isn't an overnight stunt, of course, but increasingly a way to strengthen core creative department competency is to fully map out, align and integrate DAM and DRM processes for both compliance and competitive purposes.

5. Share working files with ease

With branded DAM portals in place, creative departments can say goodbye to sending bulky email attachments or worrying about someone accidentally removing files from shared drives.

Whether you're sending a URL for just one file or a collection of assets, or providing a full permission-restricted login, digital asset management opens a new world of secure file-sharing options. The beauty of branded portals is that final assets can either literally or metaphorically "live under one roof"—where self-service retrievals can all be tracked, with asset versioning histories masked and available only to administrators on the backend.

In addition, a client-branded portal that holds all of an account's finished creative assets can enhance and improve client relationships. Imagine an employee or partner portal where users can self-select final files in needed formats and sizes for on-the-fly marketing needs 24/7, without having to tie up the valuable time of creative department production. That's possible through the power of digital asset portals, which can bring customers closer to the flow of digital asset production, thereby saving your department time, reducing headaches, and increasing overall customer satisfaction.

6. Get integrated

Whether hooking into large ERP systems such as SAP, e-commerce systems like Magento, creative workflow solutions like InMotionNow, collaboration tools like SharePoint, or asset creation tools such as Adobe InDesign, DAM systems and practices have become indispensable to the operations of large organizations. Creative directors can expect generous time savings for their teams with these integrations.

For example, with an integration between an enterprise DAM and a creative work management system, creative directors can marry the power of enterprise search, metadata handling, indexing, and versioning with the proofing, task management, approvals, and audit trails of workflow management. The result is ideal for those who require strict regulatory compliance and have the need for advanced reporting features.

Having a DAM system integrate directly into Adobe creative tools can save time during creative development and production processes. Some DAM systems let you mount your database to Adobe Bridge, thus allowing direct access from all the tools that work with Bridge—Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Illustrator, etc. Moreover, many DAM systems offer drag-and-drop capabilities from DAM into Adobe InDesign. Some enterprise-class DAM systems go the extra step and provide automatic linking of assets and two-way communication between the DAM system and InDesign projects. All this eliminates the back-and-forth between browsers, file directories, InDesign itself, and ad-hoc creative production processes.

7. Prepare for now and the future

From Vine to Vimeo to YouTube, the explosive demand for original video content, including ads, has forced creative departments to ramp up digital video creative services and fully embrace digital video messaging. And video is only going to increase in usage.

That's why it's important to consider your current and future video management needs when evaluating the right DAM system. Determine whether you need a system to simply track metadata for search, retrieval, and sharing of source files, or whether you will need your DAM platform to offer transcoding and streaming services—either natively or through an integrated service.

Defining your needs up front will help you evaluate the DAM platform that may be right for you. With the right DAM system, video can integrate into your digital asset management processes seamlessly alongside other digital assets.

* * *

From time savings and increased productivity, to usage rights, asset protection and more, DAM's day as an essential tool for creative directors has arrived. The rewards are plentiful, and the risks of not having DAM in place are just too great to ignore.

Note: This article is based on a Canto e-book, Creative Director's Guide to Digital Asset Management.

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image of Leslie Weller

Leslie Weller is director of marketing for digital asset management firm Canto, which helps marketers, brand managers, product managers, and content managers make better use of massive amounts of digital content.

LinkedIn: Leslie Weller

Twitter: @Leslie_Weller