If you've decided that your business needs a digital asset management (DAM) system to take over from your old, complex legacy systems, demonstrating business value may be fairly easy, considering the problems those older systems pose with compatibility, integration, security, or lack of functionality. If existing systems no longer meet the company's requirements, that's your obvious starting point.

If you've never had any comparable tools before, your job may be harder, especially if budgets are tight, but it could be an easy win if you can effectively demonstrate the benefits of using DAM.

Whatever situation you may be in, one thing's for certain: You'll need buy-in from your key decision-makers and those in charge of the budget. Creating a solid business case or proposal will be invaluable, and here's how you can do just that.

How do I demonstrate the business value of DAM?

To begin, ask two questions:

  1. "What will we use DAM for?"
  2. "What functionality is necessary for that?"

Understanding what you will use DAM for will help you define the business requirements, which could be simply to manage your image library in an easily searchable database for the sole use of marketing and other promotions. Or it could be to manage and edit video content for training and learning purposes in the HR department. Or it could be a more business-wide objective, such as maximizing efficiency of business processes through collaboration, workflow, and systems integration. Whether it'll be used by one department or the entire business, it's important to note in your proposal.

If you're making the case to move on from legacy systems, the best place to start is by making a list of key current problems.

That list alone may help you identify some requirements for a new system, as it'll highlight what you can't do right now. Your list might include lack of integration with your CMS and the inability to access your files remotely. It might include having to use several applications to be able to share images.

Your next step will be to identify any further user requirements, such as being able to edit images or set predetermined download formats.

If you're looking to introduce a system like this for the first time, user requirement is where you would start. Think about all the potential users in your business, as well as people who may be external, such as contract photographers or marketing agencies.

Make a list of users as well as system managers, and make sure you involve them in your plan. You need them on board just as much as you need those who hold the purse strings to be on board. It will also be essential to define roles so everyone knows who will be doing what during implementation and afterward.

The options to you and your business may seem daunting, but the best way to start your search for a DAM system is to list features your business will need as well as a list of users.

How do I create a business case for investment?

By now you will have a pretty good idea how a DAM will benefit your business, and for making the best business case make yet another list, highlighting what those benefits are.

And, when possible, put a measure against the benefits.

If, for example, the benefit is "saving time," expand on that: e.g., "tagging whole image folders at a time will save each member of the creative team (10 staff) a minimum of 2 hours every week." You then have a tangible benefit that makes for a stronger business case.

In some scenarios, you won't be apply a measure, such as when the benefit is something like "instant sharing of images—without leaving the system." There are obvious benefits there, as it's probably a quicker and easier way of working than you're used to, but it's difficult to apply exact figures to it.

Similarly, something like "maximizing value by reusing and repurposing media rich assets" is difficult to attribute a value to before the system's in place, but in this can you can apply an objective. So it then becomes "reduce new media spend 20% by reusing and repurposing assets." When you put it in those terms, colleagues and decision-makers will be able to put real values and business savings against your proposed benefits.

Budget is important, and there's no point in buying the most expensive, state-of-the-art system if your business doesn't need it. However, there is a lot of sense in thinking about functionality that is not merely necessary; functions that help you save time, and therefore money, are worth adding to your list. A good example is the ability to automatically tag assets with their geographic location on upload: It's not essential, but for a travel company, for example, it could be a useful addition to the more standard metadata tagging function.

It's also essential to make a note of systems and applications that will remain in place and may therefore need to integrate with your new DAM system. Cloud-based solutions hosted by a supplier could also remove the need for potentially expensive hardware, so consult with your IT department, as doing so could be a cost-saving exercise in itself.

If you have all of the above-noted information, you should have all you need to present your business case or proposal. Your business case will also be a priceless resource when you come to meet suppliers; it'll act as a brief, and enable them to see exactly what you need.

Use this checklist to make sure you've covered the essentials:

  • Current system and usability issues
  • List of users, system managers, and roles
  • Core DAM business uses
  • Essential DAM user requirements
  • "Luxury" DAM functionality
  • System requirements and integration
  • Benefits
  • Budget
  • Timescales
  • Training

It can be difficult to determine timescales and any training required before you've chosen a solution, but it's useful to have an idea. Contacting a few suppliers and asking a few questions may give you enough information for now. Knowing whether training is included will help you plan for extra costs, and knowing how much is required will also help you plan your implementation when the time comes.

How do I find the best DAM solution for my business?

With your document in hand, and your budget approved, you should be ready to start having a look at the market. Use search engines, visit supplier listings, and check out supplier websites.

Most important, see who their clients are and what they're saying about them. Reviews and case studies are key to identifying a good supplier who will not only meet your requirements but also provide an honest and reliable service too.

Keep checking back to your list of requirements, and use it as a scorecard against potential solutions.

Finally, any good supplier should be able to offer a free trail, so make sure you and your colleagues sign up and use some trial sites as much as possible before making any decisions.

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Digital Asset Management: How to Demonstrate Business Value, Create a Business Case, and Search for the Best Solution

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image of Jenny Ridge

Jenny Ridge is head of marketing at Third Light Ltd., provider of digital media libraries. She specializes in digital marketing and marketing software.

LinkedIn: Jenny Ridge MCIM