A digital asset management (DAM) system is a central storage place for all your digital media, where you can search for files by keyword, edit images and videos yourself, download them in different formats and sizes, share and compare them instantly with your colleagues, and collaborate using real-time chat.

How can digital asset management help me and my business?

DAM software can put an end to many day-to-day frustrations: relying on specialist software and key design personnel to reformat images and other graphics; printing old logos or out-of-date images on new marketing collateral; having to download images, save them to your desktop, and then upload them to email to be able to share; not being able to send files because they're too big; not being able to find files because you can't remember where you saved them...

Those are common problems, and they're not confined to just marketing departments or creative agencies. In today's world, it's difficult to imagine a business where digital media isn't a key driver for success, whether it's to promote their services with media rich advertising or to fundamentally support their day-to-day processes.

With DAM software, you can upload and download files and folders with ease, from any location. Once in the system, or as they're being imported, you can easily tag your files and folders with metadata that will enable you to find those files later on with a simple keyword search.

Sharing and collaboration are key functions in a DAM, and in good systems you can share assets and chat in real-time, which means you can compare images and agree which media to use in one central, online space. You can also publish and share links to your media which can be emailed or used in your website CMS or social channels.

Moreover, DAM software will help you and your business keep on brand by ensuring your employees have access to the same version of logos, stock images, and corporate templates. You can also manage employees' access to assets, as well as set different editing rights and download permissions.

And to help you keep track of all your assets, you can use various reporting functions, showing you how and where assets have been used and published.

Finally, to keep costs at bay, many suppliers provide hosted storage on a high-speed private cloud, so there's no need for expensive hardware or IT requirements.

In short, the following are among the main features and benefits of a DAM:

  • Version control
  • Brand management
  • Image editing and format conversion
  • Video editing and clipping
  • File reformatting and resizing
  • Multi-channel sharing
  • Approval paths and workflows
  • Instant search and find with meta-data tagging
  • Real-time chat for internal and external users
  • Seamless integration with other internal applications
  • Usage reports
  • User access, editing, and rights administration
  • Hosted, secure storage

Who is using DAM?

DAM is rapidly becoming a necessity in the world of photographers, graphic designers, marketing teams, website developers, and PR personnel.

Because of the software's multi-functionality, more and more business sectors are benefiting from having a digital media library in place.

It could be a veterinary practice, for example, where images are used among vets to compare and contrast images of skin diseases, or to teach junior vets about surgical procedures.

Or it could be a large, multinational corporation, with regional marketing and PR teams, where marketing and corporate media assets are used by staff, agencies, and suppliers around the world.

The list of potential business users is endless: TV companies, sports organizations, schools and universities, tourist attractions, holiday companies, event and exhibition companies, medical companies, retail and professional services, the music industry, engineering, and property.

Any business that uses, manages, and stores media has good reason to investigate the benefits and features of using a DAM.

How are DAMs being used?

So, when we think about what businesses are using DAM for, we can see that these intuitive systems are taking over from old and often complex legacy systems that may pose all sorts of problems with compatibility, security, or simply functionality, which means they no longer meet the company's requirements.

Here are the six key reasons and ways businesses are using digital asset management solutions and deriving substantial business advantages:

  1. To manage media-rich marketing campaigns in which images, video, and animation are the key to winning content, including advertising, website content, social media, email campaigns, PR, brand management, and much more.
  2. To enable live coverage of media-rich events, where images and video are captured, shared, and published in real-time. Good examples of this would be the live, visual coverage of sports games or celebrity awards.
  3. To manage and host visually engaging business support materials—product and service demos, proposals, and training documents that are fundamental to effective sales. These broadly include how-to video guides for building and DIY products through to beauty treatments, software video demos, and interactive sales proposals. We can also include the use of media to deliver online teaching and learning packages.
  4. To assess data, in cases when images are used to facilitate informed decisions and validate reports or a diagnosis, such as comparing medical images for assessment and teaching, as well as recording material- and product-fault images, or failures to determine cause and remedy.
  5. To commercialize business assets, where the media becomes the product itself, available to customers through a public-facing digital media library (like iStock and Shutterstock).
  6. To archive and centralize media assets for historical and reference purposes that may or may not relate to any of the above.

What are the options?

The options may seem daunting to you and your business, but the best way to start your journey toward DAM implementation is to write a list of features your business will need, as well as a list of uses, answering the questions: "What will we use DAM for?" and "What functionality is necessary for that?"

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, but there is a lot of sense in thinking about functionality that is not only necessary but also helpful for saving time and therefore money.

It's also essential to make a note of other systems that will remain in place and may therefore need to integrate with your new DAM system.

With all those in mind, you should be ready to start having a look at the market. Use search engines, visit supplier listings, check out supplier websites, and (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 honest and reliable service too.

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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What You Need to Know About Digital Asset Management Systems

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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