Digital Asset Management Systems (DAMS) Explained

Digital asset management is a rapidly evolving area of the marketing tech world, with new platforms, products and services adding fresh choices and benefits. While digital asset management systems (DAMs) and solutions have been around for a while, a new generation of DAM platforms are disrupting the marketplace. So, what are these latest advances and how can they add value to your organisation?

What is a digital asset management system (DAM)?

Whether it’s using the right iconography in PowerPoint presentations or rolling out a new corporate video to promote an emerging trend, digital assets underpin marketing activity. Marketing is dependent on digital assets and DAM systems are designed to streamline the relationship between them.

The original DAM systems were the tools that stored an organisation’s digital media files, and they began life as basic media libraries.

However, old style media libraries often caused more problems than they solved, largely because they lacked the organisational capabilities of modern DAM systems. Their old fashioned approach centred around storing digital assets in folders, and this one-dimensional method limited both their application and impact across organisations.

Furthermore, the greater the number of images that were stored in the outdated DAMs, the worse the problem became. Bloated repositories meant that finding the right image was confusing and painful – let alone finding the right image size.

Management is a key feature of a DAM

As digital assets are continuously being added to the system as a company grows, it was in fact the management – the same problem DAMs were designed to solve – of these digital asset management systems that became irritating, time-consuming and unproductive.

In the context of a fast moving marketing environment, where deadlines are tight and pushbacks costly, conventional DAM systems did not evolve with the times. The primitive user experience of these traditional systems left users frustrated with the vendor solutions available.

However, contemporary DAM solutions do much more than hold assets. They centralise, manage and categorise using taxonomy – or other naming conventions – to help users quickly find what they need. This enables users to create and edit master files, with sophisticated access and rights control combined with powerful tiered distribution mechanisms.

Why choose a cloud-native DAM?

The introduction of genuine cloud-native DAM systems have taken the tool one step further. Now, users can access digital files in any location and on any device via web browser, greatly expanding the systems’ usability and flexibility.

Being specifically designed for the cloud, rather than simply migrated from a server room like many ‘cloud-based DAM solutions’, also means faster and cleaner performance and functionality.

The latest generation of DAM systems share another common feature too: they all function with an open application programming interface (API) layer. APIs enable DAM systems to talk to and integrate directly with other back end platforms, such as Content Management Systems (CMS) or Product Information Management Systems (PIMS) without having to recode any information or invest in development.

The API also enables the DAM to integrate with a range of front end solutions with only the API layer requiring a modest development phase, such as websites, ecommerce suites, mobile apps and even wearables and augmented/virtual reality.

This integration represents a paradigm shift in functionality and user experience. For example, a series of integrated platforms enables users to easily embed images and videos from the DAM into their CMS content without needing to download the image from a media library, edit it to the correct size and then upload it to the content.

So, if the source image in the DAM changes, the corresponding asset in the CMS is updated via an integrated connector through the API layer. This simple – simple in coding terms – arrangement comes with a range of benefits such as time-savings, productivity and brand consistency and compliance.

DAMs improve productivity and control

The benefits of cloud-native DAM solutions extend beyond just being able to access digital files via a web browser. For example, they contain Google-style contextual search functions that enable users to easily find the exact file without folder and file browsing.

Advanced file distribution features render old-style lengthy email chains obsolete, as stakeholders simply receive a link used to access the source file in the DAM directly. Alongside time savings and productivity gains, these distribution features also deliver much greater control over digital assets.

Cloud-native DAM platforms are centralised, meaning the stakeholders at the top of the hierarchy have complete visibility and power over which assets they want to distribute to certain users, and at which times.

Some users might have to pass through permissions platforms and digital files can have watermarks added. Features like these have many applications, such as when sharing digital assets with external stakeholders in the media.

DAM system scoping and selection

With many DAM systems to choose from, understanding organisational requirements and creating the right specification from the outset optimises the benefits. This sounds obvious, but a common cause of marketing technology project failure is a lack of clarity over the objectives. The needs of the organisation should drive the features and benefits that it needs in a DAM, and therefore the DAM solution it finally chooses.

This includes users, as they are typically protective of their processes and digital files and may be averse to changing to a centralised system. If the solution’s users are not fully committed, the benefits are unlikely to arise.

So, the potential users of the system must not only buy into the concept, but also be part of the selection process and implementation plan.

At the time of writing, some of the leading DAM platforms include Bynder, Censhare and Assetbank. Each platform has different specifications tailored for different target end users, so a discovery stage is important to determine which solution is the best fit. Working with an agency partner can facilitate this stage.

Futureproofing investment into a DAM

The marketing tech landscape is continuously evolving, so by the time the latest digital investment is implemented, it is potentially out-of-date.

The benefit of latest generation DAM solutions is their use of open API layers. These connectors talk to all kinds of platforms without the need for extensive, time consuming and expensive development work, meaning the DAM platform can react to change quickly and is therefore fully futureproofed.

Contemporary DAM solutions are also typically commercially positioned as platform as a service (PaaS), which delivers multiple benefits. Vendors work harder to retain customers, continuously improve their platforms and listening to customer demands when upgrading performance.

PaaS models are also generally categorised by finance functions as ongoing operational expenditure (opex), rather than significant capital expenditure (capex). This mean benefits for budgeting, approvals and cashflow.

Maintaining control and compliance of digital assets whilst enabling multiple stakeholders to access, use and exploit them is a challenge, but one easily overcome by choosing the right DAM system vendor and implementation agency partner.

We’ve taken many organisations through the journey of electing and implementing their first DAM, or transition from older solutions into a contemporary cloud-native solution. Contact us today to find out how a latest generation DAM and an open API layer strategy will improve your organisation’s digital performance.

Contact us today to find out how a latest generation DAM and an open API layer strategy will improve your organisation’s digital performance.

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