How to build your DAM foundation

Choosing a digital asset management (DAM) vendor and implementation partner sets the foundation on which to grow your DAM. You want this foundation to be as strong and sturdy as possible.

But what do you base your decisions on? How can you be sure you’re making the right choice for your business? There are a few key factors to keep in mind as you navigate the decision-making process. In the first article of this two-part series, we’ll focus on choosing your DAM vendor.

show me the money

While we all wish this weren’t the case, budget might be the most important consideration when choosing which DAM provider to proceed with. Don’t be discouraged if your preferred provider is outside of your budget and there isn’t enough room to negotiate lower prices. There are a plethora of DAM vendors for every budget on the market today. You’re probably familiar with the big players – Adobe, OpenText, Censhare, etc. – but they’re not the only choice. A well-known name and a high price do not necessarily mean a higher quality product.

Much of the success of your DAM depends on how you set up your taxonomy, metadata, and workflows. The DAM system itself is just the framework for these key elements. And the provider you start with doesn’t have to be the provider you stay with forever. You can choose a simpler starter DAM to get the project off the ground and use it as a foundation to demonstrate the value a DAM will bring to your business.

When you outgrow your starter DAM and enter the market to upgrade, you have metrics and happy end users to help you negotiate a higher budget. You’ll also gain valuable insight into your company’s must-haves and nice-to-haves as you expand on your established foundation.

Dig deeper: A 12-step guide to implementing a digital asset management system

Narrow down the options

Choosing a vendor with experience working with similar companies can be beneficial, especially during the requirements gathering phase. In preliminary talks with potential providers, ask about their existing customers. Are they comparable to your company in terms of size, structure and industry?

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If you’ve read my previous article and followed my advice to collect and analyze your content before starting your vendor search, you are ready to ask a potential vendor if their existing customers have a similar mix of content in terms of file types and sizes. Do they also have similar regulatory and/or legal requirements related to some or all of their content?

Make sure you ask for references early in the process so you have plenty of time to start conversations with them. If a provider cannot or does not want to provide references, this is definitely a warning sign.

In discussions with the references provided, be sure to ask about positive and negative aspects. How specifically did the provider deal with the negatives? Not everything runs perfectly with every vendor, but how the issues are handled and the support provided makes a significant difference in the overall DAM building process.

Don’t just talk to the references provided by the vendor. Lean on your network to get a few references of your own. Leverage your LinkedIn connections, reach out to colleagues you’ve met at conferences, or talk to former colleagues who have moved to new companies and new DAMs. The seller will provide you with references that he’s confident will speak highly of you, but you want the good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you have either existing or future systems on your roadmap that integrate with the DAM, such as For example, websites, product information management (PIM), or workflow management tools, ask the vendor how easy their DAM integrates with those specific or similar systems. It’s also helpful to ask references you consult about their experiences setting up and maintaining integrations with the DAM.

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meet and greet

Once you’ve created your shortlist of potential vendors, it’s time to schedule demos. This is where the fun begins and you can see some DAMs in action. Before you bring a vendor onsite, you need to compile a list of use cases you want them to cover in their demo.

Include all of your stakeholders as you collect your use cases and make sure you get the perspective of every category of end user, from uploaders to downloaders and everyone in between. And don’t forget the representatives of your IT and legal departments. They have specific needs and concerns that go beyond those of the typical end user.

This is not the time to hold back and carefully curate your wish list. They really want to see what the DAM can do. However, due to time constraints, separate your use cases into must-haves and nice-to-haves to ensure you go through all the must-haves. What requirements does your DAM need to meet?

Ensure your use cases cover the entire asset workflow from upload to download, including metadata, approvals, versioning, search and archiving.

  • What kind of asset security and permits do you need?
  • Are you interested in AI skills or other automations?
  • Does your DAM need to accommodate files and metadata in multiple languages ​​and support non-English speaking users?
  • What about your integration needs?

As you assemble use cases, collect a number of your company’s assets and ask the vendor to use them for their demo. Make sure you have a variety of file types and sizes. Not only do they want to make sure their DAM supports all your required file types and sizes, but they also want to give you a better idea of ​​the end product when you see your own assets flowing through the DAM.

Think of it like buying a house and imagining your belongings in the room during the demonstration. They also want to see how the vendor handles assets that are new to the system and are not part of their polished and rehearsed standard demo. If an error occurs with one of your files during the demo, how do they deal with it?

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Dig deeper: Arguments for digital asset management

Too good to be true or the perfect fit?

Beware of too many yeses when asking questions during the demo. Make sure the vendor is clear which features and functionality are standard and which are custom. The provider may keep telling you that they can customize the system to give you anything you want, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Not only can this quickly add to costs and lengthen your project schedule, but over-customization can lead to performance and stability issues. In some cases, it can also prevent future expansions and upgrades.

If you’re told that a specific feature you’re requesting isn’t currently available but is on the roadmap for a future release, get an idea of ​​the timeline. If there’s no specific release date, or at least an estimated timeframe, be careful. You could wait years if you even see the new features without having to go the custom route.

Ready to build

Take your time and trust your choice of provider. Don’t rush through the process and don’t be afraid to keep asking questions if something isn’t clear or seems too good to be true. The more solid the foundation, the stronger and more successful your DAM will be in the end.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily those of MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Rachel Edwards is an experienced digital asset manager with a passion for metadata, taxonomies and data governance. Since 2007 she has specialized in bringing order to data chaos.

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