Back in 2010, the company Daydream put together an article about The Four Cornerstones of Digital Asset Management.
See everything old is new again. I mean have you seen the acid wash high-waist jean shorts and crop tops. We did not need to do the 90s over again.
We look at DAM systems as more than just software, it’s something that needs time, attention, staff and governance. It’s not a one and done or something you just install on people’s desktops.
I think more people are starting to see DAM as more but let’s go back to the four cornerstones of why it is more.
This handy dandy little graphic is my visualization of what Daydream was talking about back in 2010. Now back in 2010 (just to give you a frame of reference) Apple released the new iPhone 4 as well as the iPad and Android powered phones begin to outsell Apple in the smart phone market. Just six years ago friends. If you have yet to notice, our world moves pretty fast, and if you don’t slow down you just might miss it.
Let’s move into methodology.
Assets + Metadata + Workflow + Permissions = Digital Asset Management
Each of these things provides a base for building your DAM. A cornerstone is literally a stone that forms the base of a corner of a building, joining the walls. Without the cornerstones the walls cannot join.
Without each of these cornerstones above, the DAM cannot function. I like that the article calls the methodology for DAM “The Four Cornerstones of DAM.” Mostly because I have yet to see someone in our circle come up with a name for the methodology that we all know so well. It’s second nature for those of us that have been working in the space, but for those that are new to the field or are trying to best understand why it’s not Dropbox or OneDrive it’s helpful.
What do you need to manage? What is your currency? These two questions are the basics. Every company, department and business unit has a currency. Sometimes its data for those that deal in analytics and sometimes it is creative materials like banner ads, TV spots or coveted branding that most marketers work with. We are not talking about Bit Coins here.
Figuring out what your currency is the first step. What do you want to protect? What is your pain point that you can’t find (or your peers are constantly asking you for)? When you assess your assets, you have to realize that GI = GO (Garbage In = Garbage Out). If you put in assets that no one really cares about or a small number of people that know how to find them in the first place, guess who will use your DAM.
Thinking beyond just the assets and to how they will be used by your DAM audience is essential. If you build a DAM full of creative assets in their raw form, but then give access to a team of marketers that have no clue what to do with that, it’s of no use. Now we always want the raw forms, but we also want the full finalized files. This allows us to share our creative assets with a third party that could be translating the file for us into a different language. This is a huge help to our business partners! If you are in a global or international company, making sure you have the raw creative files is a must. In my previous role in international digital asset management, we knew that the global teams (based in the US mostly) had the biggest budgets as well as the US teams. This was important because if they created something that was relevant to other markets it would be easy for them to reuse. All the marketing teams in the other countries had to do was to take that raw creative file to their local creative vendor (which was always more reasonably priced) to get it translated or edited for their country to be used. Huge cost savings overall. There came a point where I started to re-write the MSAs for most of our creative vendors saying that final payment would not be issued until the final raw creative file as well as the final agreed upon piece was uploaded to our DAM.
You should be. We spend hundreds of thousands of budget dollars on creative material. Never forget you own that. The agency does not.
In the land of the lost assets, this is how you start to make chaos into order.
We see metadata making or breaking how a DAM functions and ultimately succeeds over time.
The two functions that it serves are cataloging and fueling the search of the DAM. This is a good time to remember our little GI = GO. Taxonomy also serves as a big help especially for companies dealing with assets that can run the gamut of acronyms or globally different.
Example (I love examples)
This is my asset. It is a taco.
You could take a pulse and get lots of metadata for this specific asset. Most common would be: taco, Mexican food, comida (if you have a second language in your DAM), chorizo (if you knew what kind of meat was in there). From there you can even say the kind of image it is (JPG, GIF or PNG), date, title, who owns it and all that good stuff.
But the question is: is a taco a taco everywhere in the world? If I use “taco” as a piece of metadata and my internal business partner is from (let’s just take Taco Bell out of this example for everyone’ safety) the word taco might not be in their vocabulary.
They might call the picture above a taco. Regionally, they could be a taco or a taquito. Regions anywhere in the world (just like here in the US) can call things different. So how do we unite the metadata?
To get good quality search results, where you actually get what you came to find, metadata cataloging must be done with the needs of those that are doing the searching. #knowyouraudience
And other than getting really hungry, where are we going with this?
Having a controlled vocabulary of terms that 80% of your audience will be searching for is what to aim for. This should be pretty easy. Even in a company that deals with hundreds of thousands of SKUs in their DAM, I bet you have some key categories that can help you drill down, due to their controlled vocabulary.
My favorite example is Grainger. Past employer that I loved working for.
If you go to their site, you will see how many products they have and SKUs out the wazoo. Go to “Power tools” from there you see you still have more product categories and brand (price and shop by are not needed for a DAM example). This is why setting up your DAM takes time and takes methodology. It’s not Drop Box or OneDrive. You don’t’ just stove stuff into your junk drawer and say I’ll know where it is next time.
So what happens after that beautiful asset of the taco (appropriately tagged) goes into the DAM?
Most times once that asset gets uploaded the basic functions will happen to it. Search, upload, editing the metadata, downloading, sharing and MAYBE integration to a third party like email or web.
Workflow models cover who has responsibly for making a decision when that function happens.
Is that asset restricted? Does someone need to approve the downloading?
There is a risk/opportunity to having too many workflows in the DAM so that people can get what they need, when they need it. It’s the dream that is reality of the DAM to get people what they need.
Workflows are just that, a way to help us manage things that are outside of SOP (in my opinion) like rights access (nice segway…..)
Depending on the content of your DAM, your permissions will reflect your assets.
But it all boils down to the age old question of who can do what to which assets, metadata or workflows or maybe a combo of all of them.
Permissions are where we talk about the big “R” that is business risk. DAM systems are generally used by more than one person, team, group of people or even external vendors. The permissions framework needs to be compatible with the needs of the business (rigid or flexible). Permissions should also reflect the staff you have resourced to support the DAM. Please tell me you didn’t buy a DAM without carefully thinking about who or what team will take care of it.
The key to effective permissions is the balance between what can people find on Google (or if it got out we really wouldn’t mind because you can find it easily) and what would we legally not want out there.
That balance is knowing the assets and having conversations with the asset owner.
Effective permissions say that internal people are all the same, external people are all the same and there are possibly some super users in the bunch. Otherwise you make the road so narrow, no one can walk down it, nor remember why it was created so narrow over time.
So while this article was written as the iPhone 4 was coming out, you can see its nothing earth shattering or mind blowing.
It’s simple, straightforward and makes sense.
You see, methodology doesn’t have to be scary or process focused or big brained.
For methodology to work, it’s got to make sense, safe time (and money) and make work easier. This my friends is why #DAMStraight digital asset management is a methodology not a piece of software.