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Digital Asset Management – Finding The Right Fit (And The People To Run It For You Too)

by Ralph Windsor on July 31, 2013

Jeff Lawrence, of consultants, Celerity who we featured in June has written an article for CMSWire: Digital Asset Management: Finding the Right Fit for Your Company.  The item is an introductory primer on the various factors you will need to think about, including:

  • Establishing goals and objectives
  • Buying custom vs off-the-shelf solutions
  • Establishing the TCO (Total Cost Of Ownership) by assessing direct and indirect costs
  • Deciding who will manage the solution for you

Many companies are faced with a tough decision of late: to either install a new Digital Asset Management (DAM) system to better manage their assets or replace an existing legacy system. The choice can be daunting with hundreds of vendors offering good DAM solutions that range in price, functionality and complexity.” [Read More]

My main criticisms of the article are that it is a little basic and is possibly too generically applicable to any IT software project.  There are some points which are not necessarily relevant to every DAM implementation, for example, cooling and electricity might not apply if you decide to use a SaaS product (or host with the vendor) as that is all their problem and any costs get rolled up into an aggregated fee.  However, in mitigation, even if you don’t host it now, one day you might still end up needing to.  In order to properly compare products you need to get a handle on all the costs, even if you just put down a zero for some items.  So I can accept that still needs to be an area that requires consideration.

About it being too basic, I also have to acknowledge that (as discussed a few weeks ago) some people still need a straightforward primer on what they need to do to get started with DAM, so that is probably a subjective argument on my part which I must concede is not universally applicable.  This is also considering DAM from a more classic IT perspective where the end users might be companies that currently use solutions like Sharepoint.

One of the more interesting questions posed in the piece was this:

A key question to consider is who is going to manage this new digital asset management solution? You may need to hire additional staff to support and maintain the new DAM system. According to the DAM Foundation’s salary survey the mean reported salary for Digital Asset Managers is US$ 82,198.” [Read More]

This one of the thornier problems with DAM.  Any media library you set up with DAM software has to be managed.  Ideally that means a real human ‘Digital Asset Manager’ who will handle all the more complex decision making processes that the software is unsuitable for.  DAM systems enable end users to leverage their time, but they’re not fully automated and nor should they be in my opinion.

In larger organisations or those with a lot of collateral where a more significant DAM initiative is planned, there usually is some scope to include a budget allocation for a dedicated employee.  In a lot of B2B firms where the marketing department has to get by on a shoestring already, this is harder to justify.  In many of the B2B clients I deal with, the reason for getting a DAM system in the first place was to avoid having to hire dedicated people to do that job so they could save some money and have staff self-service requests for assets.  If there is no one already fulfilling that role, this approach can work, but you need to budget for a decent amount of training to explain all the nuances of the software and ensure that everyone is getting the most out of it as possible.  The other issue is that staff will leave and their replacements need the same training again too.  Some vendors will include a repeat  ‘refresher’ tuition provision in with their support agreements as it is in their interests for everyone to be actively using the DAM software, but you need to ensure it is sufficient and build in some flexibility for staff turnover if and when it happens.

Lastly on this subject, I do occasionally find a few organisations where they already have one or more employees who were responsible for an existing photo or video library and management decides to fire the staff who were running it on the basis that they don’t need their services any longer now they have a DAM system.  I don’t think this is a very smart idea and if asked, I always advise against it as the cost subsequently incurred usually exceeds any modest initial saving.

Anyone who has lots of in-depth knowledge of the organisation’s existing assets, culture, priorities and objectives is going to be in hot-demand to both get the DAM up and running but also keep it operational and relevant as well as train others.  You can store metadata and set up automated workflows etc to try to store some of the knowledge they have, but that kind of deep level specialist expertise is hard (and expensive) to replace once it has walked out of the door – more than a few times I’ve seen the same people being called back later (assuming they are available by then).  So, if you are thinking about deploying DAM to trim down your headcount, be extremely careful about who you decide should ‘go freelance’ – it could work out to be more expensive than you expect.

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