Best Practices for Overcoming DAM User Adoption Challenges

This feature article has been kindly contributed by Sophy Bishop, Customer Success Team Lead at DAM solutions provider Image Relay.


A great DAM platform enables businesses to almost-instantly operate more efficiently, better maintain brand consistency, and deploy digital content with speed and confidence across all channels.

But first: the implementation. The lofty advantages of a modern DAM only arrive if user adoption processes succeed. As anyone in IT roles knows, it can be quite difficult to get users (employees, partners, etc) to adopt any new software. In fact, it’s so difficult that 70% of enterprise software adoption efforts fail. The key change management hurdle that derails most technology transformations is user adoption. Employees and other end users simply won’t accept tools and workflows that don’t readily and clearly make their lives easier. If a DAM platform isn’t straightforward and intuitive, employees will have no qualms about reverting to an old tool, inventing their own workaround or, well, complaining.

That need for simplicity can be at odds with the initial stages of setting up a DAM, which can be a complicated and overwhelming process. Fear not, though. It takes a thoughtful user adoption strategy and implementation process to manage the myriad assets and metadata that give a DAM its value, while ensuring the DAM makes it as easy as possible for end users to realize that value. Below, I’ll talk about a few ways to do just that.

Empower users’ preferred DAM experiences

From a user adoption perspective, a worst-case scenario is that an employee logs into the DAM and thinks, “So…now what do I do?” The user experience should be absolutely straightforward and include a clear starting point—whether that means a search bar for performing a keyword search, tools for refining that search, or a clear folder structure to navigate.

Interestingly, DAM user testing shows that one-third of users prefer to just search with keywords, another third like to search with keywords and then use a refine panel, and the other third isn’t happy unless they have folders to browse. This goes to show why providing DAM users with multiple pathways to find the assets they need is so crucial to user adoption. Supporting a breadth of user preferences ensures a breadth of user support.

Keep DAM onboarding timelines on schedule

While the average DAM implementation takes about 90 days, loose or lapsed timelines are all too common for some organizations. Lack of prioritization, lack of focus, and trying to do too much at once often result in delays. The bulk of the work to introduce a DAM is adding all the data and metadata that makes the DAM effective at quickly finding the right assets. Investing the time to add that data correctly pays massive dividends in employee efficiency and accuracy later on, and sets the stage for positive experiences and rapid user adoption.

Businesses will have varying challenges in devoting resources to onboarding and setting up a DAM. A big enterprise may have vast troves of data to bring to the DAM, but also the ability to fully dedicate an employee to managing it. Folks at small or medium-sized organizations, however, are often tasked with trying to fit in a DAM implementation while still fulfilling multiple other roles.

For organizations that are struggling, setting specific achievable goals and implementing the DAM for one use case at a time is a best practice I’d recommend. For example, admins might reserve half a day once a week for DAM data uploading. They might get all 2024 and 2023 photography uploaded and roll out the DAM with the relevant data that teams need for current projects, and then backfill legacy data on a longer timeline.

Offer sufficient user adoption training

User adoption training is a crucial piece of any successful DAM implementation. Leverage new-user training sessions to ensure that everyone who is going to be using the DAM is knowledgeable of the platform’s capabilities and comfortable using the tool in the ways that work best for them. Training sessions might take the form of live webinars, or videos and documents available in the DAM library that include clear user directions.

If the DAM is as intuitive and ready to deliver seamless experiences as it ought to be, users will simply need a quick primer on how to log in, search, browse, download assets, share collections, and get help if they need it. DAM admins and those with upload permissions should receive separate training to make sure they can fulfill their tasks quickly and correctly.

Maintain DAM organization

Earning initial DAM user adoption and—critically—continuing high levels of utilization hinges on keeping assets easy to find and folders and user search results clean. A DAM is not a set-and-forget tool: it must be nurtured. If admins allow DAM data to become less clean and organized, users will become less likely to use it because they’re not finding what they need.

Organizations should assign a point person responsible for maintaining the quality of data and access within the DAM. Admins should also use DAM permissions to make sure users are seeing results relevant to their roles in the organization, and not legacy assets or materials they never need to access.

Build a lasting DAM that users (actually) love

At the end of the day, DAM users and organizations providing these tools have the same goals: they just want a system that works. While winning initial user adoption and maintaining that enthusiasm is a complex challenge, numerous businesses have successfully utilized (and scaled alongside) the same DAM for many, many years. As long as organizations provide a consistent and seamless DAM workflow, address onboarding challenges, deliver effective training, and maintain clean, updated data, they’ll ensure initial DAM adoption and continued engagement.


About Sophy Bishop

Sophy Bishop is a DAM Librarian and Customer Success Team Lead at Image Relay, whose customers use its technology to store, access, and share product information and digital assets. Before joining Image Relay in 2019, Sophy held content management and production roles at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and America’s Test Kitchen.

You can connect with Sophy via her LinkedIn profile.

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