Improving DAM In 2017: Better Ways To Engage With Your Vendor

This feature article has been contributed by Ricky Patten of DataBasics and is part of our Improving DAM In 2017 series.

Q: How are we going to get better DAM solutions implemented in this world?

A: Engage with your vendor in a more open collaborative process so that you get a solution that matches your expectations, is targeted to address your organisational requirements, provides benefits and allows for innovation.


The DAM marketplace is in strong growth mode characterised by fast change. Most DAM consumers have little experience and are taking on such a solution for the first time. Doing web based research is only going to scratch the surface of what DAM systems can do and what they are good for. The most current information is not documented yet and by the time it is … it’ll be out of date.

The people who really know the DAM marketplace are the people who implement the solutions. I work in an office where team members are implementing 1-2 new solutions, upgrading same number, developing new add-ons, providing support and talking to new customers … five days a week.

Most of the time there is a good flow of information between our team and the organisations we are engaged with. What we do notice is that the process for new customers to select a solution, usually via tender, is fraught with many faults. We are aware that due to this process, what is delivered to meet the requirements of the tender falls short of what we think could really have been done for the consumer if there was a better process available.

We understand that the tender process is implemented to provide a fair environment for vendor selection and a basis for the consumer to make informed decisions. Sometimes it is exactly that. Recently we lost a tender process – it was run really well and I could not argue that the final decision was fair and provided the best solution for the consumer. Most of the time the tender process is not.

Because consumers are new to DAM they cling to the tender process because they feel exposed. This is the first time anyone in the team has selected a DAM, they have never used one before, no-one in their organisation can provide much helpful advice and very importantly the business case for a DAM is still a mystery. I’m making a big assumption here that in other areas of the IT industry where the marketplace is more established, the tender process is better understood, based upon a mature foundation of experience, and as a result produces much better outcomes.

How to engage with your vendor in a more open and collaborative process? Below I have provided recommendations of what I think would be a much more effective process to select your DAM vendor and the technology they will implement.

The First and Most Important Considerations

Understand where you are in relationship to DAM, so that in a very broad sense you have an understanding of what your organisation’s needs are.

Get a clear understanding from your management on the likely investment.

Differentiate your approach to selecting vendor/product based upon:

If low budget chose a simple and easy to use product that could be termed “grab and go”

If your management have a well matured budget then think about selecting an industrial strength solution

Resources are scarce and it is best to use everyone’s time to best advantage. The DAM market place is maturing and segregating into reasonably well defined delivery models that match budget and expectations. Know your budget so as to set expectations correctly and use this to first filter down on suitable DAM delivery models.

If low budget

It is most likely you’ll be getting a SaaS or hosted solution. Use the following approach to help finding a solution:

  • It’s probably better to have the vendor located in the same region as you, so you can call them during office hours, but this is not a big limit.
  • Look at vendor’s website, refer to publicly available software analyst sites (e.g. G2Crowd and Capterra are good examples), collect +/-10 likely suspects.
  • Ask for pricing and basic information.
  • Select 3-4 in your price range and get evaluation portal.
  • Ask the vendors to provide a remote 30 minute session on how to use the solution.
  • Try it yourself.
  • Make a decision.

If mature budget

A mature budget is at least $50,000 and could easily go to $250,000 in the first year. If this is where your management wants to go then consider a suitably structured selection process. Get your management’s budget feedback documented with defined periods of when the budget will be available and any other constraints or conditions.

You will be asked for a business case – explain that this will come later.

Creating a short list

Pick vendors that have enough regional/global presence to be considered a long term survivor. The analyst sites will tell you this – look at who gets listed in the top 10. [See comment at end of this document on where I see the DAM marketplace going.]

Local support based upon your regional requirements is very important.

By now I’d suggest you have +/- 6 likely suspects.

Picking a vendor and developing a business case

  • Ask the likely suspects to come to do a business presentation (not a product presentation) on how your organisation will benefit from a DAM. Tell them you want concept / vision for your organisation. Encourage discussion between stakeholders and business users with the vendor’s team during the meeting. Use this as a learning experience. What you want to know is the practical advice from the vendor on the basis there is for a business case.
  • From here you should be able to pick which vendor(s) (not product) you’d like to work with. Maybe it is one … maybe it is two…
  • Ask the chosen vendor(s) for reference sites. Go and see the reference sites … don’t just call/email them … go see what they do with the solution. You will want to keep them as your friends for the future so there are many benefits of going and meeting with the references.  You will also know what practical benefits the solution will have to your organisation and you would have seen how other companies are benefiting.
  • Next document a business case. Ask the vendor(s) to be involved in the review of your business case. It should contain a vision for the future and a basis for your management to understand why they are investing resources into DAM. Be kind to your vendor(s) at this stage. They could spend a couple of days doing this for you without any assurance they will get any reward – make it easy for them to review and provide their feedback.

You may ask Why not get a business analyst to do this? The intention is to reach an early agreement with your vendor(s) upon what expectations you will have of the final solution. You also want expert advice on DAM. You might have a business analyst or two on your team but you need to realise that without specific DAM experience their advice at this stage will be generic.

Approval and moving forwards

From the business case we can then expect management approval (or not) proceeding to a firm allocation of a budget. You also want to get approval/agreement on what the overall objective of the DAM is going to be. It’s not enough to base your case for DAM on “Can’t find it can’t use it” as that is what we did 20 years ago. If you want a modern innovative solution you need to have modern innovative objectives. The DAM marketplace is fast moving and the only people who will be able to tell you what they can do for you … are the vendors.

Also consider timeframe. From gathering of this vision to delivery – both your organisation and the DAM marketplace are going to shift. Don’t let it go idle as otherwise you are back to old concepts. Think in terms of less than 6 months.

Final selection phase

Don’t go for a feature by feature hit list … individual items do not matter as most DAMs will do it all for you and if they don’t, you will probably have forgotten the features they don’t have by the time the DAM is implemented.

Best to list out +/-10 usage scenarios with outcomes and ask the vendor to explain how they would address these scenarios.

State right at the beginning that you want the best process to resolve the core requirements, encourage the vendors to suggest alternatives.

From here you should have a single preferred vendor. Ask that vendor to show you how their solution will address the scenarios. Expect that about 50% of what they can show you is within a live demo and the remaining may involve hand waving or some conceptual slides/explanations on how it is done. Remember you have not yet paid them to create a solution so don’t expect them to have it ready to show you yet.

If you do want a full demo showing all functionality I would strongly encourage offering the vendor payment to build it for you. Innovation requires creation and that comes at a price. Your organisation will benefit from the investment put into this stage. Think of it as a paid-for prototype.

You still have the option to stop at this point if it is not working for you.

How to commit to the engagement

Now you should have selected that single vendor that you feel comfortable working with, showing you / your management how DAM will improve your business. You are sure they know what they are doing, you can relate to them and understand what they are talking about and they have the technology/resources/skills to make it happen for you.

Suggest a paid-for engagement with your vendor where you collaborate with them as a business analyst. Spend some time doing workshops/interviews/discovery session/whatever to create a business solution design. Keep the solution design generic, it addresses your organisation’s processes … is a detailed extension of those usage scenarios put into context along with the design of the infrastructure that will support it. The vendor wrote this so you can expect they can still make it happen. You are still focusing on your business needs … you are still looking for innovation in addressing those needs.

This can then go through a final approval process. Along with approval will be the final quote from the vendor to deliver the solution for you. As you are getting these costs late in the process you can expect them to be much more reflective of your real needs. There will be less wastage. There will be less over-estimation.

Very importantly you will now be working with a team that can implement an innovative solution that provides benefits for your organisation and you have created an environment that allows them to be successful.

Please refer to previous work on Top 10 Mistakes Implementing DAM:

Blog –

Webinar –

Where the DAM industry will go in the next five to twenty years.

This is an aside to the above. Why I have included it is that in the initial selection of a short list, I suggested go only for the top 10 vendors.

I have also included this as there were some very perceptive comments by from E Keathley and Jim Jezioranski to David Diamond’s post: What’s Holding DAM Back: The Vendors that I would like to support and explain further.

You can probably tell from my company name that I come from the database marketplace. From the late 1980s through the 1990s we were all about building database solutions. At that time there were 20+ very strong global vendors of databases and an unlimited number of small vendors with specific functionalities and strengths.

By the mid-2000s there were two remaining database vendors globally: Microsoft and Oracle.

This is about to happen to the DAM marketplace. This attrition is not limited to database vendors -some people might remember a number of document processing software, accounting packages, and numerous other software companies that blossomed and then collapsed in a matter of a year or two. I think the official description is consolidated.

I expect this is well underway and by the end of this decade and by the mid-2020s we will probably have under 10 DAM vendors globally and most likely 2-3 of them will be well in front of those remaining.

This will involve many changes to what consumers have available, and I think will address many of Ralph’s concerns when he wrote his original post Improving DAM In 2017 And Beyond: Call For Contributions.

In a word the DAM marketplace will be forcibly matured and the solutions available to consumers will be commercialised to meet market expectations. Those that don’t will be extinct.

At the moment the marketplace is gaining enough momentum, attracting some of the big players in the software industry and rising to a high enough value for investors to buy in, which will drive the maturity process to completion.

So sit back and enjoy the ride. As long as you have picked one of those top X you can expect to see many improvements based upon innovative ideas. Keep your options open for migrating to another solution, if you do need to do this I’m sure you’ll have a year or two to engage with a new vendor.

Thank you.

Author: Ricky Patten of DataBasics

Share this Article:

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *