Managing a DAM – The Good, The (not so) Bad and The Necessary

This feature article has been contributed by Yvan Cohen from DAM solutions provider LightRocket.


We often talk about digital asset management (DAM) platforms as a panacea for all our archive woes, the digital magic wand that will transform chaos into order.

There is much truth in this rosy appraisal of DAM systems. DAM systems were created to solve a problem. A powerful digital asset management tool will transform your archives, keeping them safe while releasing their intrinsic value.

But DAM platforms, like any software, don’t exist in a vacuum and they don’t run themselves.

As AI creeps into our lives and automation begins to usurp even creative thought, there might be a day when you can just point software at a problem and let it loose (software might even write itself…). Fortunately for those of us who enjoy our jobs, and still cherish human creativity, we aren’t there yet.

So, who is going to be responsible for your shiny new DAM System?

Some organizations make the mistake of losing interest after the procurement and installation of their tool. Archives are loaded into their DAM platform, a snazzy branded homepage is designed and the service is launched to a round of self-congratulatory applause.

And there the happy story generally ends. The new DAM becomes yesterday’s project, and no-one is assigned ownership of the system. The archives languish and the potential value of the original investment in a DAM system is stymied.

Though we may be tempted to perceive archives as passive repositories of digital artifacts, they should be seen as a living resource, the value of which grows and evolves through engagement and an active investment of time and expertise.

Enter the DAM Manager, the lucky individual who will shepherd content into your archives, control access to your DAM, plan your archive management strategy, and chart a course for future development while ensuring your assets are properly classified and tagged so they can be found when needed.

What’s the ideal profile of a DAM Manager?

Unsurprisingly, an understanding of library science is almost always going to be a plus. Knowing how a hierarchical classification structure works, experience with taxonomies and a passion for keeping archives ‘alive’ are key qualities for a DAM Manager.

The exact profile of your DAM Manager may also depend partly on the emphasis of your DAM: is your collection mainly comprised of textual records or audio and visual assets?

If you’re mainly handling pictures and videos, the most effective DAM Manager may be someone with a solid understanding of the diverse file formats used for audio, videos and photos. In short, they should know their .WAVs from their .MOVs and their .JPGs.

If you know you’re going to be dealing with a steady stream of picture and video requests and have an active stable of contributing visual creatives, it can make sense to place someone with a media background, perhaps even someone with field experience as a photographer or videographer, at the helm.

A media professional with hands-on experience is going to have a good understanding of the challenges facing contributors in the field, and they’ll often be able to provide authoritative guidance to users too.

The DAM system will provide them with the structure they need and with professional advice, your manager will be well on the way to building a perfectly organized DAM.

What does a DAM Manager do?

For a job title few people have probably heard of, there are a surprisingly large number of DAM Managers out there (there are pages and pages of them on LinkedIn).

At the most basic level, and somewhat obviously, a DAM Manager is there to ensure the smooth functioning of your DAM system. Day-to-day this means reviewing new submissions, editing content, managing users, communicating with contributors, granting permissions when needed and keeping an eye on system stats.

A good DAM Manager also has one eye on the horizon, and will often measure performance against key metrics. How many new assets does the organization aim to add to its collections in the coming year? How many people are downloading? Which are the most popular files and why? What are the requirements for contributors when they upload into your DAM? What are the legal requirements for handling consent? And so on.

For an organization to extract value from its DAM, the entire organization needs to be aware of its value, how it can be accessed, and what’s on offer. A good DAM Manager, therefore, will serve as an advocate for your DAM, marketing its value to key stakeholders both inside and outside your organization. Once people become aware of the potential of your DAM system, it’s usage can expand rapidly within an organization.

DAM Managers and DAM Providers

The acquisition of a DAM should mark the beginning of a relationship with your DAM platform provider. As noted above, once a DAM is installed, too many companies are tempted to tick the DAM platform box and move on. Why would one need a DAM Manager to run a software solution that promised to be the answer to all your digital asset management problems?

To get the most from your DAM solution and to release the value of your media and digital archives, it’s vital to develop a strategy that embraces the management of incoming content, the classification of existing files, and a coherent plan for the future. For that you need a competent manager who is not only going to develop your internal strategy, but who will be committed to ensuring you are benefitting from the full potential of the system you invested in.

Collaboration and feedback are the name of the game. The best DAM providers include after-sales service, support and consultancy in their license structure. No-one knows your system better than the people who built it and no-one is better placed to advise DAM Managers on how best to use their platform.

Similarly, your DAM Manager is ideally placed to understand the idiosyncrasies of their organizations. Establishing an ongoing dialogue between DAM Manager and DAM provider is vital to releasing the full potential of your system and to developing the kinds of ideas that can be fed into new and relevant upgrades.

Metaphorically speaking, if your digital asset management platform is the vehicle that will enable you to release the value of your archives, the DAM Manager is the person at the controls and behind the wheel, without whom your DAM will lack direction and momentum.


About Yvan Cohen

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You can connect with Yvan via his LinkedIn profile.

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