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Blog

Tuesday 2¢: Call a Spade a Spade and Strip This DAM Thing Back to the Basics

basics of digital asset management

Welcome to the Tuesday 2¢ . It’s Tuesday, the weekend is a distant memory and it’s time to let off some steam and give our 2 cents on a hot industry topic. This week Doug Eldridge strips digital asset management down to the studs and gives an easy to understand explanation of why it should be built as a core infrastructure project.


In our industry we like to make things sound complicated , we give them acronyms, we create best practices, we sell books and create specialist consulting practices. Yes, implementing mission critical business software is not to be taken lightly, but digital asset management (DAM) at its core is simple and its implementation into at the center of our businesses creates enormous value. So, let’s take a step back and talk about what a DAM actually is.

So what is a DAM?

Look at the desktop on your computer. Now save something down to it; a word doc, a jpeg, whatever is convenient. Now you can see that file on your desktop. That file is a digital asset and your desktop is serving as a management system for that asset. What can you do with it from your desktop?

  • You can delete it

  • you can attach it to an email

  • you can open it and make changes

  • you can save it down as a pdf or png file

  • and you can upload it to social media

Just to name a few. Now imagine that you have millions of assets, which, while it sounds extreme, remember that every iteration of every file is stored through the creation and editorial stage. Your desktop isn’t going to be useful at that point, nor are most simple functionality storage and sharing solutions for that matter. To manage that amount of data you’re looking at a change in infrastructure, not just software.

Why an Infrastructure Change?

Again, let’s visit your desktop one more time. Can your computer work without your desktop? Of course not, your desktop is the central part of your computer’s infrastructure. It’s where you launch every app and access every file. For example, once you are on LinkedIn and not looking at your desktop is your desktop absolved from the responsibility of managing the asset that you are uploading? Of course not. First of all, you launched the internet from your desktop, then you attached the file that is stored on your desktop, so it could be argued that your digital asset management solution managed the entire process.

The simple truth is, the digital spire doesn’t stop somewhere and begin anew elsewhere. If a DAM can’t delegate a single asset from its bowels and place it in front of the right audience, then it’s not a DAM. It’s not managing digital assets; it’s just storing them.

By the Book

There is an actual book on the subject of digital asset management. The book is called Digital and Marketing Asset Management, written by Theresa Regli , formerly of The Real Story Group and currently with KlarisIP in London. The book details the ten core criteria of a DAM as listed by the DAM Foundation :

  1. Ingest

  2. Secure

  3. Store

  4. Render/Transform

  5. Enrich

  6. Relate

  7. Process

  8. Find

  9. Preview

  10. Produce/Publish

It’s the tenth characteristic, produce/publish that separates an actual DAM from the freemium models claiming to be DAMs , if a free storage and file sharing platform can even be called a DAM, which I don’t think it can (although, I'll bet you see a few more characteristics don’t often correlate with free software).

Too Simple?

This over simplification of a DAM system isn’t completely fair. At the same time the over complication of it that many people make it out to be isn’t fair either. A digital asset management platform is complex, but shouldn’t be beyond comprehension. The truth is, companies like mine, censhare, stretch the digital realm much beyond a DAM .

DAM is simply the starting point of a digital platform that can be used as a PIM, MRM, CRM and brand management tool. But, it’s the infrastructure and the centralization of assets that allows the system to branch into the other spires. Simple, it is anything but, at the same time, it’s not rocket science (although rocket companies could use a good DAM and PIM).

A DAM is perhaps the single most important piece of technical infrastructure your company will ever invest in. A DAM is everything you need and everything you make it. It can’t be limited to the ten core characteristics that Theresa did such a great job of clarifying, it should also be an all-inclusive software package or able to function as such and still intuitive to use.

Douglas Eldridge Douglas Eldridge

Doug Eldridge has worked in marketing and communications for fifteen years, with experience in marketing agencies and software vendors, he’s written for CMSWire, eContent Magazine and various industry blogs. Doug is based in Denver, Colorado, is an alumnus of censhare US and while he is not writing, he is a typical Coloradan, which means a lot of time in mountains and breweries.

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