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Ten Core Characteristics of Digital Asset Management: Is it really a DAM?

Some people mistaken other types of systems as Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems. Vendors are sometimes guilty of this to be in the ‘catch all’, ‘we do everything’ and ‘me too’ categories. Since some claim the DAM Market will quadruple in the next few years, everyone seems to want a piece of the pie. This has caused market fragmentation which a number of DAM professionals have noted earlier.

In order to counter this issue and establish a standard, the DAM Foundation (DAMF) has released the Ten Characteristics of DAM. This is also known as the “10 Core”.

In full disclosure, the author was a board member of the DAM Foundation at the time of this blog posting and was directly involved in establishing these 10 core characteristics among other DAM professionals.

You can now test any Digital Asset Management system to be sure you have all ten (10) of these core characteristics. DAMF certifies DAM vendors whom have passed the 10 Core and lists them publicly.

What are the Ten Core Characteristics of DAM?

The Ten Core Characteristics of Digital Asset Management (DAM) according to the DAM Foundation, and since “…ratified by the DAM Foundation Board in Q4 of 2014…” are as follows:

  1. DAM systems ingest assets individually or in mass sets, and allow for the manipulation of those assets and their metadata individually or with mass actions. This is accomplished in part by assigning a unique identifier to each asset on ingest.
  2. DAM systems secure the assets they contain. Security in a DAM extends to defining access control lists (ACLs) for assets and defining roles for users accessing the system.
  3. DAM systems store assets as both binaries and metadata. A DAM system can store multiple file types, and allows for the customization of metadata fields and the metadata in those fields attached to the stored files.
  4. DAM systems render/transform assets on ingest into new forms, such as thumbnails or proxy files. The new forms generated on asset ingest via transformation should all be stored as asset parts of the original file uploaded.
  5. DAM systems enrich assets through the extension of metadata and metrics regarding the use and reuse of the asset throughout its lifecycle.
  6. DAM systems relate assets by tracking the relationships between and among an original asset and versions/variants of the original. Versioning and version control tools are central to an asset’s life in a DAM system.
  7. DAM systems regulate a structured process in the management, creation, and review of assets with workflow tools. Via programed workflows, DAMs allow for a decentralized workforce to collaborate together in a centralized system.
  8. DAM systems allow for users to find assets and to retrieve those assets by facilitating search through metadata, collections, workflows, and access control tools. By increasing the discovery of assets that may not have been easily accessible before ingest, a DAM assists workers in leveraging existing content for maximum work potential.
  9. DAM systems have a preview function that allows users to view assets before downloading or opening a file on their own device. By allowing users to take a look at assets in search quickly, without download, DAM systems reduce the amount of time users must spend in search.
  10. DAM systems produce/publish content by providing methods whereby assets may be shared, linked to, or otherwise be distributed outside the system. This DAM function may be as simple as generating a URL on ingest or as complex as allowing users to build collections of items for sharing with a work group.

You can find more details about the evolution of the ten core characteristics of DAM here.

Which DAM vendors have passed this basic test so far?

Does your DAM system of choice have all of these core characteristics? You can find out here since the DAM Foundation has made a public listing of all qualified DAM vendors “…who have demonstrated the 10 characteristics so far and have passed…” and received “…certification from the DAM Foundation…”

DAMF only lists the DAM vendors which have already taken, passed and are now certified. Note there are over 190 vendors claiming to offer DAM, as of the writing of this blog post.

If you do not see a DAM vendor listed, contact the vendor directly and ask them why they are not listed.

If the DAM vendor passed, congratulations. You have a DAM system. Now that you have the technology part, make sure you have the people, process and information necessary to have the quadfecta (yes, four parts) as described in the DAM Maturity Model. These four parts are seemingly obvious for success with DAM, however all-to-often discounted/forgotten/ignored until failure occurs and then realized some parts are missing from the equation.

A number of DAM vendors have already passed the 10 Core. Many vendors have yet to take and/or pass this test to certify their system(s) as a DAM. Not simply self-describing themselves as offering a DAM system. Not just offering ‘DAM like’ features nor ‘DAM lite’. A DAM that actually meets a standard established by DAM professionals for DAM professionals and the businesses which choose to use it.

Do you have a real Digital Asset Management system?

Did it pass the 10 Core as mentioned above?

If you need vendor neutral assistance or advice, let us know.

UPDATE: DAM Foundation is no longer active of as January 5, 2017. Regardless, the 10 core characteristics still hold true.

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Do you want to start a Digital Asset Management Meetup group near you?

If you are involved in Digital Asset Management (DAM) or you are planning to be involved in DAM, there are a number of DAM Meetup groups you could attend in-person. DAM Meetups are gatherings of people involved in DAM by profession or by interest. You can see if there is a DAM Meetup group near you:

The number of DAM Meetup groups are increasing in areas where there is a DAM community who wants DAM Meetup in their area, often near large metropolitan areas with a potentially engaged audience.

In case you do not have a DAM Meetup group near you, you have two choices:

  1. Watch what other DAM Meetup groups do, listen to what they talk about and share this knowledge enrichment with other members of the global DAM community. Some DAM Meetup groups record their panel discussions and presentations which makes it optimal for sharing, learning and enrichment.
  2. Start your own local DAM Meetup group and have your own DAM discussions. This post is mostly about how to do this successfully.

Organizers needed

A number of people have inquired recently about [how to start] a new DAM Meetup group to see if there would be enough interest in their area and how to launch a DAM Meetup successfully. In the interest of openness, I decided to share my recommendations as the former NYC DAM Meetup group co-organizer. As I write this, NYC DAM Meetup is still the world’s largest DAM Meetup group and it now has new organizers who are doing a great job.

My first recommendation is don’t try to organize a new DAM Meetup group alone. Find and meet in-person with some like-minded people who are willing to:

  • Invest some of their time in a DAM Meetup group
  • Spread the word about each DAM Meetup event
  • Come up with ideas for content, events, presenters and venues
  • Organize the events from prior planning to clean up afterwards
  • Learn more than they already know about DAM and new stuff
  • Follow up with organizers, members, venues and ideas

Ideally, if there are multiple Organizers and one person can not organize a DAM Meetup one month/quarter, another organizer should be able to pick up the tasks so you can each organize a few DAM Meetups per year. Very few people have the time to do this alone. Form a small team with similar values who compliment each other and collaborate regularly.

Locations for DAM Meetups

One of the most important things to consider within your geographic area is the location of the DAM Meetups. You should likely try out a few different locations before settling on a few favorites for members based on a variety of criteria listed below.

There are actually plenty of venues (locations) willing to host a small group of people assembled over a topic of discussion. I would not recommend using someone’s residence, hence pick a public venue or a business venue. Many venues are not large enough to host more than 50 to 100 people though unless you pay. This is where limiting the number of people who can RSVP comes in (this is a feature).

NYC DAM Meetup has never directly paid for the use of a location and do not plan to.

You need to consider:

  • Availability of the space for attendees and presenters (require RSVPs for a head count of attendees)
  • Available seating (limit RSVPs to a specific number, not to exceed fire code)
  • Traffic conditions
  • Parking availability
  • Public transportation when available
  • Weather and seasonal conditions to your venue
  • Noise inside the venue (just in case you want people to be heard). Consider a the need for a microphone/speaker system if need be.
  • Lighting (unless you like the cave look and you only invite bats)
  • Visit the venue and ask about it before scheduling it. Scout it out to be sure it is right for a DAM Meetup in mind.


Some geographic areas have great public transportation and some available parking.  On the other hand, some geographic areas have horrible traffic, terrible public transportation and parking is a myth.

Make the Time

Once you schedule a DAM Meetup a few weeks in advance, make the time to promote it. Get people interested by spreading the word in person, share it on social media and email interested DAM folks in the area. Some like-minded people will make the time to come by and check it out. If you organize a number of DAM Meetups and no one RSVPs, there is something wrong. Start with who knows about it aside from the organizers. Not all localities may not be ready for a DAM Meetup. If the DAM Meetup has great content, opportunities for networking and is more than what members expected, people will return when they are available. If they don’t RSVP, you can reschedule later on. Try different days of the week, different venues and different topics of discussion for the event. Also take the time to spread the word about the DAM Meetup in different ways


When to schedule a DAM Meetup is a common question. Most DAM Meetups have been successfully scheduled and announced a few weeks prior to the day of the Meetup.

Most DAM Meetups are held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays after 6:00 PM local time to give people some time to leave work and arrive at the venue.

Avoid scheduling DAM Meetups to occur on weekends and around major holidays because DAM is too closely related to work.

Social gatherings are the best for the first DAM Meetup to meet and greet people interested in DAM.

Announcing further in advance does not help increase attendance by much at all.

Pre-announcing Meetup ideas/topics without a date nor a location can help gauge the level of interest for such a DAM Meetup to see if it is worth having based on RSVPs. The largest number of RSVPs from members should be scheduled and provided a venue. It will be clear if Meetup members is not interested in other topics based on the lack of RSVPs.


Posting an agenda for each DAM Meetup is recommended to let people know what they should expect and when to schedule a DAM Meetup within their busy schedules. Need a topic for a DAM meetup? Give it some thought. What do you or your audience want to learn? Still lacking ideas and can not come up with your own ideas? Borrow a topic from another DAM Meetup they have had in the past.

RSVP required

Meetup members need to RSVP to confirm if they are coming so you know how many are planning to come. The number of RSVPs (people) is often limited based on space, seating and/or fire code. The idea is to gather together, talk DAM and have some fun. It can be common to see a popular topic get so many RSVPs that a waitlist is started. No worries. Keep in mind that attendees’ schedules change last minute so RSVPs can drop off occasionally and wait listed people are automatically notified they could come. handles all of this seemlessly as long as members communicate whether they are coming or not. There is also a Meetup app to make it easier while on the go.

Spreading the word

Once we have a topic for a DAM Meetup, confirmed presenter(s) and confirmed a venue for the date/time of the DAM Meetup event, it is time to promote the event. Tell your audience about it. Through Through your favorite social media channels. By calling and/or emailing DAM professionals and people interested in DAM in your area. When you meet with people who may be interested in DAM. You will recognize your audience based on their genuine level of interest. Organizers should know some people in your area who may be interested in a DAM Meetup before even starting a DAM Meetup. No one will judge you based on how many people will come to your first DAM Meetups. If you do not tell anyone in the DAM Community, do not expect them to come. is a great tool which automatically reminds people who RSVP’ed for any Meetup. Organizers just have to configure the Meetup site to announce and remind their membership about events. Word of mouth works very well, so do tell people and ask them to tell their DAM friends and colleagues.

DAM Meetup organizers are often DAM professionals (yes, we do exist). Organizers should know how to use keywords and key phrases on their webpage to attract more people within the general Meetup community, whether know something about DAM or not. I would question any DAM professional who can not tag an event like a DAM Meetup which they are organizing. In case you need a hint, look at the DAM Meetups that exist today. Keep in mind, we do filter out imposter groups that use DAM tags.

Ask DAM Professionals and people interested in DAM to join as member of a DAM Meetup and they will be notified as soon as a DAM Meetup is announced. When you have a waitlist the day of the DAM Meetup, ask everyone who RSVPed to be sure they can attend and change their RSVP status on if they can not.


If you are starting a DAM Meetup group to make money, my advice is… don’t even start a DAM Meetup.

Many people think it takes money to hold a DAM Meetup. NYC DAM Meetup has never had a budget of its own in its 5+ years of existence. That is right… no budget, zero dollars, no profit made directly from any DAM Meetup. And we purposely do not charge any member dues nor any event dues. The main reason we don’t charge is to make sure it is accessible to all who are interested in DAM and can attend in person. Whether you are a DAM professional, a student, interested in DAM or looking for a DAM job, everyone can attend. No exclusivity. No club. There are no taxes to worry about this way either. Any expenses are completely and directly managed by the sponsors. Most Meetups found on are free of charge to attend.

NYC DAM Meetup never made any money and that was never the goal of the DAM Meetup. Knowledge sharing with like-minded people in the field of Digital Asset Management (DAM) is still the goal. No one is paid to attend, present, moderate nor organize. All work is simply a time commitment done voluntarily by the organizers and some of the members who want to help. The nominal annual Meetup dues (paid directly to to start a Meetup) is paid by Sponsors and/or Organizers, not the members.


Sponsors can be great provided they do not limit what you can do nor what you can talk about during your DAM Meetup. This is one of the reasons for vendor neutrality. All sponsors we have/had were like-minded in this respect. A DAM Meetup should be a place to have complete freedom to speak openly about successes and challenges with DAM in regards to the people, process, technology and information involved. If you want to share horror stories about DAM vendors, there are very few DAM vendors willing to sponsor this for obvious reasons. So DAM vendors are rarely, if ever, sponsors. Some sponsors see this as a place for existing as well as potential customers to come through the door and start a nice dialogue. What I have seen sponsors often do is:

  • Provide a location large enough for the DAM Meetup with seating for all attendees (sometimes within the sponsors’ open office space)
  • Introduce their company to attendees in the beginning (not with a hard sales pitch down) to note the awareness of where they are located and what they do.
  • Sometimes pay for video recording of the Meetup discussion so presentations/panel discussions can be shared openly afterwards (the video can be branded by the sponsor for a long tail)
  • Provide drinks for attendees (not necessary, but a nice extra)

Most of them are vendor neutral. Some are vendor specific, but the DAM Meetup group is not locked down to represent the same DAM vendor every time we had a DAM Meetup.

Vendors who pitch should recognize their audience (DAM Meetup members) has finite patience and often high expectations. Sales pitches often go over like a lead balloon. Most organizers and sponsors should recognize this upfront. Quick demos on relevant topics are often tolerated and welcomed.

The leader you are welcome to follow

The largest DAM Meetup group in the world is NYC DAM Meetup in New York City. There is an average of 10 DAM Meetup events organized per year. NYC DAM Meetup is vendor neutral (no preference to any DAM vendor) because knowledge enrichment around DAM topics is the goal. Not sales. Since there are 200 vendors in the DAM industry, there is very little reason to lock down a DAM Meetup group to just one.

Record a Meetup

Not everyone can attend every DAM meetup, so recording panel discussions or speaker presentations is one way for a specific Meetup to have a ‘long tail‘ beyond the allotted time of the DAM Meetup event.

NYC DAM Meetup records many of its Meetups, thanks to generous support from its sponsors.

Video recording takes a fair amount of time to do (prep, light, sound, record, edit, post, etc), so this is often done by people who do this for a living so it makes a good, lasting impression for a truly global DAM audience.

Post the video recording on YouTube for the global DAM audience to watch, learn and share.

When video is not an option, NYC DAM Meetup considers audio recording for the global DAM audience to listen, learn and share.

Take pictures during the Meetup. Show what is happening, where it is happening and who is there. You can upload the photos directly to as a visual record. After all, it is a public event.

If you have slide decks from presentations, you can share links to a slide deck using slideshare. Then, share these on social media.

Remember, this is a public event. Record it. Post the recordings free of charge for everyone. Learn from it. Share it with others.

Ask for Feedback

Before, during and after a DAM Meetup, Organizers should be open to feedback whether it is a phone call, in person or a comment posted online. Take all comments and feedback with a grain of salt. Some of it may be helpful. However, organizers often do not get any feedback. Remind DAM Meetup members you are open to comments, feedback and quesitons by literally asking for it either during or at end of the DAM Meetup. Ask them to rate the DAM Meetup. will automatically prompt members with some questions, however few people actually complete this. Feedback is good to receive so you can find out what people like/dislike, what was good/bad and can help point out what needs work for the future.

We have even seen hecklers before and we often hear them out. When we ask a heckler to pinpoint an issue to be addressed or even offer them the opportunity to present during a DAM Meetup, they often do not deliver. So be it.

The most consistent providers of feedback we have seen are often amongst co-organizers themselves, a few select members and the sponsors themselves. And it is important to listen and learn.

What success looks like

We are seeing a number of new DAM Meetups starting up all over the world.  While I was meetup co-organizer, our membership went from 200 people to over 800 just by consistently providing great content combined with networking venues. We want to see them succeed. The recipe for a successful DAM Meetup group has three key ingredients, 1) once the time is committed… 2) and great content is provided… 3) to an audience who is willing to gather together.

Those who participate in DAM Meetups are recognized as leaders in the field of Digital Asset Management and this is reinforced with each and every DAM Meetup because the bar is risen every time a new DAM Meetup is held. Any audience paying attention will recognize this.

The networking opportunities can be huge. Speakers get noticed. It is great for lead generation. Deals sometimes get made afterwards. And it can be a lot of fun.

What else?

Is there something else you would like to hear about Digital Asset Management Meetups?

Is there something you’d like to share that you have learned about DAM Meetups?

Do you have a DAM Meetup near you?

If not, do you want to start a DAM Meetup group near you?

Feel free to post your comments and questions on

When you are ready for some vendor neutral advice or assistance on Digital Asset Management, let us know.


Do I need people to run a Digital Asset Management solution within my organization?

More people are interested in getting a Digital Asset Management system to help them actually manage their thousands or even millions of digital assets they are accumulating every year. Storage is much easier today, but actually managing and finding what is needed in a timely manner takes more effort. Once an organization selects one of the 200+ possible DAM systems and get it operational, a harsh reality sets in which few people talk about… It still takes people to keep the system working properly. To be clear, I am not referring to people running on a hamster wheel to make it run. They run more in the sense of a mechanical turk. Not like the crowdsourcing service available today, but often an internal service with institutional knowledge of your organization’s workflow, business, culture and other needs. Yes, I am referring to people embedded within your organization or at least working closely with the teams of people who request assets, create assets, upload assets, meta tag assets (kind of important part often overlooked), distribute assets where they are needed repeatedly. It is a thankless job few people understand.

This is not an IT function. If the DAM “works as designed” and it often does, IT often does not care.

You need people (at least one) who are close to the actual users who are using the system. This is where you position them.

Yes, it takes people to aid the user adoption of a DAM system. It is much more than a cheerleader role. It is not just [build/buy/license/setup/test/train/make operational] and they will come. This might be true in baseball teams, but not with DAM. Your organization has to deal with change. And let us not discount how few people embrace change. The change can be positive, obvious and even pain relieving, but human nature and company culture will still prevail. Even if it goes against logic, change is still resisted.

Enter the DAM Professional.

Someone recently asked me how can they justify headcount now that they have a DAM since they were working from 7AM to 11PM. This sounded very familiar, so this sparked the idea to write this very blog post since I have helped several companies to do this.

First of all, here are some of the wrong ways to attempt to justify an increase in headcount for a DAM.

(Note italics on this blog are used to explain humorous, but incorrect methods which are sadly seen too often in the real world.)

  1. Assume/Hope/Pray/Pretend people will notice you working insane hours and that will automagically grant you staff/assistants/contractors/helpers/elves/metadata fairies. May as well keep hallucinating and this might happen only in your mind. Back to reality. Try talking to your supervisors about the issue, but they will need to see measurable results that will be hard to dispute instead of a few weeks of long hours which is ‘normal’ nowadays in the workplace. Does the squeaky wheel get the grease?
  2. Run around screaming with arms waving above your head while bumping into desks, doors and walls until exhausted. This is repeated a few times per week. More often, this behavior is replaced with whining to people who could not care less or have no power to change your situation. If there are true pain points, they need to be discussed sanely with your supervisors. Whining is not measurable result unless you are attempting to measure how much more you will be ignored and avoided by your co-workers among others.
  3. Cry to get your way. Unless you have a weak supervisor who knows nothing, off to counseling you go for the emotionally unstable and deal with the unprofessional, childish behavior when the water works have ended. The problem will be waiting for you if/when you return. There is no crying in DAM.
  4. Expect money to rain from the sky to help pay for more help. Keep hallucinating. This is not gonna happen even if your organization has millions, billions or even trillion dollar budgets. It ain’t gonna happen. Priorities need to be justified. Read on and I will explain how to justify this as a priority.

Yes. I have seen all these scenarios. Others reading this may have also.

I have seen many people resign, retire, outright quit, get fired and simply wimp out over DAM. Admittedly, its not easy and can be painful. But, there is still no crying. You are not alone even if it may feel that way sometimes.

Digital Asset Management is not for everyone. Long hours is sometimes part of the deal, but burnout should not be part of the deal. So how do you justify the increase of DAM solution headcount.

Even if you are a salaried employee, you work a certain number of hours every week.  Maybe you work too many or maybe you are working a bunch more than you’d like doing tasks that are less fun then others. Multitasking or not, no task gets done without time. Someone’s time will be used to get a task accomplished.

No task gets done without time.

As a DAM professional, you have a lot of tasks which no machine can do. At least not yet. A few tasks can be automated and/or possibly done by other people.

You can review in this previous blog post on what skills a DAM professional needs to know and the levels of DAM experience.

If you need to justify your first DAM professional, I would suggest reading one of my earliest blog posts which is just as relevant today as the day I wrote it on Why do I need a Digital Asset Manager? If your organization still does not understand the need for people to run a DAM, they may need to fail in order to learn and someone will need to point out why they failed. Sometimes DAM Consultants can help point this out and help fix this since employees rarely speak up. It sometimes helps having an outsider say it [even if it was said before].

It does not matter what you title a DAM professional since I am in the opinion that titles mean less and less today. I was a Digital Asset Manager for a number of years and managed a DAM all by myself until I justified an increase in headcount. Working 60-80 hours can do that. If it is Tuesday and you have already worked 40 hours that week, you should be well on your way to justify an increase in head count as long as your accounting for what you did during your working hours. Sleep does not count toward work hours, but it helps to get some.

Bottom line, technology does not work alone. We have a while before it does. It works with and for people. Not the other way around. If you have no people using your DAM, you just adopted another shelf baby which will collect dust…instead of assets and value to your organization. Poof goes your ROI. Pick people who will champion your DAM for your organization.

When you are ready for some vendor neutral consulting on Digital Asset Management, let us know.

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Are you going to the largest Digital Asset Management Conference of 2015?

Historically, the largest DAM specific conference in the world takes place in New York City every year.

Henry Stewart DAM Conferences occur in a number of major cities, however the capital of DAM, like it or not, is still New York City. Hundreds of DAM professionals converge like beehive in Manhattan each year to network and to share ideas for a few days, whether those people are based in the New York City area or not.

On Wednesday, May 6, 2015 there are:

  • 5 pre-conference tutorial sessions (these are extra)
  • 1 pre-conference social meetup with NYC DAM Meetup, the world’s largest DAM Meetup group (this is free of charge)

The actual DAM NY Conference happens on Thursday, May 7 and Friday, May 8, 2015 with:

  • 40+ case studies, presentations, collaborative working sessions and techlabs across 4 tracks
  • 55+ speakers presenting

You can do early bird registration before Friday March 20, 2015 and save quite a bit.

If you use a discount code, before or after March 20, you will save another $100 off registration.

See you at DAM NY 2015.