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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 is 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 programmed 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 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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DAM Foundation creates and launches Digital Asset Management courses online

After many requests from the DAM community and over a year of work, the DAM Foundation has created and launched online courses on Digital Asset Management to meet the increasing demand.

Special thanks to Elizabeth Keathley, Mark Davey, some other DAM Foundation board members and other DAM professionals who helped create these online courses. DAM Foundation has launched the first online course in August 2014.

These courses are self-paced. Each assessment is reviewed by a DAM Professional.

According to the DAM Foundation website…

“The first lesson of the five-part Introduction to Digital Asset Management course is offered for free at damfoundation.org. Should participants complete the first lesson and achieve a passing mark from the education committee member overseeing their work, then the opportunity to sign up for the remaining lessons in the course will be offered. The cost of the entire five part course is $360.00 USD, and upon completion participants will receive a certificate from the DAM Foundation, as well as publicity via the DAM Foundation’s social media channels celebrating their accomplishment. The time frame for completed coursework is extended as it is expected that participants are working professionals themselves. Participants will be given six months from the pass mark of the first lesson to complete the coursework for all five lessons. Details of required coursework can be read on the Introduction to Digital Asset Management  main page.”

For full details, visit http://damfoundation.org/?p=31520

UPDATE: DAM Foundation is no longer active as of January 5, 2017.