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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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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 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.”

UPDATE: DAM Foundation is no longer active as of January 5, 2017.


How much do Digital Asset Management professionals earn?

What to pay a Digital Asset Management (DAM) professional, especially a position your organization may not have had before, is a frequently asked question (FAQ). It is asked even more frequently as the DAM community continues to grow year over year. As a Digital Asset Management (DAM) professional myself,  the goal of this blog post is not to state what I earn per year nor start ‘salary fixing’ what it costs an organization to employ one or more DAM professionals. Instead, I would like to encourage everyone in the global DAM community to take the anonymous survey which is gathering this specific salary data.

Yes, there is a such a survey started by the DAM Foundation which is collecting salary data. The DAM Foundation’s Human Resources and Talent (HR & T) Committee is requesting more Digital Asset Management professionals to please take this survey so this data set can grow and everyone can get a better understanding of this growing market.

Job Market

There are quite a few jobs in the ‘Digital Asset Management’ job market and there will be even more coming soon. Interest in DAM is growing rapidly. This is shown by the increasing number of people attending DAM webinars and DAM conferences this year. Even more so by the number of organizations looking into, implementing and using DAM to their benefit.

Some DAM vendors pride themselves in the number of new clients they have. Some DAM vendors and consultants suggest specific roles to be established within an organization to support ongoing DAM initiatives and well after implementation.

New to many organizations

Digital Asset Management is new to many organizations. Since technology (the DAM system) is only part of the solution, it still needs people and processes as well. These specific people, processes and technology often do not yet exist within an organization or are not formally organized. When it comes to people, this is part of the job market that most people did not specifically go to school for nor did these jobs widely exist before. Fear, uncertainty and doubt often stall timelines and roadmaps for DAM implementations. Getting an experienced professional to help walk an organization through many of the common pain points of DAM is an option before you pick out a solution.

Supply and Demand

The number of experienced DAM professionals who are available in the job market may currently be low in many areas at the time of this blog post, but this number is increasing due to rising interest. Anyone hiring for such positions will find this out as soon as they filter to the experienced and qualified candidates.

Since there is a low supply and high demand for these experienced DAM professionals, guess what happens to the cost to the organization needing these professionals to manage their digital assets? It goes up.

Digital Experience Required

When it comes to education, I did speak with one person who has a Master in the Arts of Digital Asset Management (MADAM) named Romney Whitehead. While many of DAM professionals (including myself) do not have a degree in DAM,  Library nor Information Sciences, one option is look for graduates with a MLIS degree who have real digital experience. Organizing physical materials vs. managing digital collections are quite different, so keep this in mind when hiring. Note that most library schools and i-schools (i is for information) do not teach about the process nor the technology of DAM with a few exceptions, however some of the DAM fundamentals and categorization are better understood by MLIS graduates with experience organizing digital collections and use of metadata.

DAM is not just about photography. Knowing how to manage digital photography (after use of the camera) is a good start to DAM.

Staff or Contract

There is multitude of reasons for having either staff and/or contractors, however Digital Asset Management is not a temporary task. DAM is an ongoing task. Keep this in mind since the organization will need consistency in how digital assets are managed in order to find them again. Your organization is likely accumulating more and trying to manage more assets than ever before. Who will do this continually within your organization?

Having a DAM professional is a mutual commitment by the people and the organization.

Job descriptions vary based on many factors including the experience of candidate, the organization and their needs for the position.

Trust but verify

Since DAM professionals are new to many organizations, people often do not understand what they are supposed to do within their role once hired nor how they do it.

Digital assets have a value (known or perceived) to acquire them, create them and use these assets. The organization may need to search, find, use, reuse and re-purpose them legally and with ease to get the best ROI. How a DAM professional gets this work done may take some level of feedback and trust, but they should be able to produce reports with measurable results in meaningful numbers which can be verified. Professionals should be able to communicate who, what, where, when, why and how something is getting done with these assets, with enough relevant context and content for any audience.

Interview Questions

There is quite a few levels of experience when it comes to Digital Asset Management. If you want to discern between individuals who have similar DAM experience, a hiring manager could ask:

  • How many different DAM solutions have they worked on?
  • How many different organizations using DAM solutions have they worked with?
  • How long did they use the DAM and how often?
  • How many DAM solutions were successfully implemented and are still in use today?
  • How many users does the DAM solution serve?
  • How many assets are managed? What kind?
  • How do they measure ROI using DAM?

The answers will vary per person, but you will quickly find out how knowledgeable that person is in terms of Digital Asset Management. Now let us figure out how DAM professionals are valued.

Let us know when you are ready for some vendor neutral consulting on Digital Asset Management and if you need to find some talent for your DAM system.

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What is the DAM Foundation?

The founders of started an organic group on Linkedin called the DAM Foundation. The idea behind the DAM Foundation is “bringing standards and best practice to digital asset management.”

The DAM Foundation will be an organic process. The members will help create the standards and best practice and vote in the appropriate professionals to organize the strategy and leadership.

They will tackle questions like:

  • “What is DAM?” At the time of this post, I dare you to ask 20 people (even DAM professionals) and see if you get the same definition from all of them (not likely)
  • What elements make DAM what it is?
  • How do you identify a DAM versus an imposter calling something a DAM when it is not?

Joining the DAM Foundation is easy:

  1. Sign up on Linkedin (you can join for free)
  2. Search Groups for DAM Foundation
  3. Request to join the DAM Foundation Group on Linkedin (free)
  4. Join the discussions

There will probably be an election to vote in whom you want to represent DAM and help set some industry standards in this growing field. The first president of the DAM Foundation is David Lipsey. Two DAM conferences have hosted the DAM Foundation to help progress in person.

I have volunteered to help and I would ask anyone who is involved in DAM to sign up and join. Membership is free.

What is in it for you if you join the DAM Foundation?

There will be scheduled meetings, some in person and many online. Regardless of geographic location, you will be invited as a member to join a live online group meeting to discuss pre-selected topics as well as your questions. This will help get real-time answers to pressing questions and bring these topics to light, as well as continue them offline in the blogosphere. Join and find out the details by invitation.

Why should you join the discussions on the DAM Foundation? We all have valid DAM questions to ask which deserve an unbiased answer. Whether you can provide that answer or just the question does not matter.

Even a beginner in DAM has questions worth answering which are often commonly asked questions among many DAM beginners. So why try to reinvent the wheel or guess? Gain from the knowledge base which is being built here and start asking what is on your mind about Digital Asset Management. Chances are someone has gone down that road before and found out where it leads. Learn from them.

For more information, go to their website.

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