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Blog about Digital Asset Management

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How do I read this DAM documentation?

Don’t we love reading DAM documentation?  I am not referring to the pretty, glossy brochures you get from marketing that has to look great in order to sell you the product. I am referring to the actual DAM documentation which supposedly explains how the DAM works like the guides, manuals, feature sets, configuration options, compendiums of data and volumes of instructions. Instructions are always so easy to read, aren’t they?

Many DAM vendors are reluctant to show us their documentation until we have signed a contract with them. Then we are often stuck trying to understand these things. After we review the tables of contents and volumes of paperwork, we quickly begin to understand why we pay annual support fees for the DAM. We pay them to read and understand their own documentation.

Personally, I have read over the DAM documentation for a few DAM solutions I have used and had the same frustration, but I decided to do something about it. Here is a solution to have up to date, easy to use, easy to navigate documentation:

First, I asked for all the latest documentation (yes, I asked for more) the vendor had for their DAM product. It would help if the vendors updated their documentation as often as they updated the product itself.

Second, I wanted to know everything that was NOT covered in their documentation, such as the new features. If I had a question on how to do something with the DAM which was not discussed in the documentation, I asked. My questions were often forwarded directly to the engineers for an answer. This sometimes exposed more features and little known facts about the functionality of the product.

Then, with the permission of the vendor, I rewrote the documentation. Yes, it was all technical writing. I also had to translate some parts from ‘engineer speak’ back into English. One of the most useful things I did was I wrote step by step directions, complimented with screen shots to illustrate these steps.

I purposely:

  • was not about to re-write the documentation into big thick paper manuals.
  • was not about to print binders full of paper for each DAM user to refer to.
  • was not about to chisel the documentation onto stone tablets.
  • was not going to issue an eraser with each binder for changes.
  • was not about to switch out endless pages per binder for changes.
  • was not about to use a PDF because a user might accidentally refer to an older version of  a PDF with different information which would not help them access immediate, up-to-date results.

This is the 21st century and we have better tools for documentation that occasionally changes, especially since we use computers anyhow.  Welcome to the Web 2.o method of documentation. What I used was an enterprise wiki on our intranet. The enterprise wiki is open to anyone working within our organization’s network at any time from anywhere. The wiki is fully searchable and is kept up to date with latest information at all times. It is updated by me or anyone I assign to edit it. Any changes can be applied to the wiki in seconds. There is full version control, even down to a single character change. Every user can get an email update alerting them of any recent changes to the documentation.

How long did it take me to create the documentation on a wiki? It took me the same amount of time to write on this wiki than it would have as a PDF or paper, but it only takes seconds to update and disseminate to all users. Try that with paper or PDF.

Who uses wikis for their own business? Plenty of businesses are using wikis as a modern dissemination tool for documentation.

Want your own wiki for your own documentation, reports, etc? Do a Google search on wiki or enterprise wiki.

My question to all the vendors is when will they begin offering their documentation as a wiki for their clients as well as their own sanity?


Why do I need a DAM?

Some organizations may have considered a DAM (Digital Asset Management) system, but thought:

“We’ll do it later” or “We don’t need one of those DAM things.”

In the same breath, you might as well pick any of the following phrases below:

  1. “We don’t need to save money now.”
  2. “We will be here forever, so we will be able to preserve our institutional knowledge.”
  3. “We love filing cabinets full of CDs, DVDs, tapes as well as multiple external hard drives, shared drives, folder structures on our computers and other ‘organized’ methods to store and manage our files every day. There is no other way to do this today.”
  4. “We can’t find anything promptly, and we’re okay with that.”
  5. “We can wait until tomorrow when the other office is open with the files we need for that presentation today.”
  6. “We will continue to wait for Joe to come back from vacation and Susan to return from sick leave to retrieve files we really needed for that public release last week.”
  7. “We love employees who hoard company assets on just their computer that are so important to our business. What could possibly ever happen to their computer or them for that matter? Our employees never go anywhere.”
  8. “We love to wait hours or days for files, don’t we all?”
  9. “We like to waste time and money and so do our managers.”
  10. “We don’t need to know what files we have. Why would anyone want to know that?”
  11. “We don’t accumulate many files each year. We trash our intellectual property every few months just to clear our limited hard drive space. It’s really no big deal.”
  12. “There is no other way we can be more efficient. We each have our very own sets of standards and procedures followed sometimes.”
  13. “We love paper. It’s so cheap. We like swimming in it too. What’s a PDF anyhow?”
  14. “Why would we change how we deliver stuff? Mailing stuff is really cheap and fast nowadays. We don’t even need email today.”
  15. “We can only collaborate in person or by email nowadays. What will they think of next? Telecommuting for office workers? We would have to trust our employees.”
  16. “We have to hold all our files very close, so no one can find our files including us.”
  17. “We love re-creating files over again because we can’t find it to use it again. In fact, we’ll do it all over again next month.”
  18. “We love to think inside the box. We don’t streamline anything around here. I know because I’m an innovator. We don’t need any changes here.”
  19. Improve workflow? Our work flows just fine around here. We do not need to upgrade any software nor hardware each decade.”
  20. “Change costs money. Technology can’t save the organization time and money. We just need more people to work harder and longer hours. That’s why they are here, and they know it.”

None of these ridiculous phrases have to be true in any organization today. Everything listed in bold can be done with DAM. If you don’t believe any of these ‘unspoken ways of doing business’ actually happen in your organization, find out how all your files are really stored and managed every year. Be ready for a surprise. Aside from what was discussed in the last 20 points above:

  • Can you find every file created last month or last year?
  • What if the person looking did not create nor archive any of the files they are looking for themselves?
  • How quickly can these files be accessed?
  • How many files do you have?
  • Where are these files kept?
  • Are they archived for future use?
  • How many files are redundant (not a backup copy nor a different version)?
  • How can you be sure without opening each file?

There is a better way. With a DAM, you can know the answer to all these questions. Planning for a DAM can make any organization really audit their assets and their workflows. A properly implemented DAM can make an organization streamlined and standardized. If a DAM is applied to an organization the right way, people can efficiently and effectively store, archive, search, find, use, reuse and repurpose assets as needed. Anyone who should be able to access files can securely find out what is available at anytime from anywhere with an internet connection.

Stay tuned to this blog for more on DAM and how it can help your organization.