Digital asset management (DAM) continues to help organizations across every industry improve efficiency and transparency. But where do you begin if you’re selecting your first DAM system? Or replacing a legacy system?  We want to share with you 16 top tips for selecting a DAM system that have helped guide our customers through the DAM selection process.

1. Evaluate Metadata Input Methods

User adoption of a DAM system depends on metadata entry, and sometimes getting metadata into existing assets is no small project. Make sure you review capabilities, either manual or automated, to input crucial custom metadata, and that your system can ingest existing metadata standards such as XMP.

Furthermore, ensure your DAM provides automated metadata management. This speeds up processes and organizes files accurately. It also improves search speed, due to the fact users can better search for specific terms to find different files.

2. Ensure the DAM System’s Ability to Scale

It should go without saying that a DAM system should be able to easily scale to any sufficiently large number of media assets, but it should also easily scale by number of users in a way that makes pricing sense.

A picture of stairs going upward.
Make sure your DAM system scales well.

With increasing numbers of digital files, organizations require a DAM system that lets them scale for growth. This is true not only on a local level, with things like images, videos and documents, but also on a global level. Companies are expanding their outreach and they need a DAM that helps them successfully navigate this expansion.

3. Consider the Degree of System Customization

Every enterprise is a unique ecosystem of people, processes and systems. Your DAM system should be flexible enough to meet the needs of your users. Understand how simple or complex it will be to configure the DAM – for instance, find out if it requires tons of custom code or simple setting adjustments to dial it in.

Part of customization is the level of access allowed to certain users. Make sure your DAM customizes to fit the needs of the user – whether they’re an admin or an outside party. It should be clear from the beginning who needs access and to which files in the system.

4. Determine Cataloging Capabilities.

Any reasonable DAM system should be able to present assets in catalogs that are curated for specific users, both inside and outside of your enterprise.

Files being cataloged digitally on a laptop.
Ensure your DAM system has efficient cataloging capability.

You want a DAM system that catalogs files efficiently and in a manner that optimizes their retrieval. Cataloging assets is only half the battle. The proficiency with which the assets are then retrievable is just as important.

5. Make Sure it Can Integrate with Other Systems

Any enterprise DAM system should offer a robust API that enables systems integration, all the way from systems like Web CMS to ERP, PIM, eCommerce, CRM and even Adobe tools.

Integrations boost efficiency by allowing users to continue working within a system even when they need an outside tool. Make sure your DAM is capable of extensive integrations before considering implementation.

6. Review Hosting Options

Match your prospective DAM systems with your existing IT infrastructure and do a cost/benefit analysis of on premise, cloud or hybrid deployment. If your IT staff is a skeleton crew then cloud hosting may be right for you, but if you are a large organization with dedicated IT resources and security mandates, then on premise or hybrid could be the right choice.

SaaS not only cuts down on IT involvement, it also saves a lot of money in the right situations. Companies that use SaaS can allow the right amount of users to operate the software. It prevents over purchasing for each user and each computer.

Hands on a laptop.
Use a DAM that gives your IT team more freedom.

7. Choose Video Capabilities

If video is critical to your communication strategy, your DAM system should be able to manage video and associated metadata as seamlessly as other forms of rich media, including local and remote broadcast functionality.

Do a thorough analysis of the types of videos your company uses before selecting a DAM. Be sure to check the average approximate size. Remember that all DAM systems are not created equal. Because of this, you want to find one that is capable of housing your video files.

8. Evaluate Asset Search Sophistication

The assets in a digital asset management system are only useful if you can find them. Strong DAM systems have many search filters and advanced ones are bringing in new and sophisticated search techniques and technologies.

What kind of filters will serve you best? It’s a good idea to look for a DAM with at least some type of filters that include authors, dates, titles and file types. This is just a base but these are a good starting point for important filters.

A keyboard with the word 'search' on it.
Sophisticated search filters are crucial.

9. Ensure It Features Mobile Device Access

Everybody is on the go these days, and sometimes key assets such as the newest version of a Powerpoint presentation needs to be available in the field, then and there. A good DAM system should be able to deliver this capability as a matter of routine.

You’ll want a DAM that is accessible quickly and safely from all mobile devices. This includes smartphones, tablets and laptops. This prevents any downtime from team members who are limited geographically.

10. Ascertain Fit with Existing Business Processes

Dropping a DAM system in an existing ecosystem of users and workflows is never easy. Map out your business processes and see where DAM can help not hinder the most productive ones and eliminate the cumbersome ones.

Furthermore, make sure your DAM is designed to accelerate your existing business model. If it will hamper your workflows, you need to consider a different DAM. Out of the box your dam should fit within current business processes.

A structured workflow charted.
Make sure your DAM compliments company workflows.

11. Scope Out Permissions

Making assets only available to those who need them is an important business practice that a DAM system should support. Permissions should be available at catalog, group and even individual asset levels. Consider not only who can see which assets, but also what they can do with them – in terms of hi-res, low-res and watermark depending on user.

Make sure your DAM has an easy-to-use interface so that administrators can set permissions to their liking. The DAM should be tailored to make permissions an easy process and administrators shouldn’t need any assistance setting them.

12. Scrutinize Workflow Capabilities

Think about whether you need to support formal and/or informal workflows between different people and groups within the enterprise. DAM workflows often come into play during asset production, as well as approval processes.

Also ensure you choose a DAM that bolsters your workflow. When you visualize a workflow, make sure you can envision whichever DAM being considered galvanizing everything. It’s one thing for a DAM to simply exist, it’s another for it to thrive in a company.

13. Verify Security Features

Keep your assets safe knowing that you can share files, images, photos, and videos securely using SHA-256 bit security encryption.

A digital shield.
Security encryption in a DAM is crucial.

There are way too many risks with sensitive digital content to pick an inferior DAM to secure your content. Make sure it stores information in a secure data center. Furthermore, make sure its encryption process is keeping your files as safe as possible.

14. Investigate Vendor Track Record

Go with a trusted vendor with an established DAM platform and list of clients. DAM is a multidimensional field and it takes time to build up the expertise to serve clients well.

One way to do this is by searching for company reviews of the DAM vendor. Also, make sure you’re not generalizing reviews too much. Instead, look for things that stand out to your company personally. For example, if you value security most, check how the reviews scrutinize security.

15. Assess Customer Support

You want to select a DAM vendor who will support your system with true customer care and dedicated support staff. DAM is an ongoing program, not just an installation.

A call center support agent.
Check out your vendor’s customer support team before buying.

Furthermore, get in touch with potential vendors. Tell them what you’re looking for and how you want it implemented. Get a feel for how quickly respond and the manner in which they respond. Look for clues that could guide you to a vendor with great customer service.

16. Explore Usage Reporting and Analytics.

Business managers should be able to keep a running scorecard of DAM adoption, such as who is using what, when and where, for decision making and system optimization.

Set a periodic time aside to review analytics and run usage reports. It’s important to have dedicated time slots in place so that your company is on top of how things are going. Whether it’s weekly, monthly or yearly is entirely up to you.

Canto is here to help you with your digital asset management selection.

Geoff portrait

Geoff Moran – Senior Content Manager and Author | Canto

Geoff has plenty of great insights into the digital asset management industry with excellent resources and blog posts. Check out some of his work.