In today's digital age, businesses must deliver to all viewing devices visual media that tells their brand’s story. To do so, the digital content must be in one place as the single source of truth for use by the entire organization. Additionally, syndicating an ever-growing library of media assets for all channels is a daunting challenge because of the constant need to transform assets into the correct format for delivery, in context, and at scale.
Adopting a Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution, called DAM for short, is the right approach for the job. However, as a prerequisite for evaluating vendor partners through a formal RFP process, you must pinpoint the business-critical capabilities you desire from the solution.
Since Cloudinary is potentially on your list of solutions under consideration, you’re likely taking the above suggestion with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, do refrain from following your gut instinct of assessing DAM vendors based on features alone. Rather, also look into how a DAM might meet your long-term needs and help you achieve your business goals. In fact, while crafting your RFP, you might very well uncover whether a solution could fall short of your use case.
This post suggests the key areas to focus on while evaluating DAMs and the priorities to accord the requirements. Also, to give you a leg up with the evaluation, a link at the bottom takes you to a template with the fundamental questions to ask of DAM vendors upfront.
Starting an RFP process might feel like the beginning of a courtship, when you’d ask yourself, “What value will this individual add to my life?” The decision you make to move forward or not would precede a vision of what the future—with or without that person in your life—looks to you.
Similarly, you start an RFP process for DAM vendors by getting to know them. Frame your questions in a way that requires the vendors to demonstrate their expertise, share their understanding of business drivers, and present their vision. Here are three important questions to ask:
- What does your DAM do best and how does it differentiate from other DAMs?
- How do your customers measure the ROI of your DAM?
- How does your DAM achieve company-wide adoption?
As you ponder the potential value of a DAM, also gain a grasp of its intangible benefits by, for example, seeking the answers to these questions:
- How would this DAM facilitate more efficient collaboration among teams?
- Given the importance of ease of use, does the DAM offer different experiences for users across functions? If so, in what ways?
- How would various teams collaborate in the DAM?
- Does the DAM offer extensions that fit into your current martech stack?
- What are the features under development, if any? Ideally, the DAM should have a demonstrable history of improving and evolving with emerging market trends and customer expectations.
Focusing on the common use cases for DAMs is integral to determining if a solution fits the bill. Oftentimes, even though some of them overlap, a basic capability that checks the box is available. Other solutions, such as automation and machine learning, support more advanced use cases, relieving teams of numerous manual tasks.
Below are four major use cases:
- Asset creation. A basic DAM serves as a repository for media assets, enabling teams to quickly locate them for reuse. An advanced use case is a dynamic DAM that automatically transforms rich media through, for example, smart resizing and cropping.
- File management. A basic DAM offers intuitive and simple cataloging capabilities, with which users can search by title, description, and metadata while securely sharing assets with those with authorized access. An advanced use case would support on-the-fly image transformations and fast delivery through content delivery networks (CDNs). AI might also be an option for enhanced search through auto-tagging.
- Brand hub. Think through the complexities of managing a brand and, as mentioned, above, the importance of a single source of truth for your media assets. A basic DAM can readily help manage myriad files for delivery to various channels, audiences, and campaigns. An advanced DAM would automate the process of generating continued iterations of branded assets without involving a graphic designer.
- Media management for e-commerce. E-commerce sites are invariably image heavy, not to mention the added weight of increasingly popular video, which more helps shoppers visualize products. DAMs are a must for management of engaging e-commerce sites, with advanced solutions that offer automation becoming more and more desirable.
Other use cases abound. In essence, when prioritizing them, ask your DAM suitors, “How can my teams use your DAM to do their jobs well?”
Features are another critical consideration for evaluating DAMs. Most enterprise DAMs offer the 10 core features below, which you should assess during the RFP process and pose the questions as suggested.
- Ingest. Can the DAM accept assets one by one or in bulk, followed by seamless addition of metadata to images?
- Secure. When ingesting assets, can the DAM secure them with access control lists (ACLs) and permissions that specify which user roles can access or modify images?
- Store. Can the DAM store large volumes of media assets and their metadata? Is the retrieval process intuitive and fast?
- Transform. Can the DAM automatically convert images to the required formats and generate native thumbnails without smart resizing or cropping? (Keep in mind that you can manually edit images and text in some DAMs.)
- Enrich. Once assets are in place, can I easily enhance them with metadata and generate analytics on their usage?
- Relate. Can the DAM track the relationships among various asset versions, making it easier to bundle, find, and manage assets?
- Process. Can the DAM define a structured process for asset workflows, from creation through versions, approvals, and publishing?
- Find. Can I find assets by searching the metadata, collections, image attributes, and workflow stages in the DAM?
- Preview. Can I preview images, videos, or other assets before downloading them?
- Publish. Can the DAM create and output a link for files to be shared with other users?
Furthermore, think APIs, SDKs, AI-based content analysis, search and discovery, media widgets, analytics and reporting, as well as integrations with the other tools in your tech stack. Be sure to determine if the DAM you’re reviewing offers those helpful features and, if not, if you can mobilize them through a third-party integration or customization.
This post covers only the primary considerations you must keep in mind while engaging with DAM vendors through RFP. Also crucial are nonfunctional requirements that vary in importance from business to business, e.g.:
- Is the DAM web- or cloud-based? Either way, will it continue to work well in increasingly distributed workforces, especially as businesses expand?
- Are there built-in connectors in the DAM for integrations with your CMS, PIM, CRM, and the like? Is the interface a no-brainer with practically no learning curve?
Deciding which DAM to adopt for your business needs is an exciting endeavor. You might find this template with eight questions a helpful starting point for your dialogue with vendors.