The Ultimate Digital Asset Management Guide

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Chapter 5

Digital Asset Management Software: A Buyer’s Guide

If you’re evaluating Digital Asset Management (DAM) software for your organization, this buyer’s guide will help you understand common use cases, DAM capabilities, nonfunctional criteria, and security requirements. It also describes advanced DAM capabilities with which you can take DAM one step further: dynamically generate assets, create a single source of truth for assets, and deliver them to end-users directly from the DAM.

If you are new to DAM, see Chapter 1 of this guide for a comprehensive introduction. Chapter 2 recounts the evolution of DAM systems: from on-premise systems to cloud-based ones to dynamic platforms.

Here are the main topics:

Use Cases: What Can You Do With a DAM System?

Following are nine common uses of DAM systems along with the systems’ basic and advanced capabilities.

Asset creation

Asset creation

Basic DAM Capabilities

Serves as a repository for assets in omnichannel creative campaigns. DAM helps find assets for reuse. Once assets are ready for use in a campaign, they are ingested into DAM for easy and secure access.

Advanced DAM Capabilities

Automatically manipulates images in the DAM. Need a different size, the same image with a border, or an automatically cropped image focusing on the most important element? A Dynamic DAM can do it for you.

File management

File management

Basic DAM Capabilities

Stores and catalogs images, videos, and other creative assets. DAM enables searching by title, description, and metadata, securely sharing assets with individuals within or outside your organization.

Advanced DAM Capabilities

Enables direct delivery to end users with dynamic URLs that support on-the-fly image manipulation and fast CDN delivery. Instead of sharing files with another team who must upload them to a website or send them to customers by email, simply add the DAM dynamic URL link to the website or email. Use AI to automatically tag images and videos to improve searchability and promote reuse.

Brand hub

Brand hub

Basic DAM Capabilities

Serves as a repository of brand creative assets along with guidelines and instructions on using assets for the brand. DAM can help manage a large number of files—brand assets for different channels, audiences, and campaigns.

Advanced DAM Capabilities

Extends brand assets with dynamic image transformation. For example, DAM can automatically resize or crop logos, remove backgrounds, or create variants of an image for multiple social media channels, without involving a graphic designer.

Media management for eCommerce

Media management for eCommerce

Basic DAM Capabilities

Stores, manages, and repurposes product images, videos, or other assets in an online store. eCommerce websites can have millions of product images , colors, sizes, and other variants. High-quality images are critical for eCommerce success.

Advanced DAM Capabilities

Automatically transforms product images into the correct formats for display, for example, attractive thumbnails for a gallery or high-resolution images for a product page. You can add any asset’s DAM URL to eCommerce pages.

Media management for websites

Media management for websites

Basic DAM Capabilities

Stores, generates, and manages images, videos, and other creative assets for large websites. Large-scale news, media, or corporate websites can have thousands of pages with millions of creative assets, some for navigation and layout and some embedded in the page content.

Advanced DAM Capabilities

Adapts assets to different devices and screen sizes, quickly updating the design across numerous pages. For example, DAM can automatically crop and adjust the featured images for blogs. You can define navigation icons and edit them directly through the DAM without changing the website code.

Product marketing

Product marketing

Basic DAM Capabilities

Saves all the creative files for designing and producing products. Examples are SKUs, specifications, product data sheets, 3D models, pack shots, branding creatives, and advertising material. With DAM, you can seamlessly organize those assets and share them with retailers and distributors.

Advanced DAM Capabilities

Dynamically transforms packaging, product images, and brand and advertising creatives to meet the needs of specific retailers or campaigns. For example, you can automate the addition of a promotion badge to a product package, advertisement, and poster through DAM with no human intervention. You can also leverage AI to automatically tag marketing assets to improve searchability and reuse across marketing campaigns.

Local marketing

Local marketing

Basic DAM Capabilities

Serves as storage for distributed brands in a large number of locations, each selling the product independently. DAM enables access of brand assets from the central team for use in local marketing content, such as store-front graphics, advertising, email marketing, and website creatives.

Advanced DAM Capabilities

Automatically modifies or extends generic brand assets for local marketing purposes. Through advanced DAMs, you can replace graphics or text, or automate the transformation of brand images into a new size or format for local marketing creatives.

Print and offline marketing

Print and offline marketing

Basic DAM Capabilities

Enables the search for and access of creatives for delivery to a printer for fulfillment. Some DAMs use web-to-print systems to directly send assets to an appropriate printer.

Advanced DAM Capabilities

Dynamically creates different versions of assets with different text or messaging, different images, or different layout and design rules; and then automatically generates the correct image format or resolution for printing.

Traditional DAM Capabilities:
The 10 Core Features

The 10 core features of an enterprise DAM system are defined below, based on common definitions that most DAM experts and vendors use.

  • The 10 Core Features Beginning
  • 1. Ingest

    DAM enables ingestion of assets, either one by one or in bulk, with convenient application of metadata to images.

  • 2. Secure

    When assets are ingested, DAM secures them with Access Control Lists (ACLs) and permissions that specify which user roles can access or modify images.

  • 3. Store

    DAM stores large volumes of creative assets and their metadata, enabling fast retrieval.

  • 4. Transform*

    DAM converts images to the required formats and generates “native” thumbnails, typically without smart resizing or cropping. Some DAM systems enable manual editing of images and documents in the interface.

  • 5. Enrich

    Once assets are in place, DAM makes it easy to enrich them with metadata and to generate analytics on their usage.

  • 6. Relate

    DAM tracks relationships between assets and versions or variants of the original assets, making it easier to bundle, find, and manage them.

  • 7. Process

    DAM defines a structured process for working with assets, from creation through versions, approvals, and publishing.

  • 8. Find

    DAM offers easy ways to find assets by searching metadata, collections, image attributes, and workflow stages.

  • 9. Preview*

    Users can preview images, videos, or other assets before downloading them.

  • 10. Publish*

    DAM outputs a link for sharing the file with other creative users.

  • The 10 Core Features End

(*) The Transform, Preview, Enrich, and Publish features have undergone dramatic changes in advanced DAM systems. See the following section.

Advanced DAM Capabilities
for Modern Asset Workflows

Over the past years, digital-asset workflows have evolved and are no longer concerned with simply ingesting assets, storing them, and enabling access and searchability. Organizations must manage assets at scale; create a huge number of variants of each asset for different channels, audiences, and screen sizes; and push them to websites and mobile apps.

Three core capabilities of DAM— transform, preview, and publish —are taking on a whole new meaning. Following are the cutting-edge capabilities offered by innovative and advanced DAM solutions.

Cloud Deployment

Cloud Deployment

Modern DAM systems are cloud-based, enabling seamless global collaboration and sharing of assets.

Mobile First

Mobile First

Advanced DAMs can automatically adapt assets to display attractively on any device or screen size, including mobile. That capability requires intelligent cropping, resizing, and adjustment of images on the fly.

Rich Media

Rich Media

Advanced DAMs go beyond traditional file formats and can ingest, display, and transform next-generation image formats, videos, 3D models, and 360-degree images. Tools in those DAMs automatically transcode, crop, resize and transform videos to create multiple versions for different uses.

Dynamic Asset Transformation

Dynamic Asset Transformation

Creative marketing processes, websites, and mobile apps need more and more variations and layouts for assets. Advanced DAMs can automatically generate the variants through intelligent cropping, resizing, and automated image effects. You can also generate new assets from existing ones, for example, by leveraging AI to create a short preview of a video. Everything happens inside DAM with no need for downloading assets and editing them in external tools.

Asset Delivery

Asset Delivery

Advanced DAMs handle the “last mile” of creative assets, delivering them to end-users at high quality and with fast loading. Those DAMs optimize assets and generate URLs for them, which can be used directly in websites and mobile apps, ultimately delivering content through a fast CDN.

Nonfunctional Criteria
for DAM Systems

Features and capabilities are not the whole story. A DAM system must be robust and usable, with access to all the tools that generate and manage creative assets.

User Experience

User Experience

Evaluate the DAM user interface and ensure that it’s web-based, fast, and user-friendly. Even though many DAM systems offer powerful features, they are difficult to use with a steep learning curve, ultimately eroding productivity.

Performance

Performance

Test a DAM system to see how it handles heavy loads. Upload demanding files, such as multilayer PDF files, TIFF files with 100+ megapixels, and M4V video files with an H265 codec. Check if the system contains multiple renderers and if you could simultaneously upload a heavy video and small JPEGs. Check if the system can handle concurrent downloads with five different users. Opt for cloud-based, dynamically-scalable systems to ensure that the performance aspects are well managed.

Integrations

Integrations

Ensure that your DAM system has built-in connectors for all the systems that work with creative assets: CMS, eCommerce platforms, Product Information Management (PIM) systems, CRM systems, BPM and ERP tools, social media, and marketing tools.

CMS / Portals / Experience

CMS / Portals / Experience

Security:
A Paramount Consideration

Cyber attacks are becoming more frequent and more sophisticated, hitting organizations of all sizes. Large enterprises are especially attractive targets. Be sure to identify compliance standards that are relevant for your organization in general and for specific content types in particular, such as ISO 27001, GDPR, and SOX. Choose a vendor that offers out-of-the-box compliance with the relevant security standards.

In addition, we recommend that you conduct a penetration test of the DAM system you’re considering for purchase to ensure that it protects your sensitive digital assets. If a full penetration test is not feasible, check the following:

  • Does the DAM system comply with the relevant standards or regulations?
  • What software components does it use? Have they been upgraded to the latest versions and have the security patches been applied?
  • Where is data actually stored and what are the security measures that protect it?
  • If the data is on the public cloud, what configuration safeguards the data?

To ensure success of your enterprise's DAM deployment, see Chapter 6 of this guide for more best practices.

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Summary:
How to Select a DAM System

When evaluating DAM solutions, focus your efforts on the following:

  • Evaluate your DAM use cases and how proposed solutions support them.
  • Ensure DAM systems provide at least the 10 core DAM features.
  • Evaluate DAM systems to see which advanced capabilities they provide and how valuable they are for your use case.
  • Consider nonfunctional criteria like user experience, performance, integrations, and security.

Cloudinary is a next-generation DAM solution with all the core capabilities, including those for dynamic transformation and optimization of creative assets, responsive delivery to different devices, AI-based management of assets, and organization-wide collaboration. Do check it out.