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Words of Wisdom for a Successful DAM Implementation

Implementing a DAM system can feel like a big undertaking. After all, the last thing you want to do is start your journey off on the wrong foot. But have no fear. Many others have been in your shoes, wrestling with the complexity of it all, and lived to tell their stories. In fact, they have some pretty sound advice. Check out what these ten implementation survivors have to say about the key to a successful DAM implementation!

  1. “Understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and try to meet those goals.”
    Josh Hafer, Heaven Hill Distilleries

Preparation is one of the most important steps in implementing a DAM system. It can mean the difference between a long, back-breaking launch and smooth sailing. As part of your planning, document the business goals that your DAM system must help you achieve. Ensure your goals are SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. In addition to this, document a vision statement, or big-picture, aspirational description of what your organization hopes to achieve with its DAM system. Lastly, make your goals and vision known. It helps to share them with the team so that everyone can return to them before, during, and after implementation.

  1. “It’s important to brainstorm a lot and think through the entire asset lifecycle of your organization, and then bring in people we don’t work with closely to understand their workflows.”
    Michael Shattuck, formerly New Balance

The stakeholders of your system have different needs. A marketer requires different assets and file formats than a designer. Or, a regional salesperson may use the system much differently than their global counterpart. Figure out who the creators, contributors, and consumers are that will use your system. Then, bring them together. Putting people side by side that don’t usually collaborate helps you to surface otherwise unapparent nuances. For example, you’ll get a better understanding of user workflows, the asset formats your users require, and the problems each user group faces. This collective approach goes a long way, helping you plan for the unique needs of your diverse user base.

  1. “In hindsight, one thing we would have done differently is [to] spend a little bit more time looking at what we were uploading.”
    Jeanne Duncan, Masco Coatings

As eager as you are to launch your DAM system, take the time to understand what assets you have and if you need them. Rather than uploading your entire library of assets, weed out redundant, outdated, and trivial assets. During your evaluation, ask yourself, “Do these assets need to be uploaded?” If yes, upload them into your DAM system. If no, save them locally or on a shared drive in case you need them down the road. Typically it’s best practice only to upload final, high-resolution assets that the users of your system will find valuable. Afterall, you don’t want to muddy up your new DAM system out of the gate. You’ll be happy you took extra care upfront, especially come time to lay out a strategy for your site structure and metadata.

  1. “I’ve learned that proper delegation will actually get you across the finish line a lot faster and a lot better than if you try to do it all yourself.” 
    Mike Michonski, Total Traffic and Weather Network

You absolutely cannot launch a DAM system alone. You need to a assemble a winning team to share the many responsibilities that are required before, during, and after implementation. Without a trusted team, your implementation will take longer and may fall short of your expectations. Your team should include three to five people from within your organization, plus an implementation pro from your DAM vendor. Think about the best people to include from your company. Power users from different departments, a DAM champion, and system administrators typically make for a representative and competent team. And, while your DAM vendor should help guide your efforts, you and your team must plan to play a very hands-on, collaborative role from the start.

  1. “Keep it really simple to manage, simple to understand. Then, you could add on complexity after that.”
    Richard Carlson, Behr Process Corp.

When you’re in the thick of planning for and implementing your DAM system, it’s easy to overthink how you should organize your system. After all, there are numerous governance features to think about. From access levels to permissions, metadata, and copyright sensitivities, you likely have a lot on your mind. But, implementation doesn’t need to be complicated. Do your homework. Learn how different users search and interact with assets, and then simplify how you best meet those needs. In the end, you need a system that easy for both admins and users to manage and maneuver, so start with a simple approach and evolve from there.

  1. “It [DAM] doesn't have to be perfect on launch, but can be evolved.
    Sheryl Connor, Exactech

During planning, you’ll create an implementation schedule, complete with deadlines, milestones, and a launch date. As much as possible, stick with these timelines. Your system is not static; you’ll have time to improve and evolve it after launch. In fact, you’ll learn the most this way. As time goes on, user patterns surface, and you can tweak your system based on what is and isn’t working. For more peace of mind, consider a soft launch to a small pilot group or a phased launch where you incrementally release the system to different tiers of users. Whatever your approach, revisit implementation outcomes after six months, applying learnings, and reevaluating regularly.  And, most importantly, remember to measure your progress against the DAM system goals you documented at the start!

  1. It’s more successful if the system follows the flow of the people instead of trying to force people into a system they’re not comfortable with.”
    Megan Peck, YETI

How you think people use or should use your DAM system is much different from how they actually use it. If you ignore how users navigate, search, and interact with your system, you’ll end up with a DAM system nobody uses. And, what good is that? Instead, build, launch, and maintain your system with a user-first mentality. Educate and train your user base on best practices, capabilities, and how to use the system, but always keep their needs top of mind. Hold office hours to learn about their problems. Sit with users to observe usage patterns, and monitor your analytics. The more you immerse yourself, the less likely you are to force people into an unnatural system.

  1. “Maintenance is going to keep this thing [DAM system] clean and working for everyone.”
    Jason Kuhl, Daktronics

As your business evolves, so will the content you create, the assets you prioritize, and the way people use your DAM system. And, while a DAM system is an incredibly powerful tool, you need a dedicated DAM admin to keep it clean, organized, and optimized. In fact, according to our Customer Satisfaction Survey, organizations with a dedicated admin who spends more than 50 percent of their time on the system saw a greater return on investment (ROI) from their system and content efforts than those with a system admin that spends less than 20 percent of their time on DAM. The numbers don’t lie. Companies with a dedicated admin have larger asset libraries, more users, and more user downloads. So before moving forward with a DAM system, make sure your leadership team is on board with a DAM admin. They are crucial in making the whole DAM thing work - before, during, and after implementation.  Colleen Raccioppi, Exactech

  1. “Having a good communication plan and a promotion plan that's's crucially important.
    Colleen Raccioppi, Exactech

Planning for a system rollout is different for every organization. While some employees are eager and excited for a better asset management solution, others are resistant to change. Regardless of your situation, you need a documented plan to support your system launch, as well as ongoing promotion and adoption initiatives. Some organizations make a big splash by aligning their launch with a major corporate event or meeting. While others, plan for a softer launch with intimate involvement from each launch group. But, where many organizations fall flat is in failing to build hype for the system after launch. Just as important as your launch plan is how you plan and execute ongoing trainings, games, webinars, and engagement initiatives to interact with and keep your users excited post-launch. 

  1. “You can make the DAM what you want it to be with a little patience and vision.”
    Sandra De Biasi, Varian Medical Systems

Return to the goals you laid out during your planning stages. What business goals do you expect your DAM system to help you achieve? Keep these goals and your overarching vision in mind as you methodically work to make your system work for the unique needs of your organization. It can be overwhelming, but take small bites that will move your content management forward, and meet the needs of your users. Most importantly, work with a hands-on, service-first DAM vendor that will guide and help you achieve your vision.

Need More?

No two DAM implementations are the same. However, there are universal truths you can gain from the advice of others that have been through it. For more best practices and processes to help guide you before, during, and after DAM system implementation, download our Digital Asset Management Implementation Playbook today.


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