There are an overwhelming number of digital asset management system offerings on the market, and I talk to people every day who are struggling to decipher between the many options. One of the questions people ask me the most frequently at the beginning of our conversations is whether they will even be able to find a vendor that can meet their business needs. The best way to answer that question is to ask the following questions when choosing a DAM vendor:
1. What’s included in my annual subscription?
Many DAM providers have multiple components to their pricing structure, such as:
- number of users,
- volume of storage,
- number of user groups included,
- photo vs. video processing, and
That’s why it’s important to ask if they charge by user, storage or both, and ensure that as you look at different solutions, you compare “apples to apples.” If you represent a large conglomerate, you need to ask yourself if you want to keep your DAM solution within one department, or if you want to enable your entire organization with access to your assets to ensure brand consistency. If the latter is the case, then evaluating DAM systems that offer unlimited users and charge by storage will likely be more cost-effective than a solution that charges a per-user fee. Also, take into consideration any additional teams that can benefit from the solution, and pay attention to extra set up charges and additional fees. Some vendors charge for additional training, support or even batch uploading. Make sure you understand the complete cost of the system, including add-ons and support, before you commit to a selected DAM vendor.
2. Can the vendor meet my use-cases and top priorities?
I’m always surprised to hear the different use-cases for a DAM system at various companies and how no two conversations are ever the same. A major step in choosing a DAM partner is outlining your unique use-case and understanding what you need in the solution in order to be successful. Here are some things to think about when deciding your DAM priorities:
- What level of DAM expertise does your team have? Are they new to DAM and will they need access to support?
- Will you be bringing on new teams or team members throughout the year?
- Will you need training beyond initial onboarding?
- Could any extended user groups benefit from the DAM system?
- Is it more important to have a large number of features or an easy-to-use interface?
- Is user adoption one of your project KPIs?
- How important are integrations into the systems you already have?
Every DAM system has unique offerings, and being able to evaluate them based on your top requirements is important, so you can weigh any potential trade-offs and recognize key features you need. For example, if you have large sales team, having a DAM that allows for the quick viewing, editing and sharing of Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents may be a key revenue driver for your company. Being able to clearly outline your priorities based on these questions is key in choosing a DAM vendor that works for you.
3. Does the vendor offer an Open API? If so, what's the feature coverage?
Integrations, integrations, integrations! This is a topic that people ask me about daily – no, hourly! For companies that are heavily invested in their digital transformation, a DAM initiative is often dependent on integrations with other technologies. Some of the integrations I’m most frequently asked about are Adobe Creative Cloud, Drupal 8, Hootsuite, and Office 365.
There are, however, sometimes systems that are unique to your specific environment and don’t have a pre-built integration. In this case, a robust API that you’re able to review and test is a key requirement. It allows your development team to test the API and make sure you’ll be able to achieve your outcome. It’s also worth asking if the company has a fully-featured and documented API, or if the API is only for specific features. Are they using it on their own platform? If yes, double-check there!
4. Does the vendor backup my assets?
This is a question you should ask every single DAM vendor your company speaks to. If a natural disaster hits and destroys one of the data centers, are your assets backed up on a secondary data center? If an employee goes in and deletes assets that aren’t meant to be deleted, can you recover them? This happens more than we all would like to admit. When looking at a digital asset management system, you should ask how your assets are backed up. Make sure that your assets are both locally and geographically replicated to reassure yourself that you won’t lose your assets. We all know the pain of not being able to find an asset, let alone losing it for good! Additionally, if you’re looking at an on-premise solution, it’s important to understand how you maintain the server and what to budget for it (both time and money).
5. Can I set up metadata to fit my business needs?
Metadata includes the general attributes, keywords, descriptions, and information embedded in an asset during ingestion. This metadata is incredibly different for businesses across various industries, so it’s important to make sure the DAM provider you’re looking at has easy searchability based on your particular metadata structural needs. How can you find your assets? Do they have Boolean-style search? Can you filter your assets by star-rating, upload date, and more? These questions are necessary to consider when choosing a DAM system, to ensure the solution is easily adoptable and your employees will use it.
Taking the time to understand your unique DAM requirements and asking these questions will help you get started with a DAM initiative. Thinking about these topics and issues will also help you evaluate each vendors’ scalability, reliability, ease of adoption and determine what will be a perfect fit into your existing infrastructure.
We often interview our customers and ask them what advice they would give to organizations in the process of choosing a DAM, and repeatedly, they echo what Tiffany Dodson, Marketer at Atomic Design said:
"...be sure to do your research – know exactly what you need in a DAM by looking at a range of vendors and then creating a prioritized list of what individuals and teams across the company need…"
I would advise the same: take your time and make sure the vendor you choose is the right fit as that will ensure a smooth transition and a successful DAM initiative.
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