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Driving from Chaos to Clarity with the DAM Maturity Model

Carlie Hill avatar

Carlie Hill

Director of Growth Marketing

11 min read

Driving from Chaos to Clarity with the DAM Maturity Model

The world has unquestionably changed, and so have the short and long-term priorities for most organizations. They’re now focused on digital-first, remote-first and work-from-anywhere operations, and leaning into this shift as quickly as possible. This has cast a very bright light on the efficacy of our marketing strategies and, more specifically, the need to progress our digital capabilities in order to fully support organizational priorities over the long haul.

Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey found that chief marketing officers (CMOs) are quickly shifting to prioritize pure-play digital channels, allocating the majority of their total marketing budget to this area. As expected, this is resulting an increased spend in strategic marketing technology. One piece of technology that’s top of mind for CMOs is digital asset management (DAM).

While implementing new technology is often a necessity, it’s no secret that it can be an overwhelming task. The exercise of pursuing a modern tech stack takes a lot of time and effort, and even after implementing new technologies, some solutions might never get used properly. Another report from Gartner even found that on average, only 58% of an organization’s tech stack is used to its full potential.

Taking a Phased Approach

The most successful technology implementation plan is a phased one – and DAM is no exception. Taking on too much at once for a new tech implementation — expecting to build out your exact vision from the immediate implementation — can often cause frustration, along with the feeling of being overwhelmed. This kind of unrealistic benchmarking can make it feel like little to no progress is being made, and also makes it challenging to prove ROI for stakeholders.

A phased approach starts with identifying low-hanging fruit, then expanding from there. By taking a crawl, walk, run approach that’s tailored to your specific goals, you can improve company-wide adoption rates and better showcase ROI on tech implementations.

The Digital Asset Management Maturity Model

As much as organizations would love to ramp up overnight, it’s not often realistic or possible. This is why we built the DAM Maturity Model.

The model helps organizations identify their current state and creates a blueprint for meaningful steps they can take at appropriate times to progress toward their ideal state. It helps organizations:

  • Get quick wins that prove immediate value to stakeholders,
  • Keep their DAM implementation manageable, and
  • Ensure high adoption of their DAM.

Let’s take a look at each stage in detail.

Stage 1: Chaotic

The first stage is chaotic. Typically, organizations in this stage see individuals using a mix of their own file storing systems and shared storage solutions, like Box, Dropbox or Google Drive. ​While storing files on the cloud is a good first step, it’s really the ”wild west” in the sense that everyone on your team either has access to everything or no access at all. Additionally, there’s usually a lack of file naming standards and category structure which makes it challenging to find exactly what you need.​

This creates a lack of control. Some team members have access to files they shouldn’t, while others find themselves without access to what they need. There’s no clarity on what’s finalized or approved, often resulting in files being used for projects even though they may be outdated or simply not yet approved for use.​

​The majority of organizations begin looking for digital asset management solutions at this stage - and it’s not just smaller businesses - there are many global businesses that are facing these challenges as well.

When to Mature From This Stage

There are a number of factors to consider when evaluating if it's time to mature from this stage.

The first consideration is time management. In particular, if your team members are able to find what they need and if there are members that are relied on to share the same files over and over again. Relying on a single person to be responsible for individual files can waste hours of time in key departments like marketing and design.

The other consideration is how well your brand and digital assets are protected and managed. Two of the biggest challenges we see with organizations at this chaotic phase are brand mismanagement (such as the wrong logo or an unapproved graphic being used) and asset loss – where they need to spend time replicating brand assets that they can't find anymore.

Specific questions to ask:

  • Can people find what they need quickly?​
  • Are people constantly sharing assets?​
  • How do you control asset use?​
  • Can you still access assets if someone is out of the office?​
  • Do you have recovery processes if assets are deleted?

How to Make the Move

When moving on from the chaotic stage, the goal is to get your assets out of chaos and into a form of structure within a single solution – namely, a DAM. We recommend starting within one or two departments and a smaller, core set of assets (such as logos, headshots, marketing graphics, etc.). This enables you to have a shorter time-to-value and iron out any wrinkles before scaling to the rest of your organization.

Steps to Get Started

  1. Find a digital asset management solution that meets your goals in the short and long term.
  2. Identify which users or departments to include in the initial roll-out.
  3. Start consolidating assets from various desktops, hard drives, file management solutions, etc.
  4. Work with your customer success manager to develop and implement a scalable metadata strategy.

Customer Story: Community Associations Institute

Community Associations Institute (CAI) was in the chaotic stage when they first started looking for a DAM. They would save assets to their desktop, as well as to a server that everyone could freely access and manage. Not only did this make it incredibly difficult to find the assets they needed, it also generated a number of duplicates and exposed them to a significant risk of asset misuse. Now that they've implemented a DAM, they have the metadata and governance structure they need to enable their headquarters, as well as 64 global locations to seamlessly find the assets they need without trouble. Read the Community Associations Institute Story.

Stage 2: Compartmentalized

The second stage of the model is compartmentalized. In this stage, a single department may have migrated to a DAM, however, they’re most likely still experiencing siloes. For example, you might have two marketing teams in different geographic regions using their own solutions (such as a DAM for one and Dropbox for the other). This results in potential additional costs – both from having redundant solutions and recreating files that existed in another solution. At this stage, organizations typically have a basic level of user access or usage policies in place, meaning they're still spending time fulfilling asset requests for other teams or departments.​

While not considered the “ideal state” for many organizations, the compartmentalized stage is a great first step for DAM beginners to strive for. Simply getting out of that chaotic phase and finding something for your department that works (and works well) is a huge win. Once you're comfortable at this stage, you can start looking at how to address those additional siloes that other teams are experiencing.​

When to Mature From This Stage

One of the biggest considerations when evaluating if it’s time to mature from this stage is if your branding and messaging is consistent across teams and campaigns.​ As organizations grow and rely on more people to represent the brand, it’s common to see inconsistencies that result in brand dilution.

Secondary to that is evaluating if there are unnecessary duplicate efforts being made – either needing to upload files to multiple storage solutions, sending multiple emails to different teams or even recreating similar content because you didn't know it existed in another storage solution.​

The last consideration is if there are bottlenecks that could be streamlined by integrating a single solution, like a DAM, with other cross-team technologies.​ While not every department needs direct access to the DAM, additional value can be derived from enabling others to access the assets they need from within the platforms they already use.

Specific questions to ask:

  • Is there campaign misalignment across teams?​
  • Have you experienced duplicate work or purchases?​
  • Are projects or simple tasks taking longer than they should?
  • Are there bottlenecks that could be removed?​
  • Could workflows be improved?​

How to Make the Move

Moving on from the compartmentalized phase is about eliminating additional siloes to remove work duplication and ensure true alignment. The goal is to consolidate all adjacent departments (including other geographic regions) into a single DAM solution, as well as identify any workflows that could be improved by tailoring the DAM for additional use cases or integrating with other MarTech solutions. Some steps to get started include:

Steps to Get Started

  1. Analyze where there are project gaps and miscommunication that could be improved with better alignment.
  2. Prioritize which departments would benefit most from aligning to a single solution.
  3. Map out your various martech solutions and identify opportunities to set up an integration with the DAM.
  4. Start building customized user groups to facilitate the addition of additional departments and integrations.

Customer Story: Experian

Experian had gone through a major brand refresh back in 2016, and as part of that, wanted to mature from the compartmentalized stage. Specifically, they wanted to address the inconsistency of their brand across regions. There were dozens of different marketing teams and while they were running smoothly as individual departments, the brand had a different look and feel across regions. They wanted to ensure that all branches operated as a single brand, and to do this, they needed to consolidate into a single solution that would enable them to work collaboratively. Ultimately, they ended up choosing MediaValet as their sole solution and now everything, even down to tiny website icons, is stored in the DAM.​ Read the Experian Story.

Stage 3: Collaborative

The third stage of the model is collaborative. Organizations in this stage will have multiple teams using the DAM — common examples include marketing, design and sales teams. As more departments adopt and actively use the DAM, additional security measures are needed to keep assets protected. This is where custom user groups come into play, allowing each group of users to access specific categories, only perform various functions (downloading, uploading, etc.). These custom access and usage policies ensure that specific assets are only accessible to users based on their job function and permissions.

At this stage, the DAM may also be integrated into other martech solutions, such as project management software, like or social media platforms, like Hootsuite. Departments are able to access their assets from directly within these platforms, improving workflows and reducing bottlenecks.

The collaborative stage is the ideal state for a lot of organizations — especially those with a marketing-heavy DAM use case — and its where many will spend most of their DAM journey.

When to Mature From This Stage

While many organizations will stay in this stage, keeping their DAM within the marketing department, there are some factors to consider when evaluating if it’s time to move to the next stage.

First is if there are other departments that are working with large amounts of media-rich content or large format files. It's normal to extend the DAM to complementary departments, like social media or events, but there are other departments that can get value out of accessing the DAM or adding their own assets. Some examples of this include:

  • Training documents and forms from the HR department
  • 3D models from the engineering department
  • Sketch files from the development department

Second to this is if it’s possible to scale the DAM to your entire organization, to ensure easy access to the organization’s core brand assets, such as logos, templates, leadership photos and more.

Specific questions to ask:

  • What other departments could benefit from direct access to the DAM?​
  • How can the DAM be adapted to address more use cases across your organization?​
  • Can adoption be improved with additional integrations?

How to Make the Move

Moving from the collaboration stage is about adapting and tailoring your DAM to maximize value and ROI. It’s possible to extend the DAM to the entire organization and even address additional use cases by simply tailoring the permissions, category structure and workflows. Some steps to get started include:

Steps to Get Started

  1. Work with your customer success manager to assess how to extend the DAM to other departments without compromising on security.
  2. If your organization has SSO in place, work with your IT team to take the necessary steps for integration.
  3. Evaluate if integrating into organization-wide tools, such as Microsoft 365, would help improve adoption or workflows.

Customer Story: ACAMS

ACAMS took an excellent phased approach during their DAM onboarding. They planned to extend the DAM to their entire organization, but first, they wanted to focus on getting their core assets in the hands of the marketing and creative departments. They used this phased approach as an opportunity to ensure everything was clean and useable, before extending it to other departments. Now, they're just about to open the DAM out to the rest of their organization. Custom permissions are critical to them, as they expect 90% of their workforce to have tailored use and visibility.​ Read the ACAMS story.

Stage 4: Connected

At the last stage of the DAM Maturity Model, your assets are fully connected with your entire organization. Your DAM becomes the foundational layer to manage all high-value media assets; not just marketing assets, but every media asset created across the organization — source assets, work-in-progress, final creative assets and content. Everything is stored in a single location, making it easier to drive collaboration and efficiency across different departments, agencies, third-party vendors and partners.

While everyone is using the DAM, many don’t log directly into the DAM. Instead, integrations enable employees to access the DAM from within the tools they already use, like Microsoft 365. When organizations take this approach, an identity management integration is often critical, as it enables them to easily manage thousands of users.

Customer Story: The University of Wollongong

The University of Wollongong’s goal was to implement their DAM as an organization-wide tool. They wanted to provide more transparency to the assets being created and surface them for others on campus. With over 3000 users, Single Sign-On enabled them to easily scale across multiple campuses, locations and access levels. It also enabled staff administrators to manage users without needing to know the ins and outs of the DAM. If anyone left the university, SSO ensures their DAM account is instantly made inactive. Read the University of Wollongong story.

Move Forward with the Right Partner

The DAM Maturity Model is a handy tool that enables organizations to identify quick wins and plan for the long haul – when working with the right partner. At MediaValet, we help customers evaluate their use case and find the path out of their current phase – for example, from chaos to compartmentalization. When they're ready, we then help them navigate through the next phases of the model. This, along with our unlimited users, support, and training, has helped our customers make the most of their DAM and maximize success within their company.

Ready to get started? Let’s talk!

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