What is Digital Asset Management?

A digital asset management system (DAM) helps companies manage, organize, share and distribute their digital assets from within one central library. It improves the productivity of marketing teams and increases the ROI of content and creative programs.

With the majority of personal and business communications taking place online, creating original content has become a key way for brands to stand out and engage with their audiences. This flux in original content has shaped an exponential increase in asset creation and highlighted digital asset management as a must-have for marketing teams across the globe.

What is a Digital Asset?

While almost any digital file can be managed within a DAM, organizations typically use a DAM only to store their digital assets - the files that bring immediate and long-term value. The most common digital assets include:



DAM is such a powerful tool that doesn't get the credit it deserves. Marketers mistake it for being just another file repository. But DAM is instrumental in giving structure to the creative process, and it's only gaining more valuable features everyday

Lana K. Moore


Benefits of a Digital Asset Management System

A digital asset management system acts as a single source of truth for a company’s content and brand assets, such as logos, typefaces, product visuals, and RFPs. It’s primarily used as the content and brand hub for marketing departments, but as content types expand, it’s becoming more common to see other departments taking advantage of a DAM system, as well.

By giving self-serve access to assets with a DAM, companies are able to find the assets they need more quickly and efficiently. This gives the following benefits to organizations worldwide:

Features of a Digital Asset Management System

According to The DAM Foundation, a true digital asset management system will be able to:


An average of $8,200 is spent per person, per year on file management activities (on salary, training and materials)


Examples of Digital Asset Management Systems


Also frequently referred to as a SaaS model, a cloud-based DAM is a software-based system that requires no hardware or servers to maintain. Hosted entirely on the cloud, this type of DAM offers a cost-efficient and scalable option for companies looking to securely store their assets, without the added costs of upkeep, upgrades and maintenance. Cloud-based DAM systems are often selected by companies that require user access from multiple (often worldwide) locations, access to upgrades and the latest features, and reduced total-cost-of-ownership.


An on-premise DAM is one that’s hosted on the buyer’s own internal servers, and requires additional storage space, back up/recovery processes, and IT support. This type of DAM is usually selected by companies who have requirements to keep their assets within their own data center, and have a large IT department that can support any maintenance and upgrades needed for the DAM. On-premise DAM systems have high up-front costs due to the hardware required, in addition to the ongoing upgrade & maintenance expenses, which often makes it more expensive than its cloud-based counterpart.


Employees spend as much as 10% on their time on file management



Consistent brands are worth up to 20% more than those that aren't

Fast Company

ROI calculator on a laptop

Digital Asset Management ROI

ROI on a digital asset management system can be complex to calculate, as it changes with each company’s use-case. To understand the value of a digital asset management system, you need to consider these three factors:

  1. Strategic Benefits: The impact a DAM has on company-wide projects and initiatives, such as rebranding and mergers.
  2. Tactical Benefits: Improvements to each DAM user’s productivity and efficiency.
  3. Quantifiable Returns: Money or hours saved with a DAM.

For an in-depth, step-by-step guide on justifying the value of a DAM initiative, take a look at How to Prove the ROI of Digital Asset Management.

How to Start a Digital Asset Management Project

Every digital asset management initiative is going to take a different path to their goals, but all successful DAM projects started with these three steps:

1. Audit your existing assets and pains

Before looking at any DAM vendors, it’s important to understand how your company is currently operating. Look at where your assets are stored (on hard-drives, personal storage, legacy systems, etc.), the sizes, formats and volumes of your assets, and any processes that are in need of improvement. This step is key in understanding the scope of your project, and how much storage you actually need. In addition to analyzing your current needs, also consider any potential growth in the near future that needs to be accounted for.

2.  Map out your needed structure

After understanding how you currently operate, it’s important to map out how you’ll need your DAM platform to function. Plan which divisions, departments and users will benefit from accessing the DAM, and consider the level of access they will require, and any integrations they could benefit from (such as Adobe Creative Suite or Office365). During this stage, also consider the onboarding and support needed for each team, to ensure your vendor can meet your unique requirements. This is also the best time to think through the taxonomy you’ll use for organizing your assets inside the DAM, as well as understand best practices around searching, tagging and sharing assets.

3. Create a project roadmap

Most successful DAM projects have a roadmap with multiple short and long-term milestones. These milestones usually include vendor demos, creating a vendor shortlist, starting legal reviews, and onboarding. Develop a plan with realistic dates and stick to them to keep your DAM project moving along smoothly, and avoid any potential bottlenecks.

This is just the first few steps towards successfully implementing a digital asset management system. For a step-by-step guide to selecting a DAM vendor, check out our eBook: The DAM Buyer’s Guidebook.

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