What are digital assets?
Wikipedia definition: “A digital asset is anything that exists in a digital format and comes with the right to use”. For example – video, music, documents, images, presentations, digital tokens (including crypto), data, or anything an organization or individual owns or has the right to use.
As we move ahead with digital transformation more and more businesses are increasingly dependent on digital assets. Today, even existing physical assets such as documents and prints are actively digitized. Digital assets are convenient as they occupy less physical space, are easy to retrieve, and can be transported/transferred easily.
Businesses who have already made the shift to digital assets include,
- Legal / Law firms
- Advertising Agencies, Media houses
- HR and Recruitment firms
- Movie Production houses
Major industries such as retail, manufacturing, import-export houses, insurance, finance, and logistics companies are all in various stages of digital transformation.
With increasing convenience comes its own set of problems, and in this case, it is the management of the digital assets that we create and convert from the existing ones. This is especially true for Business Service companies that create, use and distribute different types of documents and related content.
What is digital asset management?
Every individual and organization starts by organizing their files and their assets in a traditional hierarchical system on their local computers, USB storage devices, and of late on the cloud ( Google Drive, email, Dropbox, etc.). Once there is a need to share these assets and use them in collaboration, they resort to shared drives and transfer these assets via email, etc.
While this kind of organization works on a small scale, the system gets easily overwhelmed with an increase in the number of users and assets.
Eventually, the challenges present themselves:
- Single paradigm of classifying our assets – different users / functional-units classify assets differently. E.g. Sales dept will want contracts classified by customers or geography while the accounts teams may want them classified by chronology, billing, risk etc. In short, one size does not fit all.
- Sharing assets with others – Providing access to “other teams” or third parties is initially simple and can be monitored. However over time, as the content and the teams involved increases, it can spiral into a complete chaos. The most ideal use case would be to provide access to specific assets and probably for a finite amount of time. This brings us to the next point.
- Security of assets – In 2015, all the first four episodes of the Game of Thrones season surfaced online before it even got aired because the Media outlets provided the episodes for viewing as a part of the review process. This was catastrophic. Sensitive content especially of monetary value needs to be secured and there should be an audit trail to trace any leaks.
- Version control – While presentation.ppt, presentation1.ppt, presentation-ver2.ppt would work for an individual or at a small team level, it would require additional tracking effort or worse cause confusion under unwanted circumstances.
- Automation – Digital assets typically go through a standard workflow including (not limited to) publishing onto websites, pushing to 3rd parties, Watermarking, QA QC, Approvals etc which could be potentially automated to provide better efficiency.
Enforcement is a key challenge in a discipline-based system and things get cumbersome. There are several Sophisticated DAMs available in the market and when the time comes it is best to get one in place.
When is the right time to consider a DAM?
Adopting the right technology at the right time is significant for the growth of any business. Here are some points that will help you identify if it is the right time to adopt a DAM in your business
|If you have 3 or fewer “yes”||You still have some time. Keep a sharp lookout for the most common cases mentioned.|
|If you have 4 – 6 “yes”||It is time to start looking for a DAM. It is also a good time to get familiar with a Digital Asset management system.|
|If you have more than 6 “yes”||Now might be a good time to get your DAM in place.|
The losses and risks associated with the loss of Digital Asset Management systems are becoming a standard around the world. The cost of loss and efficiency is real and it has a direct impact on your business.
Hence ensure to be proactive rather than reactive. Also keep in mind that once you have identified the DAM and Vendor, there is still time left (you are the best judge of this) for Deployment, Migration, and User-acceptance. Ensure you plan it well to make this initiative successful.
Find the right DAM
Once the decision is made to go in for a Digital Asset Management system, there are several choices that need to be made. Broadly they are based on capability/features and cost model.
Features and capability
Consider the following features:
- Types of assets you will store on the DAM. E.g. Audio, documents, images etc.
- Attributes of indexing for search and retrieval. E.g. content keywords, Approval status, date, value, vendor etc
- AI based DAMs can automatically tag features for indexing such as contents of scanned documents, image contents, video and audio content keywords which makes content ingestion a much simpler step
- Any automated processes you would like to run on the assets – watermarking, transcoding, resizing
- Federated Authentication – Consider a DAM that will be able to integrate with your existing authentication system so that the existing system Admin processes will take care of your access management and the users will not have to remember another set of credentials
- Sharing and permissions – the access various users have to the assets or groups of assets
- Compatibility with your existing platform and software
- Any APIs that need to be integrated with the DAM
Buy vs Hire
There are many solutions that can be bought off the shelf, configured, and deployed onto the cloud of local infrastructure based on your requirement. If you already have IT infrastructure and personnel then this is probably a good approach.
Several DAM solution companies offer a SaaS model where you can just pay a monthly fee and everything is handled. This is typically a good option if you don’t want the upfront expenses or don’t have a dedicated infrastructure team.
Migrate to a Digital Asset Management System
By now you should have zeroed in on the Digital Asset Management system if not already purchased one or subscribed to one.
- Make sure all the use-cases of all the teams involved are handled. All integrations are in place and all the automated processes are working with their respective types of assets.
- Ensure you have a buy-in from all the stakeholders involved about the move and set a date.
- Create the required structure and the attribute lists.
- Ensure all potential users get their credentials on the new system
- Provide training to all the personnelle who will access the DAM
- Move / Import all existing Assets to the DAM and ensure all new assets are added to the new system.
- Decommission the old system. This is a very important step as “old habits die hard” and familiarity makes users go back to the older system.
Some popular digital asset management software
Here are some popular DAMs as per industry leadership sites. Most of these are SAAS-based models. These are pay-as-you-go models and can be a good starting point.
- Image Relay
- Widen Collective
For the more adventurous ones who already have IT infrastructure and a team that can manage the system, here are some open source options:
- Daminion Standalone Basic – The basic standalone is free. They also have a managed service which is a paid model.
A good approach here is to involve your technical team to check on technical skills compatibility and also evaluate the features and their maturity. Even better is to deploy a working copy and test out all the use cases required by all the teams. Most of the open-source projects come with APIs and defined frameworks to extend their functionality.