Books on a shelf - What is DAM? Why is it important to my organization?

What is DAM? Why is it important to my organization?

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“What is DAM? Why is it important to my organization?

What is DAM?

“What is DAM?” is the first question that should be asked and answered at the beginning of a Digital Asset Management (DAM) journey. If you do not know what DAM is, how are you supposed to understand what it can bring to your organization? How can you know the benefits that a DAM can bring? How can you measure the ROI DAM can provide? Or recognize how these tools can help your organization, especially your marketing team, to work faster and more efficiently? This article aims to help you understand the answer to this first and most important question: What is DAM?

Digital Asset Management is defined as:

The practice of categorizing and storing digital files in a logical and easy-to-understand manner. 

DAM systems are applications that store digital assets. They provide an interface through which users can tag, search for, and find those same assets. DAM solutions have been available for more than 25 years. There are dozens of vendors available in the market today with newcomers bringing additional options each year.

Why use a DAM?

  • Ability to process files and extract metadata.
  • Support of more and some unique file types than web content management, SharePoint, and other similar systems.
  • Support of video including speech to text, facial recognition, and other features.
  • Distribute files to other systems and transform those files for various formats

DAM Primary Business Use Cases

There are many different use cases addressed by the DAM platforms available today. Clients have justified their purchase and implementation of a DAM for their organization in many ways. The five most common use cases or justifications for implementing a DAM are as follows:

  • Asset creation, review, and approval
  • Brand management, guidelines, and compliance
  • Finished file repository
  • Marketing automation
  • Rights management, access control, and delivery

Asset Creation, Review, and Approval

Creative processes and workflows have evolved from very manual to high levels of automation over the last two decades. Having a system that can manage and track assets from request and ideation to creation, review, and approval is imperative for the fast-paced, content-rich market of today. DAM systems allow for tracking assets as they move through the creative process. They provide opportunities for reporting and help identify areas where process optimization can create efficiencies and improve speed to market. By having fully integrated review and approval processes included as functions of your DAM it is possible to leverage all of the discussion, commentary, and communications to augment and enrich metadata associated with assets. This enrichment makes assets more findable. Additionally, these processes allow for process gates to be created and enforced ensuring that only approved assets are published and made available outside the creative team.

Brand Management, Guidelines, and Compliance

Communicating with customers and prospects in a clean, consistent, and uniform way across the entire organization in all channels is important. Providing a single and central place to access the latest versions of fonts, logos, templates and guidelines will enable your entire organization to communicate with a uniform look and feel.

Look and feel is not everything. Depending on the industry in which your business operates, it may need to adhere to legal requirements across all jurisdictions in which you operate. A central repository of approved content meeting legal requirements ready and easily accessible for teams to use when needed helps to keep legal risk to a minimum.

Finished File Repository

Many organizations, especially in print and publishing, keep a repository of the components used to create the products they have brought to market. By storing them in a DAM, each piece of the whole can be made searchable. When all parts of a book are searchable, it is possible to update it and send it to the press as a second edition while there is demand.

Finished file repositories allow organizations to store files based on regulatory requirements, as a historical archive, a photo library, or any of dozens of other reasons. Having all your assets in a single place where they are tagged and easy to find reduces time wasted chasing the content you need.

Marketing Automation and Distribution

Many DAM systems have plugins connecting them to various parts of the MarTech ecosystem like:

  • Web Content Management Systems
  • Social Media Platforms
  • Ad Servers
  • Demand Side Platforms
  • Supply Side Platforms
  • Dynamic Content Engines
  • Omni-channel marketing platforms

Most DAM systems can distribute the assets they manage in their original format or converted to various sizes and resolutions. Asset metadata can be used to identify if and when it is distributed. Tagging information can determine if an asset is included as the payload of an automated process. Additionally, automated tasks can be implemented with minimal effort when assets are properly tagged.

Pureplay DAM platforms often have out-of-the-box integrations with various parts of the MarTech ecosystem. DAM platforms that are part of highly connected ecosystems provide one-stop-shop solutions preferred by IT organizations. These “full-featured” solutions typically include multiple integrated solutions that share information that might otherwise require customization. Ecosystem solutions, however, do not support all functionality users require to make life easier which may be part of best-in-class platforms from companies with a more singular focus on DAM.

Regardless of where you need to get your assets, and in which form, DAM enables consistent and audited delivery ensuring that assets get where they need to be when they need to be there. 

Rights Management and Access Control

No matter the DAM you are using or considering, having consistent and complete rights information associated with assets is important. Users know how, where, and when assets can be used when rights information is available. This knowledge reduces the risk of litigation because of improper use. Controlling which users can see and when they can see assets protects IP and ensures that sensitive assets are only available to authorized users.

Rights management in DAM solutions is typically provided either through metadata tagging or integration with a rights management system. Both rights metadata and integrations with rights management platforms are valid solutions. Each solution has its pros and cons. When users have the rights data they need to make informed asset use decisions, the risk of litigation decreases.

There are two primary mechanisms DAM platforms on the market today provide access control:

  • Folder-based systems
  • Metadata-based systems

Directory-based systems typically use ACLs (access control lists) to determine if an asset is accessible to a user or not. Folder-based systems provide access control in the same way as the file system on your computer. Access management based on directories or folders is time-consuming and challenging to manage.

Metadata-based systems provide access control too. Instead of using file and folder permissions, they depend on how assets are tagged to control access. Metadata-based systems assign a filter to users and groups that limit users to a portion of the assets in the system. These systems typically offer more flexibility and more granular access control. Managing a metadata-based system is often easier because librarians can update access to assets by changing their metadata.


Understanding what DAM is and knowing some of its primary use cases is the beginning of your DAM journey. The feature set you need for your DAM depends on the use case your organization is addressing. Clearly defining the purpose of your DAM and system requirements will make it easier to identify the right solution. There are many DAM solutions on the market today; selecting the right one is important to your DAM success. If you need guidance on your journey, contact us, we are here to help.

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