What Is Digital Asset Management & Why You Need a DAM System

Digital asset management is the process of storing, organising, distributing, and archiving digital assets such as videos, photos, branding materials, and documents.

This process is executed through a digital asset management (DAM) system, which provides a home for digital assets where they can be stored securely and easily accessed by users with the correct permission.

A DAM system has four steps:

  1. Creating a digital asset
  2. Storing it in a DAM system
  3. Assigning metadata to the file
  4. Granting file permission to users

Digital asset management systems are primarily used by agencies, tech companies, eCommerce and retail businesses, photographers, and more. The acceleration in digital asset usage has catapulted the value of the DAM market, with the UK market value estimated at $113.2 million in 2015.

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4 Key Capabilities of a Digital Asset Management System

Digital asset management tools are designed to drive accessibility and collaboration through efficient file sharing. This helps to support strategic decision-making and ensure that all digital assets fit a business’s operational needs.

To achieve this, a DAM system provides digital asset managers with core features and capabilities such as:

1. Customisable Metadata

When a file is created, various labels, descriptions, and information are assigned to it. That includes:

  • File size
  • Date of creation
  • File name
  • Location of origin
  • Importance
  • Purpose
  • Assignee (team or employee)
  • Licensing details

Some DAM systems are designed to automate metadata management and automatically assign data upon the creation of an asset. You can see an example of this when saving a file onto a computer.

DAM systems are designed to automate metadata

The ability to customise metadata also helps to avoid duplications and makes each asset more searchable, meaning less time is spent searching for an asset.

2. File Sharing

One main function of DAM Software is to allow for easy and secure file sharing between users. By having master files stored in one location, users who have been given permission can view and download them.

Users may also need a file to be converted into different formats or to be resized, but they either don’t have the applications or the know-how to do this. Luckily, DAM systems are advanced in file accessibility and sharing, meaning that formats and sizes can be created on demand.

Essentially, one master file is saved onto a company’s DAM system and prompts each user to choose a desired file size and format, triggering an automated conversion and download.

3. Version Control

Digital assets that are used for marketing campaigns, branding, company presentations, and more will need to be updated as time goes on. So, it’s important to ensure that employees and clients are using the most current and up-to-date version of a specific file. This is where version control tools come in.

A DAM system means files are stored in one central location, meaning whoever accesses files does so from the same location as everyone else. This not only helps to avoid files being duplicated or mislabelled, but it means file versions can be updated and saved without having to update the file on multiple individual computers.

It also saves time having to request every user of that file to delete the previous version and use the new file version.

4. Permission Control

Administrators set permissions on files so that only those who should have access to certain files will get access. Whether that’s designers, sales and marketing, customer service teams, or clients.

Access to files can also be revoked when campaigns are scheduled to expire. Meaning outdated assets aren’t being used in campaigns going forward. This feature allows digital asset managers to set up permissions and approval rights, meaning only the relevant parties can upload, edit, use, and distribute digital assets.

By assigning user permissions, companies can ensure that digital assets aren’t used without authorisation or incorrectly.

Take the franchise restaurant group, Five Guys, for example. Before finding a DAM system, they stored branding assets in multiple locations like Dropbox, personal computers, and hard drives. When it came to sharing assets, large files had to be distributed via WeTransfer. But, a digital asset management solution allowed them to centralise their files and share them with a simple link.

Why Managing Your Digital Assets Is Important

The use of Digital Asset Management Software provides several benefits to businesses and helps to improve areas such as time management, employee productivity, asset accessibility, and team collaboration.

Digital assets have stark similarities to their physical counterparts. They must be stored, organised, managed, and distributed in the most effective way possible. By doing so, only then can they reach their optimal performance level.

Benefits of using digital assets

There are many different paths that businesses take to manage their digital assets. These range from spreadsheets, to whiteboards, to pen-and-paper, to software. But, no matter how you choose to manage your digital assets, the benefits are the same:

  • Increase visibility
  • Improve production cycle
  • Less time spent searching for lost or misnamed digital files
  • An increase in company-wide standardisation
  • Efficient redistribution of intellectual property
  • Allow for ease of use and accessibility
  • Provide greater security

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The Challenges of Working With Digital Assets

Working with digital assets, let alone managing them without an effective DAM system, comes with its own set of risks and challenges.

For instance, without the security and encryption features of a DAM system, files can become corrupted and exploited. Documents can also be accessed and shared by the wrong users if they’re not properly tracked.

But the most challenging part of having digital assets and not managing them correctly is the damage it can cause to business activities. Three areas are most at risk:

  1. Time-management: With no customisable metadata or quick search function, users are left to search for files and formats manually or reach out to the right personnel to gain access to a file.
  2. Branding: Version control plays a significant part in successful marketing campaigns and branding. Without it, there is the possibility that old campaign material and branding images will be used by marketing teams or clients.
  3. Scalability: With no automated expiration of old files, digital assets will begin to pile up as the years go by. Not only can this result in the need for more storage space but it can also lead to confusing file names for various versions or files being mislabelled altogether.

Understanding Digital Assets In Your Business

Digital assets are electronic files used for a variety of different purposes in business activities. They are accessed daily by employees, shared between devices, and purchased by consumers. They include:

  • Image files (PNG, JPEG, GIF, etc.)
  • Video files (MP4, AVI, MOV, etc.)
  • Audio files including podcasts and recordings (MP3, WAV, etc.)
  • Adobe suite files (InDesign, Illustrator, etc.)
  • CAD drawings
  • Presentations (Microsoft Powerpoint, Apple Keynotes, etc.)
  • PDFs
  • Documents (Excel spreadsheets, Doc files, etc.)

Today, digital assets make up the core of most business operations. 74% of marketing operations already rely on the use of their electronic files. While a 2021 Deloitte survey suggested digital assets will be very or somewhat important to their industries in the coming years.

They can even be used for financial exchange, with digital assets being used as currency since Bitcoin’s beginnings in 2009.

By closely monitoring your digital assets, you can analyse and track the lifecycle of each file. A lifecycle refers to an asset’s journey from creation to expiration, which can be broken down into four stages:

The lifecycle of a Digital Asset

1. Asset Creation

This is when a concept is brought to fruition resulting in a design, drawing, written document, photograph, or video. It may also be an action, such as scanning a paper document.

2. Asset Management

Once created and recorded with a unique identifier, managing an asset begins. This includes the approval of a design or document, minor adjustments, or further updates.

3. File Distribution

This stage involves the distribution of a digital asset to employees or the general public, through permission controls. Consider the government’s coronavirus messaging campaign in 2020. This involved countless digital assets, ranging from social media graphics, video addresses, and informative articles that would have first been sent to various teams for publishing.

4. File Expiry/Archive

There comes the point where a digital asset reaches the end of its life. This is the time when an asset is no longer relevant to a campaign and therefore becomes outdated.


What Is Digital Asset Management Software?

Digital Asset Management Software is a software solution used to securely store digital assets and allow for easy categorisation, tracking, and sharing of digital files between teams, employees, and clients.

Who Uses a Digital Asset Management System?

DAM systems are primarily used by marketing teams, clients, sales and business development personnel, and customer service teams. They are also used across industries such as retail and e-commerce, the public sector, education, manufacturing, and self-employed businesses like photography and videography.

What Types of Digital Assets Can Be Managed With a DAM System?

A DAM system will consist of digital assets and files such as images, videos, PDFs, CAD drawings, audio files, manuals, and spreadsheets.

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What Type of Assets Are You Looking to Manage?