Many organizations today, large and small, have a digital asset problem. Companies are amassing huge libraries of images, videos, audio recordings, documents, and other files — while relying on shared folders and email to move them around the organization. As asset libraries explode, digital asset management (DAM) is crucial for keeping things accessible and up to date, so teams can spend more time getting work done and less time hunting for files.

First Things First: DAM isn’t Dropbox

Some folks still equate DAM with basic digital storage solutions, like Dropbox or Google Drive. While those are great for simple sharing needs, they’re essentially just file cabinets in the cloud.

DAM technology is purpose-built to optimize the way you store, maintain, and distribute digital assets. A DAM platform not only streamlines day-to-day content work; it also systematizes the processes and guidelines that govern content quality and use.

Today’s DAMs have sophisticated functionality that offers a host of benefits, including:

Is it time for your business to invest in a DAM? Let’s see if you recognize the pain points below:

The 5 Signs You Need a DAM

There are some things you can’t afford not to invest in if they significantly impact your team’s creativity and productivity and your business’s bottom line. Here are some of the most common signs it’s time to invest in a DAM:

It takes more than a few seconds to find what you need.

As your digital asset library grows, it’s harder to keep sifting through it all to find things — especially if you’re deciphering other people’s folder systems. If you don’t know the exact name of an asset or the folder it’s in, you’re often looking for a needle in a haystack.

Using a DAM, you can tag assets with identifying attributes (titles, keywords, etc.) and then quickly search the entire database for the ones that meet your criteria. DAMs also offer AI- and machine-learning–based tagging, which automatically adds tags based on the content of an image or document. Voila! A searchable database with less manual labor.

You have multiple versions of documents — in multiple places.

Many of our clients, including universities, healthcare systems, libraries, and nonprofits, have large collections of policy documents. These files often live on public websites, intranets, and elsewhere, with the intent that staff can pull them up as needed.

Problem is, if there’s a policy change, you need to be sure that anywhere a document is accessed, it’s the most current version. And you can’t just delete old files on a website, because any previous links to them will go up in smoke.

DAMs are excellent at managing document updates and variations, making it easy to find and replace old versions. They can also perform in-place file swaps without breaking the connections to the pieces of content that refer to a particular file.

You’re still managing assets by email.

With multiple team members or departments relying on the same pool of digital assets for a variety of use cases, some poor souls will spend hours every day answering email requests, managing edits, and transferring files. The more assets and channels you’re dealing with, the more unwieldy this gets.

DAMs facilitate collaboration by providing a single, centralized platform where team members can assign tasks, track changes, and configure permissions and approval processes. As a result, content creators know they’re using the most up-to-date, fully approved assets.

Your website doubles as a dump bin.

If your website is the source of assets for your entire organization, it can be a roadblock for other departments that need to use those assets in other places. They need to know how to find assets, download copies, and obtain sizes or formats that differ from the web-based versions… and there may or may not be a web team to assist.

What’s more, some web hosting providers offer limited storage space. If you have a large and growing digital library, you’ll hit those limits in no time.

A DAM provides a high-capacity, centralized location where staff can easily access current, approved digital assets in various sizes and formats.

You’re duplicating assets you already have.

How many times have you had different teams purchase assets like stock photography and audio tracks, when they could have shared the files instead? Or, maybe your storage folders are overrun with duplicates. Instead of relying on teams to communicate whenever they create or use an asset, you could simplify things with a DAM.

Storing and tagging all your assets, in various sizes and formats, in a DAM enables your teams to:

When Should You Implement a DAM?

You can implement a DAM whether you have an existing website or you’re building a new one. DAM technology easily complements platform builds or redesigns, helping to make websites and intranets even more powerful. Organizing all of your assets in a DAM before launching a web project also makes it easier to migrate them to your new platform and helps ensure that nothing gets lost.

Plus, we’ve seen companies cling to old websites when too many departments are still using assets that are hosted on the site. Moving your assets out of your website and into a DAM frees you up to move on.

If you’re curious about your options for a DAM platform, there are a number of solutions on the market. Our partner Acquia offers an excellent DAM platform with an impressive range of functions for organizing, accessing, publishing, and repurposing assets, automating manual processes, and monitoring content metrics.

Other candidates to consider include Adobe Experience Manager AssetsBynderPictureParkCantoCloudinaryBrandfolder, and MediaValet.

Given the number of DAMs on the market, choosing the right solution is a process. We’re happy to share our experience in DAM use and implementation, to help you find the best one for your needs. Just get in touch with any questions you have.


THE BRIEF

A Creative Beacon Sets a New Path

The RISD Museum is the 20th largest art museum in the United States with over 100,000 objects in its collection, including Ancient art, costumes, textiles, painting, sculpture, contemporary art, furniture, photography, and more. The museum occupies more than 72,000 square feet in three historic and two contemporary buildings along Providence’s bustling South Main Street and riverfront.

We often say that a website redesign is more like a collective therapy session — it’s an opportunity to air grievances in a safe space, to think about the future untethered to the present situation, and make decisions that could change the course of the organization. Since many websites are more than just a marketing platform, a redesign can affect the entire organization and the way they communicate their value to their own team and the world.

At the heart of this project were large, existential questions:

What does it mean to be a physical institution collecting physical objects in a digital world?

What do viewers want out of a museum experience in an interactive space?

Can a museum be more relaxed about how viewers will interpret the work?

Open Source the Museum’s Entire Collection

Behind the Museum’s initiative to re-platform the website from a closed system to an open source system like Drupal 8 was another, perhaps even larger, initiative: a plan to “open source” the museum’s entire collection. They will bring all 100,000 objects online (they have a little over 13,000 available prior to launch, a mere 13%) and use a Creative Commons license system that allows visitors to download and repurpose high-resolution images whenever the objects are in the public domain. This was the heart of the revolution upon which the RISD Museum was about to embark.


THE APPROACH

MuseumPlus & Drupal 8 equals Open Access

The heavy lift for our engineers was an integration with RISD’s museum software, MuseumPlus. MuseumPlus needed to continue to be the source of truth for any object, artist, or exhibition. The teams again collaborated extensively to work towards an API that could provide all the correct information

between the two databases, and a system of daily jobs and manual overrides to start a synchronization process. As the online connection grows, these connections will be the critical link between the public-facing object data and the internal records.

The aesthetics of the site became a structural backdrop for the objects, artwork, and images of people in the physical spaces of the museum.

Gray and white wireframes evolved into a black and white interface that kept information clear and clean while allowing the colors of the artwork to shine through. Language around the site’s architecture was simplified and tested for clarity. An element of time — words like Soon, Upcoming, Now, Ongoing, Past — keeps the visitor grounded around the idea of a physical visit, while open access to objects online serves a whole community of art lovers and historians that may never be able to visit in person.

A bold storytelling idea came out of our collective collaborative process — the homepage experience opens with four videos, a cinematic exterior shot and three interior videos that explore the three main sections of the navigation. The homepage becomes a gateway into the physical space. Choosing a path via the navigation takes the viewer inside to explore the spaces and the objects. Instead of a homepage that assumes a visitor wants to see everything and then choose something to explore deeper, this one introduces them to the content in a way that connects them to the physical space.


THE RESULTS

Site visit patterns have seen significant improvement — sessions per user and pages per session have increased while bounce rate has decreased. Thanks are due in part to the new hosting environment with Acquia, which has provided hefty speed increases and stability — page load times have decreased, server response time is significantly less, and page download time is far less as well.


FINAL THOUGHTS

An Evolving Partnership

As the RISD Museum grows their online collection even further, we have identified a backlog of ideas that we’d love to address, from a more fully featured search, an integrated audio guide, and a more open and collaborative way for users to share back what they have done with the museum’s assets. A new Drupal 8 implementation gives the museum plenty of room to grow virtually. The collaborative relationship between Oomph and the RISD Museum is only beginning.


Want to know a little more? — J. Hogue, Director of Design & UX at Oomph, and Jeremy Radtke, Assistant Director, Digital Initiatives, RISD Museum, gave a presentation at Design Week RI on September 20, 2018, all about the process of the redesign.