“Does anyone have photos of staff in the field, doing water resource analysis?” “We’ve got an interview coming up and I have a presentation to create, can you send me a few public outreach images ASAP?” “Do you have a .jpg of our company logo?” “Do you have a flow chart of the EIS process?”
These were questions the corporate marketing group at SWCA Environmental Consultants frequently received at the corporate office from staff looking for images and graphics. As our company grew and the demands for photos and graphics rose, we realized our central library hosted on our corporate server wasn’t adequately meeting the business needs in a timely fashion. It was also putting constraints on the corporate staff that were assisting with the image requests. When we added it all up, we knew it was time to consider a better alternative. So, at the end of 2011, we sought out a better solution. Enter the digital asset management system, aka the DAM.
What The Heck Is A DAM?
A DAM is simply an online, on-demand, central repository for company photos and graphics (digital assets). We started the process by looking at four different systems used in our industry and evaluated adaptability, ease of use, expansion, and costs. Most of the systems could get us to where we wanted to be, but one in particular piqued our interest due to its integration with Deltek Vision. Based on our demos, references and costs of the system, we chose Open Asset, from Axiomic, a UK-based company with many customers in the A/E/C industry. Open Asset is a mid-level system that isn’t too flashy but gives us the ease of use, flexibility and accessibility that we were looking for in a system.
Before we could start using the system, we had to find and move all of our digital assets into one central location. This meant having proposal coordinators throughout the company pull their most commonly used, high-end project and reference images into one location on the corporate server. Trying to accomplish this with 24 offices was easier said than done. The next step was surveying our coordinators to select and rank commonly used keywords, category structures and key fields from Vision that would make sense to the core group using the database. From this we started building the structure that would be used in the library to assign searchable keywords, project and reference categories. Simultaneously, we needed to update the naming convention of our images in our existing folder-based corporate library so that all images followed a uniform naming standard.
Once we had all of the images from the offices and all of the renamed images in the correct folders, we were ready for data migration into the system. This was the easy part. Once the 14,000 images were uploaded into the system, it was time for us to get to work again building the categories and keywords into the system. Additionally, we had to work with the Vision Connector to set up select project fields to seamlessly migrate project data (for use in the online library templates) from Vision to Open Asset. Over the next several months, marketing staff tagged, deleted, ranked and QA/QC’d images. When we were at a point where most images had appropriate tags, we launched the system internally to the marketing team for first review. During the review we refined the system as needed, then launched to our user base throughout the company. Users can now upload and tag images to an access area which is reviewed by the marketing team for approval on a weekly basis.
The DAM system is still in the early phases of use and still a work in progress. As with any database, it’s only as good as those who use, fine tune, and continue to add to it. With a system in place there is a sense of relief and kudos from those who have desired an online library and now have a resource available on demand. Our staff has nothing but good things to say about it; how easy it is to use, how much time it saves; and that it keeps their frustration levels low.
And, we’re DAM happy about that.
Why would you need a Digital Asset Management system?
- Do you spend a lot of time looking for photos?
- Are your photos and graphics stored in many different places (CDs, servers, folders on desktop, folders on other office servers)?
- Does your staff store their photos on their local drives or their own computer?
- Do others around the company need to have access to those images as well?
- Do you spend time converting images to specific formats?
If you answered YES to any of those questions you’re just the candidate for a digital asset management system (DAM).
- Saves times
- One central location for all to use
- Easy to find images you want
- Easy for other users to upload
- Central toolbox
- Build and share albums for commonly used images
- Preserve your assets in one place (all historical images, etc.)
- Ditch the CDs, DVDs and backups
- Streamline processes
- Integration with Vision (data flow is seamless and consistent)
- Create templates in PPT/In Design for others to be used on the fly as needed
- Dedicate staff members to help build the system.
- Gather your images in a central location (try to do this ahead of time).
- Survey your staff on commonly used keywords.
- Take a poll on who will use the system the most. You’ll probably find it’s a small core group and not the entire company. More licenses mean more cost to the company.
- A DAM is only for the assets you’ve taken and built. It’s not a place to store stock (istockphoto, shutterstock, etc) images unless you’ve purchased a multi-seat license.
Other systems evaluated:
Adobe Bridge – Already integrated into Adobe Creative Suites. Easily drag and drop images into your documents.
Cons: Every coordinator would need it installed on their system; still would access a folder based system. Would need to purchase CS platform for all coordinators.
Widen Collective – Intensive but easy to use system on the front end that many users can access and use within minutes of training. Allows a variety of assets and files. Instantly download marketing materials and images anytime, anywhere. Storage based in the cloud with maintenance handled by their tech team. No reliance on an internal IT dept. Lots of bells and whistles.
Cons: Cost. Additional costs could add up quickly for add-ons. Too much for what we needed.
NetXposure – A very impressive DAM package that includes integration with Creative Suites and Vision. A slick system with a slick price.
Cons: Cost. Too much system for our needs.