long road heading off into the horizon
PHOTO: Matt Duncan

Effective governance is one of the major factors determining the ultimate success or failure of a DAM initiative. Some less experienced DAM users find applying the principles to real world problems more demanding than they realized. In this article, I'll examine common examples of DAM governance issues and suggest some tools and techniques to address them.

Examples of DAM Governance Issues

DAM users will encounter governance issues across the entire spectrum of DAM-related activities. Below are some examples I have seen when working with clients to help them optimize and troubleshoot their DAM implementations. 

  • The business uses a number of digital assets which are owned by third parties. One group of sales-focussed DAM users wants rapid access to assets so they can prepare customer presentations more quickly. Another group who purchase assets are concerned they may be used in a way that breaks the terms of the asset licenses, exposing the business to litigation risks.
  • Digital asset managers discovered a significant number of high-quality digital assets were not being ingested into the DAM because the staff who control them are required to go through a lengthy upload workflow which required asset checks and approval. The policy was put in place because a number of unsuitable or low-quality material was at one point uploaded and this reduced trust in the DAM, which in turn impacted adoption.
  • The marketing department, who are the primary sponsors of the DAM, makes extensive use of predefined collections of digital assets for specific campaigns. They then share these with all other DAM users. All users can create their own collections and also share them with others. The marketing collections are getting lost among the others so marketing would like to prevent other users from creating their own ones. As an alternative to creating collections, users have begun downloading assets they want to use and storing them in folders on their own workstations.

Clearly there are some bad practices in evidence above, yet there are no definitive right or wrong answers about how to deal with them. A careful analysis of context and circumstance is needed before recommending a course of action. Note also that the DAM software itself is far less of a source of the problem than the behavior of the people who are using it.

Related Article: The Uncomfortable Truth About DAM

General Principles of Handling DAM Governance Issues

The challenges described above all have a variety of causal factors and require a different set of solutions. Further, while one approach might work for one group of DAM users, it could fail with another. As with many issues in DAM, there are relatively few absolutes. However, some general core principles do apply and form the basis of a strategy: 

  • The primary purpose of most digital asset management initiatives is to increase the accessibility of assets. As such, the bias should be towards using restrictions and digital controls sparingly rather than as a default for every scenario.
  • The thorniest governance problems tend to involve conflicting requirements between two or more groups of stakeholders.
  • These differences of opinion are frequently generated by risk versus perceived productivity arguments. One group of stakeholders are worried about the consequences of relinquishing control, another find the DAM configuration is hindering their ability to carry out a task. As such, raw data or the subconscious memory of your DAM initiative. 

    Related Article: The DAM solution's reporting tools should help with a lot of this, but the audit trail can help fill in gaps where it does not. Again, include the performance reporting (and potential issues arising as a result) as an agenda item at your governance meetings.

    Revising Policies and Procedures

    The incident log, reports and discussions during meetings will typically require altering policies and, therefore, procedures as well. Keep both current and up-to-date. If the documented policies and procedures are not in alignment with what is happening day-to-day in the DAM, they become useless.

    Anecdotal Reports and Focus Groups

    A DAM's built-in reports and audit trail data provide useful information, however that information needs to be contextualized. Sometimes, the data doesn't reflect what's really happening. For example, if an asset has no downloads, it might suggest a lack of demand for the asset. But if users are reporting a need for particular assets that they cannot find, the metadata may not align with their expectations. Digital asset managers need to keep their ears to the ground. Often these vitally important pieces of feedback are the result of ad-hoc interactions, rather than found in the auditing data and reporting tools alone.

    Focus groups can be valuable for getting real feedback. I recommend delivering training for the DAM in conjunction with the focus group, so they offer something in return for the participants.

    DAM Governance Is a Never-Ending Cycle

    Effective DAM governance is about having a rational and scientific approach to managing an organization's digital asset operations. It is composed of these core activities:

    • Hypothesising about how to deal with issues.
    • Formalising plans into written policies and procedures.
    • Collecting hard data as well as user feedback.
    • Reviewing the data.
    • Looking for opportunities to optimize or refine procedures.

    The process of DAM governance never ends. The data collected, policies, procedures and refinement thereof all add considerable value to the DAM itself.  The objective of most DAM initiatives is to develop a collection of digital assets that is greater than the sum of its parts. In establishing a culture of good DAM governance practice, you are developing the value of the DAM into an asset in its own right.