What is Digital Asset Management (DAM)? A definition

Digital asset management (DAM) consists of management tasks and decisions surrounding the ingestion, annotation, cataloguing, storage, retrieval and distribution of digital assets (Source:Wikipedia).

DAM is a concept that starts from the assumption that certain files (assets) have a high intrinsic value to an organization (for example brand identity artwork files). This value can be amortized across multiple uses more readily by using a database system (instead of a file system) to track, organize, display and distribute these assets. (Source: damagemag.com/DAMDictionary.htm).

In DAM, files with high intrinsic value, are recognized as valuable assets of the organization or business, are called digital assets and are often managed with the same care as physical assets.

DAM systems, typically software or web based services, provides tools to store, manage and securely distribute digital assets (files) to authorized users.

The 10 Characteristics of a DAM

The DAM Foundation attempts to define a standard of requirements for a DAM to be classed as a DAM.

The Ten Characteristics of a Digital Asset Management system that are suggested are: 

  1. DAM systems ingest assets individually or in mass sets, and allow for the manipulation of those assets and their metadata individually or with mass actions.
  2. DAM systems secure the assets they contain. Security in a DAM extends to defining access control lists (ACLs) for assets and defining roles for users accessing the system.
  3. DAM systems store assets as both binaries and metadata. A DAM system can store multiple file types, and allows for the customisation of metadata fields and the metadata in those fields attached to the stored files.
  4. DAM systems render/transform assets on ingest into new forms, such as thumbnails or proxy files. The new forms generated on asset ingest via transformation should all be stored as asset parts of the original file uploaded.
  5. DAM systems enrich assets through the extension of metadata and metrics regarding the use and reuse of the asset throughout its lifecycle.
  6. DAM systems relate assets by tracking the relationships between and among an original asset and versions/variants of the original. Versioning and version control tools are central to an asset’s life in a DAM system.
  7. DAM systems regulate a structured process in the management, creation, and review of assets with workflow tools. Via programmed workflows, DAMs allow for a decentralised work force to collaborate together in a centralised system.
  8. DAM systems allow for users to find assets and to retrieve those assets by facilitating search through metadata, collections, workflows, and access control tools. By increasing the discovery of assets that may not have been easily accessible before ingest, a DAM assists workers in leveraging existing content for maximum work potential.
  9. DAM systems have a preview function that allows users to view assets before downloading or opening a file on their own device. By allowing users to take a look at assets in search quickly, without download, DAM systems reduce the amount of time users must spend in search. 
  10. DAM systems produce/publish content by providing methods whereby assets may be shared, linked to, or otherwise be distributed outside the system. This DAM function may be as simple as generating a URL on ingest or as complex as allowing users to build collections of items for sharing with a work group.