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What is Digital Asset Management (DAM)?

Digital asset management (DAM) is a system that stores, shares, and organizes digital assets like images, videos, audio files, and more, in a central location. It amplifies the benefits of creative files and their delivery to digital platforms.
Emily Nielsen

Emily Nielsen

Jul 15, 2022
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Powering the complex digital experiences of today requires a high volume of content. Assets of all shapes, sizes, and file types must come together to help organizations meet customer expectations. So where do these content assets go?

Digital asset management (DAM) is a system that stores, shares, and organizes digital assets, like images, videos, audio files, and more, in a central location. It amplifies the benefits of creative files and their delivery to digital platforms.

#What is a digital asset?

Digital assets are any digital file with the right to use. These files can range from photos and images to videos, e-books, audiovisual media, presentations, logos, etc. These digital assets are essential to modern businesses and, in many cases, are the backbone of their products.

As products and experiences move increasingly online, digital assets and their associated metadata are of paramount importance, and the number and size of many products grow exponentially.

With the rise in the number and size of digital assets, companies face the challenge of creating a system of order for these digital assets. These companies often look to digital asset management (DAM) systems to better organize their digital assets.

#What is a digital asset management (DAM) system?

Organizations use a digital asset management (DAM) system to store, organize and share digital assets, such as images, videos, and audio files, from a central location. The core features of a DAM are to store and organize digital assets using their metadata so that they can be accessed throughout the organization. These core features have now expanded to transforming, optimizing assets, managing a company’s brand, and distributing assets across teams.

Evolution of digital asset management

DAM systems started as on-premises libraries where companies could store images or other digital assets. The goal was to alleviate the problem of storing digital assets without order or easy access throughout the team. However, these libraries also created content silos, making accessing content across teams difficult.

1990s

In the early 1990s, DAM systems came about to remove content silos and make it easier to store, organize and search for digital assets. The early systems remained on-premises software focusing on industries such as publishing and media houses which needed ways to share files easily.

As the demand for digital products grew and these products became more sophisticated, DAMs adapted to storing visual media, such as photos and videos as well.

The 2010s and beyond

By the mid-2010s, companies began offering cloud-based DAMs with various integrations, mainly for marketing tools and eCommerce software.

In the present day, DAMs have evolved into powerful software that can share files easily across teams, integrate with technologies like Content Management Systems (CMSs) and Product Information Management Tools (PIMs), protect sensitive documents through increased security measures, as well as store, organize, transform, and optimize digital assets.

As consumers’ demands for digital media and experiences have grown more sophisticated, so too have the systems which organize and distribute these assets across entire organizations. Depending on an organization’s security protocols, DAMs can now be hosted in the cloud, on-premises, or a hybrid format.

Who uses DAMs today?

DAMs serve a wide range of companies, from enterprises requiring robust security protocols, guaranteed uptimes, and intra-organizational sharing capabilities to startups that look to create structure and organization for rapidly growing companies.

While DAMs can sometimes represent a large component of a company’s tech stack, they are not the only ingredient in creating the special sauce of a digital brand. As such, it is vital to understand how a DAM will fit into the extensive network of services that work together to deliver engaging content to the user.

#Why should you use a digital asset management (DAM) system?

Users demand engaging digital experiences that surprise and captivate them. Since the digital product space is so competitive, businesses must be agile to adapt to customers changing expectations without losing the integrity of their brand.

Using a DAM to manage your company’s digital assets makes it possible to keep the brand’s broader content hub performing at its highest capacity. Without a DAM, companies might struggle to:

Enable collaboration

Workflow and permission features inherent in most DAM systems enable a productive collaboration that facilitates better organization, whether coworkers are across the office or the globe. Teams can work efficiently by having access to the complete spectrum of assets, from those in progress to complete to depreciated assets. These assets are categorized using their metadata, making them easy to find and distribute to the necessary stakeholders.

Create brand consistency and institutional memory

In providing teams with a single content repository, digital content remains on-brand and high quality. A DAM also creates a timeline of the brand’s progression as it matures by providing access to older versions of content. While it is necessary to clarify which branding set is currently in use, a digital asset management hub elevates awareness of brand assets so that teams can avoid outdated or overdone messaging.

Safe-guard teams against lost work

DAMs ensure that digital assets are stored in a central asset hub along with past content versions. These features ensure that information can be recovered and that teams rely on a robust system rather than individuals. Depending on the chosen DAM, teams can create on-premise backups to provide added information security and avoid lost work.

#Digital asset management benefits

While some issues could crop up if you don’t have a DAM, there are also some benefits to adopting a DAM solution, even if doing so wasn’t a priority.

Faster time to market

Since digital assets can be easily found when using a DAM, teams can save valuable time and launch campaigns much faster. This allows growing organizations to beat out the competition and expand into new markets.

Better asset governance

DAMs improve asset governance and enable organizations to better control who has access to which assets and when. Sensitive or private content can be restricted, and brands can ensure that content doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

#How can DAMs work together with Hygraph

When working with Hygraph, your project comes with a publicly accessible DAM out of the box. As such, you can think of Hygraph as a digital asset management CMS. Teams that need more advanced permission systems may need to add another DAM that handles the organization’s assets that should not be publicly accessible.

Despite some similarities on the surface, CMSs differ from DAMs in several ways. They can, however, be paired together to create a content hub for your digital content. When a DAM is integrated with a CMS, it gives the team an extra level of security.

Assets created or edited for a specific project can be made available to team members outside the project. Changes made in the CMS are available in the DAM, and content creators can access a bigger pool of digital assets outside their projects stored in the CMS.

Teams should evaluate whether to integrate these two systems and how to do so depending on the project, team size, and scalability. If done well, this integration will bring greater productivity to the team, but for smaller or more static projects, a CMS, like Hygraph, may suffice. With built-in functionality, Hygraph’s digital asset management capabilities enable businesses to store, share, and organize digital assets to add visually engaging assets to amplify their most important content without limitations.

As one of the first internet companies in the automotive industry, AutoWeb needed a modern digital experience to match its ambition level. To accomplish this, they decided to migrate from an in-house CMS to a modern platform that could support modern digital experience so that they could move faster and grow organically.

With Hygraph, AutoWeb could call on a robust CMS and select assets in a matter of a few taps by leveraging Hygraph’s built-in DAM solution.

#DAM considerations

There are some important considerations when investing time and resources in a DAM. These vary from project to project, team to team, but these are our top considerations before investing.

Team collaboration

DAMs are intended to optimize teams’ collaboration, so if they do not have necessary permission systems, straightforward workflows, or simple integrations to Martech and Creative software. They must support a wide range of file types that can be imported, exported, and modified easily.

User experience

DAMs should also facilitate a pleasant user experience through a straightforward interface and reliable support when needed. Does the system support the versioning of assets? This feature is handy when considering workflows and avoiding losing any time trying to revert changes.

Security

A feature that is critical for companies, especially enterprises, is security. Is the system GDPR compliant, and do you have the necessary security measures to protect your data? Another important consideration is if the system has advanced digital rights permission systems that prevent assets from being misused, such as announcing a product prematurely or too many people having access to sensitive information.

Choosing the best DAM is case specific. In some cases, they may not even be necessary due to the built-in DAM functionality of SaaS services, like Hygraph offering a publicly accessible DAM through Filestack. In other cases, it may be a good idea to use an enterprise-ready DAM such as Canto or Widen.

#Frequently Asked Questions

What is digital asset management (DAM)?

Digital asset management (DAM) is an effective solution for organizations to store, organize, edit, retrieve, and share digital content. A centralized asset hub provides teams, employees, clients, and other key stakeholders with controlled access to digital assets, including images, files, videos, audio, documents, and any other asset in a digital format.

What are the benefits of digital asset management?

Cloud-based digital asset management software provides access to all your digital content anytime. Business-critical files can be accessed 24/7 (with permissions and authentication if needed) from any web device.

What is a digital asset?

Digital assets are any form of digital file. Common digital assets include images, documents, photos, presentations, and videos. Teams and companies use digital asset management software at every scale, so DAM software must support various file formats.

Do I need digital asset management software?

Digital asset management (DAM) is a system that stores, shares, and organizes digital assets in a central location. It amplifies the benefits of and simplifies access to files such as images, videos, and other media. Since DAM is a company’s content sharing and storage solution - in most scenarios, companies require a DAM solution regardless of their scale.

Internally, Marketing, Sales, and Design teams are the most frequent users of DAM software, given their immediate need to create and distribute content on behalf of the brand. Externally, customers can benefit from a company’s DAM solution by easily accessing content and assets relevant to them, served via the company’s DAM.

How does digital asset management work?

In its simplest form, DAM software provides a way to create an “asset repository” via having a central location to store all media files needed by a company. These assets are then ideally cached across a CDN and served via API in a similar form to content. Ideally, good DAM software would also allow for asset transformations on the fly to serve optimized assets depending on the device, target, platform, and other factors.

Is a headless CMS also a digital asset management (DAM) software?

In most cases, if a headless CMS is cloud-based, they offer some form of Asset Management. In the case of Hygraph, you have a headless CMS with Digital Asset Management built-in, allowing you to create, edit, and deliver files of every format (image, video, audio, PDF, etc.) from within the UI or by using the API. Hygraph also supports asset transformations out of the box.

Blog Author

Emily Nielsen

Emily Nielsen

Emily manages content and SEO at Hygraph. In her free time, she's a restaurant lover and oat milk skeptic.

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