Controlling Your Assets Doesn’t Mean Suffocating Them

Jul 08, 2014

In the world of digital asset management (DAM), management of assets is, obviously, the key. Management may also include such notions as ingestion, transcoding, and delivery. In many organizations, DAM is largely about access control and control over your assets to ensure brand consistency and proper usage. This is all fine in theory, but what happens in practice, sometimes, is what I call "asset suffocation."

By "asset suffocation," I mean such situations in which control over access and usage of digital assets is so tight, no one is actually able to use those assets-in essence, defying the entire purpose of a DAM system in the organization. And this is one of the top stumbling blocks for adoption of your new (or existing) DAM system that you worked so hard to procure and implement.

Let's imagine a situation where a designer says, "They have to come to me, if they need a logo." This is understandable, as the designer wants to ensure his clients or colleagues are using the latest company logo and using the right variation in the right situation. However, chances are, the folks searching for said logo will go to the DAM system, or maybe the intranet, and will find some version of a logo that was uploaded once upon a time. They will use that version, as they believe this is the correct logo. It is a good bet that the logo may be vastly outdated or intended for an entirely different usage scenario. Who wins?

Or imagine a product manager who is not willing to upload assets from the latest product photo shoot into the DAM system-even those pretty, approved, and retouched ones-for the fear that they will be misused by resellers and partners, etc. Where do those assets end up? "Suffocating" in personal desktop folders or in Dropbox, under a tightly closed control cap.

I see situations similar to what I previously mentioned in real-life cases while consulting with various clients; I always advise them to use the benefits of the DAM system that are built-in to allow controlled, yet free, flow of data and sharing of that data and avoid asset suffocation. There are multiple ways to control access as well as version controls in pretty much any DAM system you will find on the current market. You can set up various roles and groups and give each of them access to only specific workspaces, collections, folders, and even assets in the system. On top of that, you should also even be able to limit the actions each user is allowed to take: view only, download low resolution only, and download high resolution, etc.

The worst you can do with your DAM system is not use it and hide the assets under the veil of personal hard drives or cloud storage, only disseminating those assets when someone specifically comes to you and asks for a certain one. This is hardly controlling and managing your assets-it's hoarding them.

With proper reporting setup, you can track where those assets are used, who downloaded them and when, and for what channel they wanted to use the asset. You can also accompany sensitive assets with metadata that describes proper usage of that company logo; the metadata can include any geographical or commercial restrictions, as well as whether it's necessary to confirm and get approval from designers or legal. Multiple checks can be put in place to ensure proper usage, including watermarking and digital marking to be able to track your assets even further.

There are no guarantees, of course, that some asset won't eventually be used in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and by the wrong person. No technology can fully prevent that from happening. But that doesn't mean risk management should become so overbearing that the free flow of digital assets and initiative to use them creatively become paralyzed. If you see suffocating assets in your organization, it would probably make sense to shift gears and consider changing mindsets and attitudes. "What should you do?" you ask. Moving away from fear and onto the road to collaboration is one way to ensure your assets are protected, yet available to users. If I could summarize my advice in a few words I would say map out, design, implement, refine, and communicate widely.