Digital Asset Management Education Experts

Special Report: Buying Corporate DAM Systems: A Manager's Guide To Procurement Best Practices

This report offers purchasing and procurement tips for managers involved in decisions about selecting a DAM system. Also included is an example RFP with questions that specifically relate to Digital Asset Management.

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Enterprise Digital Asset Management: A Guide For IT Professionals

Practical advice for IT professionals on issues from systems integration to the IT infrastucture requirements for Digital Asset Management.

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Video Digital Asset Management: 12 Crucial Points For Marketers

Marketing managers are invited to consider 12 crucial points that will determine the success or failure of a web video archive.

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Digital Asset Catalogues That Reflect The Needs Of Your Business

In this article, we explain why metadata taxonomies should be orientated around the nature of the organisation and how intuitive cataloguing systems are vital to the success of digital asset management systems.

One of the most important factors for any Digital Asset Management Solution is how quickly and with what degree of accuracy users are able to find media that matches their needs. To achieve this, assets should be catalogued in a predictable and conventional manner, reflective of the business sector and culture of the organisation.

This advice is so obvious as to be almost intuitive, yet many people will be surprised at the number of occasions it is ignored by vendors and buyers of DAM solutions alike. There are a lot of reasons why this is the case, but the chief one is the vendor’s reluctance to customise their product for different sectors. In this article, we explain why this scenario occurs and how you can avoid it happening.

Media assets rarely fit neatly into straightforward categories and often cross multiple business units, departments and projects. Frequently assets can be re-used to avoid the need for re-originating new material. It is therefore not suitable to associate assets with just one category, but necessary to allow for multiple categorisation to produce the best search results.

The approach taken by many DAM systems to provide targeted search facilities to is to use multi-level keyword hierarchies. These are popular with specialist media asset suppliers like stock photo libraries where the range of subjects covered can be quite diverse. Since corporate DAM systems are often based on similar technologies and techniques originally innovated by stock libraries, it is not entirely surprising why they still persist. A construction related example is shown:

Health & Safety

Protective Clothing

Fluorescent Jacket

The context of the asset is therefore provided by the keywords themselves, rather than the system. So, if one were to swap the terms used, it is quick and easy to reapply this to another different sector:

Film & Video

Children's Entertainment


This is convenient for the vendor as the problem of making the software fit the sector to which it is being applied becomes sub-contracted to the client's users. Since it is presumed that they know the most about their business sector, they can determine the keywords and hierarchies used. Occasionally, a consultant may have developed an initial taxonomy and it is possible to purchase 'off the shelf' word lists from specialist firms to provide a taxonomy framework.

The main problem is that these approaches do not work in a real-world corporate context. Why? Because most firms do not often have a dedicated, specialist team of asset cataloguers. Existing employees are often tasked with the responsibilities of asset cataloguing, in addition to their usual roles. Pressure to deliver projects and meet deadlines does not afford staff time to deliberate over the most appropriate and consistent keywords or categories.

In projects Daydream have participated in, we have found that of keyword taxonomies containing hundreds of words (or more), typically less than 10% will be actually used when staff are cataloguing assets. In most cases, staff will choose one or two terms but no others. Cataloguing also tends to be uneven as those with more time available will select more words and the terms selected may refelect particular industry trends or brand initiatives rather than the true nature of the asset being catalogued. The common outcome is that assets with no real greater merit over others, end up being found in searches and used simply because they have been catalogued with more descriptive terms.

In our experience, keywords is an unsuitable term. Concepts is frequently more appropriate and a more realistic reflection of how much you can reasonably expect staff to do to help keep digital asset catalogues accurate and relevant. Rather than a complex hierarchy of terms, our method is to develop an interconnected series of categories that users can choose quickly from pick-lists and menus. For example, a large, service oriented company that may choose to organise itself according to target sectors, may use descriptions such as:

· Business Unit
· Markets
· Concept
· Services
· Project
· Country
· Language
· Clients

By contrast, a medium size business that primarily markets commodity oriented items may use concepts such as these:

· Department
· Product Line
· Country
· Language

As should be apparent, there is no 'right' method. The unique characteristics of the business are crucial in determining what to use. Another factor to consider is the extent to which there are inter-relationships between each concept, for example, using the above example, SKU may need relate to Product Line and in large companies, business units may sub-divide into multiple divisions.

Although this creates more complexity for the developer of the DAM system, by using a sector and company specific approach, staff are provided with more guidance about how to catalogue the asset, and are therefore able to tag assets quickly and effectively. This ultimately can have a significant improvement on the system's ROI.


It is clear that generic metadata hierarchies do not best serve the users and managers of corporate asset catalogues. Rather, users require relevant, business-related taxonomies, which they can easily understand. Any vendor of a DAM solution should be willing and able to customise the cataloguing system to match the needs of your business. Beware those who encourage you to 'shoe horn' asset metadata into an abstract method that suits their product. You may pay the consequences of a reduced ROI for the lifetime of the system.

Where can I find out more?

Controlled Vocabularies for use with Digital Asset Libraries
This article discusses how to provide users with alternatives to a simple keyword free text search.

Digital Asset Management Glossary
A glossary explaining many of the terms commonly used in Digital Asset Management.

Digital Asset Management Whitepapers
Our expanding library of free to download reports, whitepapers, articles and other on-line resources.

Our own Digital Asset Management Blog with opnion and news about Digital Asset Management subjects.

About the Author

Ralph Windsor is a senior partner in digital asset management implementation consultants, Daydream. He has eighteen years experience of delivering DAM and content technology solutions acquired as a developer, project manager and consultant working with global clients such as WS Atkins, Major League Baseball, BNP Paribas and The British Museum.

To find out more about Daydream and our service, please email or telephone us on: +44 (0)20 7096 1471.