Don't Let Your Digital Assets Join the Walking Dead

Here are some considerations to ensure your most valuable digital asset management resources remain among the living.

Have your digital assets turned into a hoard of zombies? Do they take up space on your drives, milling about aimlessly with no particular focus, just waiting for the next digital creation to arrive so they can morph it into one of their own? If your digital asset management (DAM) strategy better resembles a scene from The Walking Dead, then maybe it's time to reassess and put a solution in place to stop your valuable assets from becoming liabilities.

There are three key areas that must be properly managed for your DAM to be at its most effective: the digital assets themselves, your people and the tools they use to interact with the assets, and finally the associated workflow.

Avoiding the Digital Asset Apocalypse

To avoid creating a digital apocalypse, you must take a proactive approach and create a systematic environment that eliminates the possibility of lost assets. With proper governance, you can keep them from becoming one of the walking digital dead.

People-Adapting your group to the new reality

Those who adapt will survive.

Nothing hurts a company more than refusing to accept new realities and willfully ignoring steps to correct course. With every DAM implementation, change management topics become front and center. People are one of the most critical aspects in avoiding a failed strategy. Users who are poorly trained or ill equipped to handle your organization's most precious assets will inevitably lead to assets being poorly leveraged or reused, or even lost.

For a DAM strategy to succeed users need to clearly understand their role in the digital asset creation process and the proper tools and protections must be in place to protect them from overstepping their bounds. Organizations must allow the appropriate permission levels for all users so they're not hindered in doing their jobs, but the integrity of the DAM is protected. The DAM structure must be designed to support a diverse set of users-from creative pros, to marketers, to external partners-and all must be able to interact with the system seamlessly (and only after proper training).

Processes-Implement a zombie-proof workflow

One of the biggest problems survivors face in apocalypse is a breakdown in the overall structure of society. Instead of a community fighting for the common good, everyone focuses energy on selfish interests and their own survival. Hoarding becomes common. When you think about how your organization treats digital assets, does this sound familiar?

Here's how to bring back order:

Establish an effective workflow. Workflows are critical to avoiding the digital dead, and a well-designed workflow will allow key people to provide critical inputs while still advancing the digital asset through the development process.

Obsessively track digital assets. Monitor the progress of a digital asset from initial creation through final approval. Ensure that assets don't become a bottleneck to your digital business and ensure that they are highly utilized.

Design and enforce a metadata management process. Implement an easy-to-use metadata strategy that has basic rules for adding metadata and keywords during the creation process. All users should have a minimum set of required entries and let the system manage some of the validation (required, formatting, correct tag usage, context, etc.). And be sure to add a final review step to your workflow to ensure that a person validates that metadata tags are complete, accurate, and descriptive.

Define a disposal and archive process. Digital assets are not meant to survive forever, and when they've reached the end of their useful lives there must be a process to dispose of or archive them.

Establish a feedback loop for continuous improvement. Keep track of the process and monitor progress to make improvements when necessary.

Technology-Choosing the right tools for the job

When your users are poorly equipped or have the wrong tools to manage assets, productivity is lost very quickly. Using the right tool for the job can make all the difference in getting your digital business back on track.

Tap into the wisdom of crowds. Selecting the right tools for the job requires preparation, planning, and socialization. You must establish what you intend the tool to accomplish, understand your budget, and obtain feedback from applicable stakeholders (creative, marketing, Web, operations, and branding) before you even begin shopping.

Plan for the long-term. When selecting a tool, don't just consider your current situation. Yes, you must address the immediate survival, but consider where technology sits in the long haul. Does it integrate with your existing tools and systems (creative, PIM, WCM, etc.)? Should it? Considering the long-term view will ensure that your final choice will give your system a longer, useful life.

Don't delay waiting for the perfect strategy. If you wait for a flawless opportunity you'll join the ranks of the useless. At the end of the day, there will never be one perfect solution, and your needs will evolve over time.

Implementing an effective strategy to manage your digital assets shouldn't be as difficult as surviving The Walking Dead. By closely considering and choosing the people, process and technology that make up your strategy, you'll ensure that your most valuable resources remain among the living.