10 Pitfalls of the DAM'd
Digital asset management projects do not figure in the long and inglorious history of failed information technology projects as often as ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) initiatives; they are typically smaller in scale.
But failures exist. There are many ways to get a DAM (digital asset management) project wrong, and only one way to get it right. By 'getting it right', we mean that the organization enjoys a reasonable return on its investment within a year of going live.
Here are some pitfalls we have run into over the past decade:
1. Project scope is too broad. Choose a high-value and well-bounded problem, in which a 'win' will have good visibility within the organization. This ensures management will support the next phase, and the project team will have an internal 'reference customer' to help sell the changes in workflow to new users. The first phase of any DAM project is building a repository of useful asset files, and rolling them out to the users who need them most, creating a model of 'self service access'.
2. Poor leadership. All major projects need two kinds of leaders: a senior management champion whose commitment of energy, political capital, and resources provides 'air cover' for the project team; and a project manager who orchestrates the project resources to ensure goals are met. No senior champion means a project manager might find his work blocked by entrenched interests. No strong hands-on manager to lead it means a DAM project can degenerate into expensive over-reliance on the software vendor.
3. False expectations about benefits. There are typically four constituencies with expectations about what the DAM project will achieve: senior management looks for financial returns and strategic advantage; middle management looks for operational improvements, satisfied customers, and financial returns; internal users look for greater autonomy; external customers want better service. Be sure to solicit input from all stakeholders.
4. False expectations about operation of the system. The software vendor got the deal by promising that their product has certain capabilities. It is still perfectly possible that the end-user's ideas on how the system should work are radically different from how it actually works. Thoroughly assess your requirements, and evaluate the product before you spend the money.
5. Too much software customization. Remember that customization goes beyond development. You will also need to pay for software requirements definition, documentation, testing, and revisions.
6. Failing to get a balanced view of project requirements. If the IT department leads the project, a frequent complaint among users is that IT tries to force creative users into a technology straitjacket. Conversely, a line-of-business led project might ignore the legitimate needs of the corporate IT group for platform standards, vendor qualification, security, etc.
7. Picking the wrong system architecture. Usually, the demand for a DAM system arises from a specific departmental need. Sometimes companies buy a system that meets only that immediate need, and lacks scalability. Look carefully at the different types of repository technology. For example, if you need to support heavy-duty graphics production users, you will need the ability for project content to be indexed and linked to the project master file. And be sure to stick to non-proprietary standards.
8. Forgetting about the metadata. Someone has to get information about the digital assets into the system—a monumental task. New workflows will have to be devised, so that metadata is routinely captured. This must not be an afterthought!
9. Inadequate user training and documentation. There are plenty of examples of expensive 'shelfware'—software that does not get used, because the users failed to embrace it. Your users need training and documentation beyond the manual. Publish use policies, tips, and best practices for each user role.
10. Lack of success criteria. If the goals of the project are not clearly set out from the start, it will be impossible to define success.
Don't be deterred from adopting DAM. Tread carefully around these 10 pitfalls, and celebrate when you are done, so users know the new system is now part of their daily routine.
- Chris Lynn
Chris Lynn is a partner with Hillam Technology Partners LLC, Atlanta. He can be reached at Info@HillamTech.com.