To Build a Successful DAM Program, Adopt a Service Mindset

Kara_Crop-1Kara Van Malssen is Partner and Managing Director for Consulting at AVP.  Kara works with clients to bridge the technical, human, and business aspects of projects. Kara has supported numerous organizations with DAM selection and implementation, metadata modeling and schema development, and taxonomy development, and user experience design efforts.

Digital assets are created and used for a myriad of purposes across the business functions of an organization. To create a digital asset management program that delivers value for diverse users, adopt a service mindset. A service-oriented DAM program starts from an outside-in perspective, rather than inside out. In other words, start with the user, their needs, goals, and expectations, then design the solution to deliver the value they are looking for. 
If you start just by looking at the data, you will create a solution for data. If you start with people, you will design a solution that works.

1. Understand who your users are and what they need to do.

Get curious. It’s easy to shrug and say, “DAM is for everyone and should serve everyone.” But in reality, every single one of your users has specific needs. Don’t assume you know what those are. Find out what most of your users need most, and design accordingly.

Start by learning who you are building for (and who you are not). Reaching out and talking to the people that do (or will) use your DAM will help you understand who your key user groups are. Keep in mind that the way you think about these groups may not be by business function (e.g., marketing vs. education), but by other criteria such as frequency of use (the daily users vs the infrequent users). Creating personas can help you capture some of the differentiators, expectations, and goals of these groups.

Second, understand their jobs to be done. What are the circumstances under which they might look for an asset? What do they need it for? What are they going to do immediately after finding it? By learning their motivations and goals for the DAM, you can enable (or disable) system features that will benefit most people, or focus content strategy to feature assets they can use quickly. Creating narrative usage scenarios and journey maps can help you prototype the expected user experience.

2. Understand their discovery behaviors.

A DAM system is only as good as its search, browse, and delivery experience. If people can’t find what they are looking for, if they can’t figure out how to access it, or don’t understand how they can use it, the service isn’t living up to its key value proposition. People will get frustrated and go elsewhere.

Start by learning about your users’ mental model. How do they mentally categorize assets? Conduct a card sorting exercise by providing people with a set of assets and asking them to group assets into categories and label each grouping. 

Next, learn about their potential search behaviors. What terms are they likely to use when searching? Conduct tests with users by giving participants a set of assets and asking them to provide a few search terms they would use to find those assets again. Some of these may be obvious visual cues in images, for instance, but others will likely relate to their business needs.

Finally, learn what metadata is really important to people once they have found an asset. What do they need to know to use that asset effectively?

Repeat these tests with multiple users to see patterns. Conducting research with users to understand these mental models and behaviors can help you determine how to organize assets, and what kind of browse filters might be most effective. You will also learn how to tag assets for search, and tag them for usability (not necessarily the same thing).

3. Monitor for continuous improvement

Test, test, test! Test with your users before launching a new DAMS, and again down the road when implementing an important new feature or integration. Validate the decisions you made based on your user research by getting actual user feedback. Integrate regular testing into your DAM program. Users change, behaviors change, needs change, systems change. Don’t adopt a once-and-done approach. Engage people early and often.

Make continuous improvement an important component of your DAM program. Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) and measure these regularly by gathering quantitative and qualitative data. Gather ongoing feedback to learn what is changing, and how the DAM program can respond. By systematically focusing on users and their needs, you can deliver a service that is poised to grow and evolve along with the rest of the organization.

I’ll be at the Henry Stewart Festival of DAM, September 1-2, 2021 discussing this topic and more at the Implementing a Strong DAM System from Scratch panel. I’ll also be at the AVP virtual booth. I hope to connect with you there!