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Getting Real: The True Hidden Costs of a DAM

Part 1 of 2

By DAM News Staff | September 04, 2012

Most companies wishing to select or bring a DAM system to support their organization need to justify the venture to the CFO. A common question that I am frequently asked is: "I want a DAM. How much do you think it is going to cost?" This is completely a loaded question and obviously there are many variables. Some costs are quite obvious: software, hardware, training, maintenance, etc. Having been around the DAM space for over 10 years, here are my insights into the areas of cost commonly overlooked or hidden. While considering these hidden costs, keep in mind that sometimes what you are trying to achieve in a DAM Solution does not have to be so difficult.

Business Support: While this is an organizational cost, companies that are successful at DAM use a variety of organizational structures to support a DAM solution, especially on a global, company wide basis or integrates with external agencies. This includes product training, and goes beyond that to include the extended organizational infrastructure (people, process, systems) that need to be put in place to maintain both the business support around the DAM and the proper governance across your organization. It is particularly important in global companies with multiple regional users or for that matter any company that works with various agencies on a global basis. Costs widely vary and depend on the size of this organization and degree to which automation can be used instead of people. I'll state it here because it is all too often overlooked - a digital asset management system is different than content or web content management and requires a different support structure (and training)! It is an important cost to establish and maintain this "organizational infrastructure" that is largely specific to the DAM. This is critical to the success of any DAM and often the area that most companies fail to fund and it ends up killing the DAM efforts.

"Business support is one thing, but how a system or service is going to support your business is the key point. As we ask at CleanPix "does your DAM deliver?" Before choosing a DAM system or service for your business, you may want to take a hard look to first find out if this venture can merge with your organizational culture. Is the project going to take over or require IT at every turn. Will the implementation or the software interface be staff-friendly or not? Is the system proposed too complex, does it also require the purchase of specialty hardware that will soon be obsolete? Can you ease into it, build your system as you progressively increase your competence in digital asset management? Or can you simply start with a friendlier service, build from it and merge into an enterprise solution later, if need be?" says Nelson Vigneault CEO of CleanPix.

End User Buy-in, Training & Ongoing Training: What will it take to ensure that your end-users are honest-to-goodness using your system (see article - "Is Your DAM Open for Business?") While there are several elements to preparation and training some are obvious, some are not so obvious. Will the system be intuitive enough so it will be accepted in the culture of your organization? What will it cost to get a few key people in your organization fully up to speed on a system so that you have resident experts? Do you have the right people in the first place? I mention this because in some cases, you may not have these people on staff and will need to hire or train them. In almost every successful DAM installation that I am aware of has at least 1 -3 people (depending on the size of the organization) who are the DAM EXPERT. They are more than a librarian or governance provider for the assets; this role oversees the DAM from a combined business use and technical perspective. It expands and updates the metadata model, enforces consistency, ingests content - updates the folder or collection hierarchy for consistent access, and is usually involved in the soliciting, vetting and resolving all modifications to the system. They may provide internal training and problem resolution as well.

What will it cost to roll it out and train end users on their workflows? Their training needs are different than the resident "DAM Expert", and you will have different roles with different workflows requiring different focus on the training, such as "search and download" user vs. a "librarian/metadata manager". Now what about this super hidden cost - Ongoing Training! Is it needed every time the solution provider updates the core DAM features or you purchase additional capabilities? Is it needed as you roll out new capabilities, changes to the metadata model or existing workflows, or roll out to new parts of the organization?

Nelson Vigneault, CEO of CleanPix, reveals his experience with hidden costs of a DAM. "The more complex a DAM system is, the less adoption by the staff, the higher the risk of bypassing the system by its user and the larger the hidden costs. This is why the CleanPix service has a flat fee from the get go. This way, a CFO has a valuation of the ROI. The best way to measure the value, the bottom line, is in terms of the system usability ...DAM simple."

So far, we have only covered some area's where hidden costs can be lurking. We have more to go though!

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