When I programmed a material bank software as part of my master’s thesis project, I had no idea that I would still be working with digital asset management systems almost 15 years later. Compared with the early 2000s, many issues related to DAM (Digital Asset Management) have evolved, but many of the principles of successful asset management still hold true today.

Even modern material management systems cannot solve material management problems by themselves, and any errors made when the system is being set up may lead to new problems. How should a material bank be set up correctly?

A good design puts material management on the right track

A good design is the foundation of almost any successful project. The same applies to digital asset management. To make the most of an asset management system, the metadata and practices related to the material must be well planned during the system set-up phase. 

The hierarchical structure of material forms the basis of the material structure. The hierarchy can be built in different ways depending on the purpose of use. In some situations, the hierarchy should be built around the organisation's businesses, while in other cases, the file format may be the best criterion. The most important aspects are that sufficient time is invested in designing the hierarchy and the matter is reviewed from the perspectives of different user groups.

Different users and requirements must be clarified carefully before access rights are granted. If the material bank is primarily used to store and distribute marketing material, the user groupings and different access rights should not be made too complicated. Material is easier to manage and distribute if there are fewer different types of rights. If possible, user authentication should be connected to a centralised user database (such as Active Directory) using SSO (Single Sign-on) to make user management easier.

The remainder of the design resources should focus on planning metadata for the material. Material metadata is often forgotten in the whirlwind of other requirements. This "data about data" – whether it can be automatically deduced from the material or separately specified – enables material to be found and managed effectively. Metadata related to digital material may include categories, names, descriptions, product numbers, access rights, colour schemes, etc. The important aspect of metadata is not the quantity but ensuring that business-critical data is correct and up-to-date.

Automation saves time and effort

Material banks often store files that are constantly needed for several different purposes. An online store or website using images directly from a material bank is a good example of the effective use of a material management system. Material banks can automatically convert images into various formats so less time is consumed processing images. By expanding the metadata, the material bank can be used as a product information management (PIM) system or as part of a separate PIM system. Efficient integration enables material bank to form a basis and hub for all digital material to be transferred automatically to the correct places – without mind-numbing manual work.

Distribution is the core of material management

The material stored in the material management system is useless if nobody can access it. Give careful thought to how the material will be distributed. When I studied the distribution of material and related access rights as part of my thesis project, I reached the important conclusion that access rights should not prevent users from accessing material unless it is particularly confidential. This also applies to how much of a company's digital material should be distributed publicly. For example, if someone needs your company's logo, they will use whatever they can find online in the absence of a better version. In some cases, this may result in a low-quality file being used. If a high-quality logo file specifically suited to this use is available, it benefits both parties.

Tommi Rainio avatar