Why Marketers Need Digital Asset Management: the Case against Dropbox, Drive, and Email
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Why Marketers Need Digital Asset Management: the Case against Dropbox, Drive, and Email

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Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive, and other file sharing apps are great productivity tools. Many enterprises are using file sharing apps like these to distribute, share, and collaborate. However, there’s a dark side to using these apps that everyone—enterprise marketers especially—should be aware of.

Accessibility. Let me explain.

Our technology team at Skyword had a pressing deadline, and we were just getting to the point in time, like we do in many projects, where hectic bug fixing in our QA cycle was just starting to die down. We had gotten over many of the product release cycle hurdles and were cruising to victory. There was one last thing to check in the wireframes (a simple drawing showing where on a page data, buttons, fields, etc. belong in our app). It might be a bug, but I wasn’t sure. I clicked into the shared folder we were all using.

It was empty.

Obviously, my first thought was that I was looking in the wrong place. I double checked the folder. Triple checked. The panic started to build. Where did our files go?

We had lost almost every corporate document, image, PowerPoint, PDF, and spreadsheet. It wasn’t due to a hacker, and it wasn’t malicious. It wasn’t even a dumb mistake. I just didn’t think through the ramifications of the entire team having access to a centralized folder. It turned out one of our developers was upgrading and migrating to a new laptop. Done upgrading, the obvious thing to do was to purge and delete the files from the old laptop. The catch here is that many of those files and folders were shared.

One by one, everyone’s local version on their computers disappeared as the auto “sync” did exactly what it was supposed to do.

The Difference Between File Sharing Apps and Digital Asset Management (DAM)

File sharing apps excel at distribution. If you have a document you want to share broadly, they’re great tools. We still use file sharing apps here at Skyword, and they are an essential productivity tool. However, it’s important to know their limitations as well as best practices. As you start to accumulate files, you will likely need to incorporate aspects of broader digital asset management. Below are just some of the ways a digital asset management solution can make enterprise brands more efficient, and ultimately, better brand storytellers.

1. Describe Your Files

The existence of a file, or even the file’s content, doesn’t always convey enough information, as is often the case in simple file sharing apps. For example, is it legal to reuse this image? What is the acceptable audience that can see or copy this file? With large teams, increasingly working remotely, relaying this information is critical for efficient and effective communication.

The practice of describing files leads to the concept of metadata: data about the data. That can involve all the points described above and many more aspects, such as tagging, indexing, descriptions, etc. Adding metadata is also often not possible with file sharing apps.

Workflow is important to validate the metadata as well. Is the file properly described? Are we really sure we can show this file publicly?

Skyword Digital Asset Management Catalog - Adding Metadata

2. Manage Permissions and Workflow

DAM is not just about making sure everyone can do only what they need. The most important lesson I learned when our company began accumulating lots of files and assets was that even if everyone has the exact permissions they need for files and folders, it’s still not enough. If you can update something, you can delete it, too (or just update it to “blank”).

Permission control is essential, but it’s no substitute for workflow. For critical and centralized documents, it’s important to at least have a peer review option, and in many cases, management review, too. That involves a level of required workflow for both new documents and change requests for existing ones. Google Drive, Dropbox, and other common file sharing apps simply don’t offer this necessary tool for enterprise marketers who are creating complex digital content and brand stories.

Skyword Digital Asset Management Workflow - Create Assets

3. Expand Search and Findability

A key challenge with file sharing apps is finding what you are looking for. Sharing apps rely on folder structures to allow you to browse and locate your desired digital asset. That folder structure has to be intuitive, and it also assumes that people are placing files into the best directory. When you work with a large team and—in some cases—have thousands of files floating around, that assumption often turns out to be false.

A better alternative is a comprehensive search engine built on top of the files. Almost all DAMs offer a search engine, but finding digital assets within a directory just doesn’t cut it for today’s content marketer. Skyword’s DAM offers an easy way of drilling down and narrowing your search quickly. A full-featured search engine will offer far more ability to find (and ultimately re-use) digital assets, enabling your storytellers, editors, and the rest of the team to be the best at their jobs they can be.

Skyword Digital Asset Management - Search Screenshot

File sharing applications and tools will still play a role in the corporate IT environment in the future. Our teams at Skyword do still utilize them; however, as we grow, and as our clients’ storytelling programs scale, we recognize the limitations and understand the need for broader digital asset management.

Find out what DAM can do for you.

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