Having your digital files scattered all over the place can create some big problems.

You can lose control of your brand. With different people using different elements and old images out in the market, your brand loses that consistent experience that makes it valuable. If something goes wrong, like an old hard drive goes missing, or a team member leaves and you lose access to their material, you feel the pain of broken business continuity.

You probably know all of this and have given it a lot of thought. It’s why you’re reading up on digital asset management (DAM) and thinking about implementing Digital Asset Management, or DAM software.

But how do you get from chaos and confusion to easy organization? An early step in the process is figuring out what content you have. You have to locate all of these files so you can begin uploading them to your new system. This is a big task and can feel overwhelming. Frankly, wanting to avoid this part of the process is why many organizations put off moving to a DAM software solution. They’d rather live with the pain they know than face the work of moving. Fear not! Many people before you have faced this situation and made it through to the other side, and so can you. In this post we’ll provide recommendations to make the process smooth and painless.

Where Could They Be?

At smaller organizations, there may be a small group of file owners that people seek out every time they need something. At these places, locating your files will be an easier task. But at most organizations, assets are spread out all over the place after many years of content creation by many contributors.

Without proper direction and guidelines, folks have saved and stored files wherever was quick and convenient.

Some common locations where people store digital files include:

Desktop: Files stored on an individual’s desktop make it easy for them to find, but nearly impossible for anyone else! With one person holding files on their desktop, this can create reuse issues when others are searching for the files. And if this person leaves or deletes any files, they could be lost forever!

Thumb Drives, CDs, external hard drives: Like desktop storage, generally only one person has access to these files. They are also extremely easy to displace or damage. Does anyone remember scratched CDs?

Shared network drive: More people can find files on a shared drive, but it can be challenging to search for files if you are unfamiliar with the folder structure, and also difficult to share outside of your organization. There are no special permission levels on network drives which mean everyone can access everything, and people can move things around and create new folders at will.

Dropbox, Box, Google Drive: Cloud storage solutions are centered around the individual user, not the files that your organization owns. Because of this, it can be difficult to find files that someone else has created, and permissions and security around the files are difficult to manage. This can create brand consistency issues, as well as the threat of old logos and content making it out to market.

Phones: Lots of people take photos on their phones in hopes that they will end up on a website, in print marketing, or social media, but frequently these photos just stay on the phones forever. This makes them impossible for anyone else to find and use and easy for them to disappear if someone leaves an organization.

Flickr: Great if you want to store your personal photography, not so great if you want to store all of your organization's files including PDFs, Word Docs, Adobe files, and thousands of photos or videos.

Physical Media: Photos, brochures, and posters. and other physical media are great to look at and out pass out to customers and clients, but they do not help when it comes to reusing, or if someone is looking to share via the web.

Legacy systems: If your organization has had the same system since 2000, chances are it’s loaded with outdated content, tough to navigate, slow, and difficult to share from. Many advances have been made in the field of digital asset management since some of the earliest software was released.

In addition to the difficulties mentioned above regarding brand control and reuse, having files in one or many of these locations make it just plain frustrating to find anything and difficult to share. There are so many places you could look, so many people you could email to ask. Having a DAM Software system in place will quickly help remedy these issues, with only a single place to search.

So, how do you get there?

Step 1: Survey your team

In order to locate all of your organization's files, start by thinking about who the content creators are. They might be designers, photographers, or folks in the marketing or creative departments. They could be the creators of guidelines or technical documents. They may work in-house, or they might work for an agency you have contracted with, and don’t forget about your freelancers! No matter who or where they are, if they have made assets, they probably hold many of them as well.

You may want to send out a survey to either the whole organization or key stakeholders to explore who has what assets and where they hold them. You can set up a simple survey for free using a program like SurveyMonkey or Google Survey. This will allow you to question a large group of people at once. You will want to preface the survey with a paragraph explaining your project and goal, and also explain that this will make peoples' lives easier.

You will want to ask the following questions:

• Name

• What is your role at the organization?

• Do you create content such as branding, photography, videos, PPTs, guidelines? If yes, please give examples.

• What kinds of files do you typically create? Examples: PDFs, PowerPoints, Word Documents, Adobe files, CAD files, MP3 files.

• Where do you typically store content? You can set up a multiple choice option for this question.

• How much content do you think you have in each of the storage locations you listed? If you’re not sure, just take a guess in the number of files or size of files.

• If they have selected a shareable source such as cloud storage, ask if they can share a link to their folder and files with you.

Step 2: Follow up IRL

It’s also a good idea to reach out to people in real life. A quick phone call or personal email to key stakeholders can do wonders in getting your colleagues on board to help you find the files. You can ask them not only if they have been creating files, but how they’ve gone about finding other people’s files in the past. What tools are they using to search and retrieve content? By following in their footprints, you should be able to find the assets.

Once you have started receiving responses, and have a better scope of understanding around who creates files and where they are currently stored, you will want to dig in at a more granular level with the individuals who own many files. Are they surrounding marketing campaigns, logos, or web graphics?  Do they keep all of the files from photoshoots or video projects? Or perhaps they own all of the packaging graphics and design.

Step 3: Track the Responses

You will want to create a spreadsheet to keep track of all of the different folders or files. This will allow you to review all of the content that the company has on a larger scale, so you can start thinking about what you want to upload, and who you will need to work with to get the uploads done.

On the spreadsheet you will want to include:

• The content owner's name

• Their contact information

• Their title

• Name of File, Folder, Campaign (there are many ways you could identify these groupings)

• Type of files

• Size of files or number of files

Once the surveys start rolling in and you’ve got your spreadsheet going, you are well on your way to filling up your new Digital Asset Management system. Take a look over all of the locations where your colleagues store files and you may be surprised by how many different locations there are!

Step 4 - Decide What to Upload

Your next step will be to create guidelines around what you will be uploading to your new system. Will it be everything that your colleagues have sent information about or only files after a certain date? Will it be all everything including the working files or only the final product? Winnowing down what you keep will make your transition much faster and more efficient. It will also help ensure that you don’t have any dated assets or duplicates in the system.

We will talk about what to keep and what to leave in an upcoming blog post, but for the moment you can take relief in the fact that they will soon all be in one place. Knowing where your files currently live and exactly what you have is a big first step in figuring out where it will all go.

If you're seriously considering Digital Asset Management (DAM) Software, you may need to make an internal business case for it. If so, you'll likely find our Guide to The Value of Digital Asset Management helpful. You can decide if you want to download the guide after reading it in full here, or you can feel free to grab it for later reading through the link below! 


Image Relay Guide to DAM CTA

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