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Digital Asset Risk Management for Managers (Part 1)

In the first installment of this two-part series, I want to spend a few moments thinking about digital asset management from an industry perspective. I believe we’re at risk of tunnel vision. As an industry we should step away from thinking only about interactions with our charges — digital assets of all types in this case — and instead think big. Think about the “why”.

A little bit of history and context might help explain why this topic is so crucial. Starting way, way back in the day, digital assets were managed as a means of keeping content fresh and current with the needs of a given organization. (Note that I didn’t say “business” since much of this came out of academia, heritage and culture, and other non-profit oriented institutions.) Digital assets were tracked to enable the organization to put them to work. And it was the wild west — organizations pretty much did whatever they wanted, since clip art wasn’t licensed nearly as tightly as it is today.

But those days are long gone. The requirements and limitations on all types of digital assets have increased exponentially, and the underlying digital assets themselves have likewise advanced in complexity. The good news is that DAM solutions have met the needs of the marketplace with products of increasing sophistication. While this has not necessarily made things simpler, it has been effective.

But along the way, as an industry, we got lost in the weeds. There’s an over-emphasis on how we manage, and what we manage, and not enough on why we manage our digital assets this way. The “how” is all about the processes and lifecycle that we use. The “what” is about defining the breadth of the practice and to what degree we will extend those processes. And the “why” tends to go into the “that’s the way it’s always been done here”, or, “it’s so we can find what we need” columns.

Those reasons may be technically correct, but they drop the top-line value — reducing your risks — out of the equation. Risk reduction is not solely about living up to applicable Terms and Conditions, but also about business risk with ineffective use of resources. If we continually spend limited funds on limitless requests for assets, we gradually grow out of balance until we won’t be able to continue forward. Lawsuits and compliance is one part of it, but another part is the requirement of gaining maximum benefit from any investment.

My request to you readers is that we begin to shift the mindset around digital assets, their lifecycles, and our practices, toward enablement of the creative process. This in turn will funnel into the rest of the business by reduction of spend, reduction of possible legalities, and ultimately toward an increase in value from investments.