Digital Asset Management Using SharePoint Online
Digital Asset Management is becoming increasingly important for every business. Marketing materials, training resources, sales collateral, and other assets are frequently distributed across and locked within disconnected systems.
Employees don’t know where to look (hurting productivity and morale) and when they do find an asset, they often duplicate it to a new system and lose version history (leading to inconsistency and waste).
About Digital Asset Management (DAM)
Digital Asset Management (DAM) consists of organizing, storing, distributing, and managing the lifecycle of an organization’s assets. These can be digital or physical, structured or unstructured. Most often, digital assets are thought of as multimedia files like images and videos.
Almost every organization has one or more “content management” systems, but very few have DAM solutions. While we would all love to be able to locate master versions of our slide decks, marketing photos, and pricing sheets, most of us think that’s too hard and expensive of a problem to solve.
SharePoint as a Digital Asset Management Platform
Enter SharePoint. More than 80% of enterprises own licenses for SharePoint (either on-prem or the Office 365 version known as SharePoint Online).
SharePoint provides the basic building blocks that any DAM needs:
- Form creation
- Document and metadata tracking
- Manual and automatic tagging
- Format transcoding and multimedia resizing
- Approval workflows
- Role-based security
- Integration with other systems
- Affordable storage with high availability
Getting Started with SharePoint for Digital Asset Management
With little or no code, you can start storing, securing, and searching for your digital assets from within SharePoint. Here’s how:
1. Define Business Requirements
Gather the appropriate stakeholders who will own the business case for your DAM solution. These may include representatives from marketing, sales, IT, HR, and legal departments.
Identify the types of content you’ll need to store, who will need access, and what information you’ll need to store for each piece of content.
Establish any requirements for appropriate or inappopriate uploads. Define and document any approval processes.
2. Create Enterprise Search Site
SharePoint provides site templates to accomplish many common goals. The “Enterprise Search” template provides customized pages for searching and working with search results.
By creating a dedicated subsite for Digital Asset Management, your assets will be organized separately from the rest of your SharePoint content, allowing for additional security and optimized navigation.
Optionally, restrict access to the site based on security requirements.
3. Build Libraries
SharePoint is built upon lists and libraries. The simplest way to get started is to create a “Picture Library” named “Multimedia” within the Enterprise Search site you just created. That template will ensure that multimedia will be resized and handled properly.
Once the library is created, add columns for all of the information you care to track (e.g., photographer, location, file format, and copyright). Try to capture essential fields that employees will search on and avoid tracking too many required fields, or else users won’t want to enter metadata.
SharePoint has a feature called “Metadata Extraction” which allows it to open known file types and extract information about your photos (EXIF data) automatically. To take advantage of metadata extraction, add columns with specific names, as documented in this list. Example column names are “wic_System_GPS_Latitude” for latitute, “wic_System_Photo_CameraModel” for camera model, and “wic_System_Photo_Orientation” for orientation.
4. (Optional) Add Workflow
The workflow may include approvals by a central librarian, notifications to the marketing team, or the execution of code (as listed in the advanced options below).
5. (Optional) Configure Search
Now that the library exists, we can configure the search site to meet our exact goals. To get started, edit the search results page to manage the various web parts.
Commonly, the “Search Core Results” web part is updated to include a static query of the types of content you want to search on. This may restrict searches to our multimedia list, or even to specific file types.
Custom filters can be added to the “Refinement Panel” web part on the lefthand side. Similarly, custom sort orders cna be defined.
6. Communicate and Govern
Once the technology is in place and tested, consider starting with a small pilot group. That team can test the DAM system out while providing iterative feedback, ultimately turning into a team of supporters.
Communications are key, so be sure to have clear value propositions (“What’s In It For Me”) for each group of stakeholders. I tend to follow the ADKAR model, by building Awareness early, encouraging a Desire to change, spreading Knowledge, unlocking Ability, and Reinforcing your messaging.
A DAM solution isn’t like Field of Dreams: just because you’ve built it doesn’t meant they will come. Continually encourage your team to centralize assets and celebrate your successes.
If this is your organization’s first DAM, the steps above will likely accomplish many of your goals. SharePoint can centralize, secure, and facilitate the finding of content.
Once you have a foundation, there are unlimited ways to extend your DAM platform by taking advantage of the cloud. Here are some of the favorite features we’ve built:
- Integrate Cognitive Services: Add face identification, sentiment detection, or even automatic labeling of objects in multimedia.
- Translate with Microsoft Translator: Automate translation to other languages.
- Perform Optical Character Recognition: Extract text from multimedia.
- Transcribe with the Bing Search API: Streamline transcription of all your audio and video.
- Publish to Social APIs: Build workflows for one-click publishing to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.