The Coming DAM Crisis

According to news reports, Digital Asset Management is booming: one report assured me that “we’ll be managing $5.36B worth of digital assets by 2020.” It’s certainly a great space to be in for DAM vendors and should be for experienced digital asset managers. So why is it so hard to find any DAM pros? I see DAM positions sit unfilled for months or, worse, searches are abandoned because the right candidate could not be found. Sure, some folks have transitioned to different careers, gone back to school, or decided to retire. But most have gone to work for vendors or become DAM consultants. In the past month alone I know of at least three DAM superstars who’ve left careers at growing companies to work for DAM vendors. Though I can see the attraction of helping guide vendors towards more user-focused features, I think the underlying reason is more worrying.

Companies don’t know what to do with digital asset managers. To what position do you promote a DAM manager… DAM director, chief asset officer? Unless C-suite understands the great value DAM brings to the company, these staff may be the first to be let go during a restructure. They may think “why do we need folks to run our DAM program if we have a vendor’s professional services to do this for us?” To my fellow DAM professionals, this is what we need our DAM conversation to be about. DAM pros continually improve workflows, evaluate their systems, ensure digital assets get cataloged, that metadata is consistently applied, keep data safe (and trustworthy), and, above all, ensure users have access to digital assets. We don’t only manage the DAM systems. We are in the thick of daily operations, often consulting on file naming conventions, folder structures, migrating files from user desktops, and gathering feedback in the most unusual of places. I once overheard someone complaining of system latency in the office kitchen.

Vendors and consultants may purport to have users’ best interests at heart. However, they are (not all… think ResourceSpace) for-profit entities: their primary objective is to increase sales and get paid. They rarely sit in the office kicking assets and taking names. So unless we change things up, DAM as a profession is headed towards a crisis. Companies stand to lose brilliant minds: who wants a job that is a professional dead end? Do you have a DAM promotion/retention path at your comapny? If so, I hope you will describe it in a comment below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *