Migrating Content to a New Digital Asset Management System
Managing content is complicated. Keeping track of where files are stored and which version is the most current can be a time-intensive challenge. Storing files in a central platform, like a digital asset management (DAM) system, can help teams keep content organized and easy to access.
But not all DAM systems have the same functionality. Perhaps you’ve been using a DAM system for several years but it hasn’t scaled with your business growth. Or maybe it doesn’t integrate with your new marketing technology (martech). Or it could be that you need better customer support across your global offices. Whatever the reason, if you decide to switch to a different vendor, you’ll need to migrate content from your existing system to a new platform — which is no small task! Let’s explore how you can set yourself up for success.
Selecting a new DAM vendor
If your team has already picked a new system, that’s great! But if you’re just starting the selection process, our DAM evaluation toolkit can help. This hands-on guide includes information, resources, and exercises to help you determine which DAM solution is best for your business. You might also consider using a request for proposal (RFP) or request for information (RFI) to guide your selection process.
Regardless of your approach, here are a few steps to start with.
- Conduct a needs assessment. What functionality do you like and dislike in your current content management system (CMS)? Does your vendor provide the services you need?
- Consider your future growth. Use your business goals to project your future technology needs.
- Map your martech stack. Outline the other tools you might want to integrate with your new DAM system. Will they work together?
- Consider your file directory system. Your current folder structure can inform the metadata taxonomy in your new system and streamline system setup and adoption.
Be sure to gather feedback from key stakeholders across teams and departments as you move through this process — it will bolster user engagement down the road.
The migration process
Once your new DAM platform is selected, you can begin preparing for content migration. Here are some steps to consider.
Make a plan
All successful projects begin with a plan. Determine who is responsible for selecting the assets that will be uploaded to the new DAM system and establish a timeline for collecting files.
Set criteria for the content to be migrated, including:
- Age. We generally recommend selecting content from within the last three years.
- File type. Are you going to include creative files, photographs, videos, documents, or something else? Do you need work-in-process files or just final versions?
- Department. Is your DAM system the repository for content across the organization or just marketing? Is it for global content or regional content too?
Be sure to check all the places that content lives, including servers, desktops, hard drives, jump drives, Dropbox, Box, and FTP sites. Create one centralized area (like a server or folder) for project members to save/move the files that should be migrated.
If you are migrating a large number of assets (more than 3,000), consider a phased approach to streamline the process.
Assets that are used by multiple teams should have the highest priority. After popularity, you can prioritize based on currency/date, campaign, product line, or file type.
Although files in the DAM system can be easily recategorized, deleted, or archived, it’s most efficient to upload only the files you need. So before migrating content, be sure to eliminate duplicates, such as:
- The same file with two different names
- The same file with the same name, in different locations
- Different files with the same name
- Multiple versions of the same file (look for the most recent)
Also, you only need to upload the highest resolution file (such as a TIFF) because users will be able to convert it to different types (such as a JPEG) when they download the file.
Before uploading assets, ensure files are given a meaningful name — something like IMG_4568.jpg is difficult to search for. Individual files can be batch edited and renamed in Excel to match the project, campaign, or another meaningful identifier. And if necessary, folders should be compressed (e.g., into ZIP files) prior to upload.
You will likely have multiple options for migrating content into your new DAM system, including:
- Uploading directly to the DAM system. This approach allows you to simply drag and drop assets through the upload tools using customized upload profiles.
This is the fastest way to get assets into the DAM system. There isn’t a limit to the number of files you can upload at one time and you won’t need the support of your IT team.
- Uploading via FTP. Another option for migrating content to the DAM system is FTP, or file transfer protocol. This approach can be useful when you have really large assets to import, like RAW files or huge design assets.
Using FTP in tandem with the DAM system uploader can really expedite the upload process.
Many customers migrate from servers or a platform where metadata is either non-existent or outdated. Whether you're starting from scratch or interested in bringing over a folder structure, you’ll want to determine the best approach.
Below are some of the most common approaches utilized through the migration process:
- Leverage your existing file paths/folder structure. How are users currently searching for assets within your folder structure? Is it by asset type (e.g., images, videos, logos)? By brand or department? These existing categorizations can be translated into metadata fields and tagged in bulk on ingest via upload profiles. Consider your top utilized folders and groups of like assets, then translate these into the DAM system, either on your own or with help from an implementation consultant — available either through your DAM vendor or hired separately.
- Apply metadata in bulk post-upload. If you’re unsure of where to begin with translating parts of your existing structure or don’t have one to begin with, you can also opt to ingest all assets in bulk and apply metadata at a later time. Just note, this will require a fair amount of manual tagging and while some of this work can be automated or done through a CSV metadata import, you’ll still want to ensure that you account for dedicated time toward the task.
Since your metadata is likely to evolve over time, even after your assets are in the DAM system, their metadata should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure they’re searchable. Fortunately, your DAM platform should have tools to help you review and apply these values in large batches. Or, if you’re looking for more automation, you could consider using image recognition tools that are powered by artificial intelligence (AI).
Although every content migration is unique, these best practices can help ensure yours is a streamlined success. And there are also people to help you along the way, be it a hired implementation consultant or one that’s provided to you by your vendor. Either way, be sure to leverage all of the resources you have to make your cutover process as smooth as possible between your systems.