The Art of Version Control in DAM

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What is Version Control in DAM?

To understand the relationship between DAM and version control, it’s important first to understand each concept separately. Digital asset management (DAM) stores and accesses digital assets like images, videos, graphics, documents, collateral, and more. A DAM platform provides the space and tools for all personnel to organize and find digital assets relevant to their everyday tasks.

On the other hand, version control refers to tracking and recording every version of a digital asset as it is drafted, revised, and approved for distribution. In a digital asset management system, version control is vital for multiple use cases, including:

  • Employees collaborating on an advertising or marketing asset can consistently access and work on the most up-to-date version of that asset

  • An asset needs to be reverted to a prior version to get back elements or information deleted by mistake

  • Project managers can see a record of who completed work on the asset and when based on when employees uploaded their most recent version

  • Marketing leaders can easily update brand guidelines and ensure that personnel will see and reference the newest version when working on branded assets

Key Features and Benefits

The core features of DAM version control include:

  • The ability to upload a new version of an existing asset with the same file name

  • Assets, when accessed, show the newest uploaded version to all users

  • The DAM system saves and tracks older versions of the asset

  • Users can access previous versions and choose to revert the asset to one of those versions if needed

These key features improve collaboration processes by helping cross-functional team members work on, review, and discuss the most up-to-date version of an asset. DAM version control also improves overall asset management by allowing admins to track activity on every asset.

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How Version Control Enhances Collaboration

Imagine a project where a company works on a digital asset for a marketing campaign, like a mailer. For the purpose of this example, let’s say four people must touch the asset, including:

  • A copywriter to write the content

  • A graphic designer to design the graphics and format the content

  • A project manager to oversee progress

  • A final stakeholder to review and approve the mailer for distribution

Without version control, every project stage after the first draft can become needlessly complicated. At the revision stage, the copywriter might upload a new version of the asset with updated text, only to later have the graphic designer update the graphics on an older version with outdated text. The project manager might have trouble identifying when and how the problem happened and locating and combining the separate assets.

At the end of the project, the project manager might accidentally send the stakeholder an older version of the asset to review, causing frustration. In a worst-case scenario, the stakeholder might send the wrong version of the mailer to be printed and distributed, wasting money and potentially making the company appear unprofessional to its target audiences.

Challenges Without Version Control in DAM

When version control is absent, version discrepancies and outdated assets can cause issues for employees, leaders, and the intended audiences for digital assets. Proper version control makes for more seamless collaborations and high-quality finished assets that can help brands connect with current and potential customers. 

Brand guideline assets, in particular, pose a version control challenge to brand leaders and their personnel. Improper version control of branding guidelines can lead marketing creatives to complete work with out-of-date branding that does not match the company’s current brand identity and positioning goals.

If improperly branded work makes it to the public, it can make the company’s overall branding less recognizable and impactful. This is because consistency is a key factor in building consumer awareness, trust, and loyalty using branding. Even if improperly branded work doesn’t go public, it represents wasted time and resources for your team.

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Implementing DAM Version Control

Implementing DAM version control in your organization starts with evaluating current digital asset creation, storage processes, and pain points. With an understanding of specific issues your personnel faced in the past, you’ll be better equipped to find the right DAM system with the right version control capabilities for your needs.

Once you find that system, consider doing the following for a smooth transition to version-controlled asset management:

  • Brainstorm version control processes with leaders from each department that touches digital assets

  • Write the rules and processes personnel should follow when uploading assets to ensure consistent version control across the DAM system

  • Create and execute a comprehensive training program to ensure all personnel understand the new processes

Best Practices for Efficient DAM Version Control

To ensure effective management of asset versions, you and other stakeholders will need to establish version control policies and workflows that work well for every team. When creating policies, lay out:

The step-by-step process every team member follows when uploading an asset. Ask your contact from the DAM platform for specific version control features and advice. Use your knowledge of previous processes and where they fell short to create more straightforward, efficient processes.

A system for assigning ultimate responsibility for proper version control on each asset. Review your hierarchy and usual project workflow to find the most logical person to take charge of this aspect of asset creation, whether that be a project manager, an appointed version controller for each project, or someone else.

A process for ensuring proper version control once an asset leaves the platform. Research and discuss integrations with your other tools and platforms when shopping for a DAM solution. Integrations allow your DAM system to manage version control on public-facing places like your website and internal tools like team communication software (i.e., Slack).

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