How to choose the best DAM for universities

How to choose the best DAM for universities

You’re sold on the benefits DAM can deliver to your university. But with so many stakeholders - and different needs - it’s hard to work out the best DAM for your university. But don’t worry. Armed with our insights into the essential features of DAM for universities, you’ll be able to prepare a DAM specification and get your project started. 

This article includes:

  • a quick recap of the use case for DAM in universities
  • essential features to look for in a DAM for universities 
  • a step-by-step guide to choosing the best DAM for your university

University use cases for DAM

In our previous article - DAM for universities: why your institution should implement a DAM system - we discussed the numerous use cases for DAM in the university context. These include: 

  • Student recruitment 
  • B2B marketing
  • Research teams
  • Press office
  • Alumni relations 
  • Academic departments
  • Estates 
  • Learning and participation

Different teams are likely to have different needs. For example:

  • the press office may want a secure place to store and protect embargoed assets
  • marketing want to access and download images in different formats for different media
  • researchers may want capacity to store and visually preview files 

But, whatever the specific needs of each team, implementing a DAM system delivers benefits in terms of:

  • access to approved brand assets
  • secure and structured digital asset storage
  • streamlined production processes
  • reduced legal exposure 
  • protected IP

So what does this look like in practise? What features should universities be looking for in a Digital Asset Management system?  

What features do universities need in a DAM?

DAM is packed with features to make life easier for university users. Here’s some key functionality you need to consider. 

Upload and ingest

This means how you get your digital assets into the system. A good DAM will have a simple drag-and-drop interface to make it quick and easy to add assets. 


Metadata is the key to your DAM success. This is the information that accompanies digital assets to make them discoverable and usable. Keywords, date, usage rights, and restrictions are all examples of metadata. Look for a DAM that lets you define your own metadata fields, as well as automatically pulling metadata from the files.   


Tagging means adding keywords to assets to make them discoverable. This can be done manually, automatically, or a combination of the two. Look for a DAM that includes AI-tagging. This is when artificial intelligence is used to detect the content of an asset and automatically recommend likely tags.

Search and retrieval 

Search and retrieval of assets is at the heart of DAM. Look for the ability to search, advanced search, browse and filter results. The ability to create multiple personal or shared collections is also helpful. Users can add assets to their collections for easy access or collaboration, without it affecting the master asset. 


The majority of your users will just use your DAM for searching and downloading assets. So you need to provide a user-friendly way to do the job quickly. Look for a DAM that has an intuitive dashboard that makes it easy to perform top tasks like searching by keyword or navigating folders. Many DAMs also let you brand the dashboard so users have a seamless experience. 


The demand for – and use of – digital assets is likely to grow and grow. Make sure you select a DAM solution that’s scalable. Look for the ability to add storage capacity – and user licenses - as your library grows. 

User permissions / access controls

To protect your digital assets, you’ll want to set up different levels of access. You might want some users to be able to upload and download assets, whereas you might want others to only be able to view them. Make sure your chosen DAM offers the right level of access control for your university needs. 


The likelihood is that your colleagues already use a lot of other creative and project management tools – for example, Adobe CS and Wrike. So look out for a DAM that can integrate with these tools. A seamless experience when opening files can save a lot of time. Files in the DAM should be opened in their corresponding applications for viewing or editing with just a click of the mouse.


Many DAMs offer a range of hosting options. Typically these are:

  • On-premise – running on your own servers and managed by your IT staff
  • Private cloud – running in your own cloud environment
  • SaaS – a turn-key cloud solution from the DAM vendor

The choice is determined by factors such as IT resources, security, speed, internet access, flexibility and upfront investments vs subscription models.

How to choose the best DAM for universities

To start your DAM selection process, you’ll need to build a picture of who will use the system, how they’ll use it, and what they need the system to do.

You’ll also need to think about the support you’ll need - both from your vendor and your internal IT departments - to implement and manage the system.  

Identify your users

If you’re considering a DAM, you’re probably in a team that uses a high volume of assets, like marketing. Although there’s a very strong use case for DAM in your department, don’t underestimate the other use cases for DAM across the organisation. From marketing and student recruitment, to business partnerships and estates management, there’s a strong business case for creating a university-wide DAM system. So your first step should be to map which teams would benefit from a DAM and start that conversation with them. These will be your core users.

Talk to IT early

University IT teams are stretched. They’re responsible for day-to-day computing for 1000s of users, project management, strategic developments, and protecting against cyber risks. So get them on-side early.

They’ll need to be involved for the following reasons:

  • Compatibility - making sure your system can work with other software and hardware
  • Security - ensuring the system doesn’t introduce risk to other systems 
  • Storage - providing server if you’re going to host the DAM in-house

Establish your needs

Once you’ve worked out the core users for the DAM system - and got the green light from IT - it’s time to scope out everyone’s requirements. You can do this by using the MoSCoW framework. 

  • Must have - Features that are essential to the success of the project 
  • Should have - Features that you’d like to see but aren’t essential to project success
  • Could have – Nice to have but non-essential features
  • Won’t have – Features that aren’t in scope at this time  

So, for a DAM implementation, a MoSCoW analysis might look like this:

  • Must have – Ability to hold 100,000 assets, AI tagging, granular permission controls
  • Should have – Automatic file versioning, integration with project management software
  • Could have – Brandable user interface 
  • Won’t have – Ability to stream live video for events

Shortlist and demo

Write these needs up into a specification document and send them out to DAM vendors that you think fit the bill. You’ll then be able to shortlist products that meet your needs. 

We strongly recommend you then get your core users to do demos of all of your shortlisted products. The best way to get a feel for software is to get hands-on with it. 

Ask to see your ‘must have’ tasks performed to check whether the system offers the functionality - and ease-of-use - that you need. 

Follow these steps and you’ll give yourself the best chance of DAM selection success. Of course, choosing the best DAM for you is only part of the process. For an end-to-end overview of everything involved in implementing DAM, download our checklist now.

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