Implementation partner: The final brick in your DAM foundation

A good partner will not only help with the technical aspects of setting up the DAM but will assist in developing your long-term goals.

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This is the second of a two-part series on building the foundation for digital asset management (DAM). You can read the first part (selecting a DAM vendor) here

You’ve selected your DAM vendor, now where do you go from here? Do you really need an implementation partner?

You may be fortunate enough to have an in-house IT team qualified and ready to guide you through building your DAM, but it’s more likely that you’ll be looking to hire a third-party vendor to guide you through the process and do the heavy lifting on the technical side.

The vendor is only one layer of a strong foundation, and it needs the reinforcement of an implementation partner before you start framing out the full DAM. A good partner will not only help you with the technical aspects of setting up your DAM but will assist you in developing long-term goals for your DAM and mapping the best course of action to accomplish them.

They’ll be your voice in communicating directly with the vendor, handling issues and support tickets, and advocating in your best interest. In part two of this two-part series on building a DAM foundation, we’ll discuss what to look for in an implementation partner.

What do I really need?

Selecting the right implementation partner can be just as, if not more, important than vendor selection. The primary factor in your selection is ensuring they have direct experience with the DAM platform you’ve chosen. Don’t accept anything less. 

You may be told that developers are Developers and code is code, so a competent developer with coding experience can figure out quickly how to work with your chosen platform. But do you really want them to be figuring it out as they go along and learn a new platform on your dime? Would you let a contractor with no experience learn as they go building your house? 

Do not:

  • Be tempted by potential cost savings you might get upfront because you won’t actually save anything in the long term.
  • Commit to a partner that does not have direct experience with your platform.
  • Discount the value of a partner’s existing relationships with people working at your chosen vendor. (These can be very helpful if you are in the unfortunate position of working through a major vendor support issue.)

Go with the easy solution?

The DAM vendor you’ve selected may likely recommend an implementation partner. Know that you’re not obligated to use that specific partner. Certainly, consider them as one of your options, but speak to other partners for comparison.

The vendor-recommended partner may not be a good fit for you for any number of reasons — budget, working style, etc. — so don’t feel pressured to choose them over other options.

Establishing a potential relationship

In your conversations with a potential implementation partner, you want to ensure long-term compatibility. Make sure you’re clearly communicating your needs and wants for the relationship so you’re on the same page. Be sure to cover these points:

  • How will you be working? Do you plan to use the agile methodology during your DAM implementation, or does your company use the waterfall approach? Perhaps you’ll actually be using a combination of both agile and waterfall? Does the partner have experience with your chosen approach? Will they be able to work within your framework and timelines?
  • Are there specific systems you plan on integrating with your DAM? Is the partner familiar with those systems? Do they have experience with those particular integrations?
  • What are you expecting as far as the team roster? In addition to the developer role, who else will be on the implementation team? Do you require a QA resource, or do you plan on doing your own QA (quality assurance) and UAT (user acceptance) testing? Will you need guidance from a metadata and/or taxonomy specialist? What are your expectations for project management? Who will do what, and how many hours a week will they need to be dedicated to your project?
  • Do you require assistance from the partner migrating content into the new DAM from existing storage and systems?
  • What time zone is the implementation team in? Do you need them to be available for direct contact and meetings during specific hours?

And the most important thing to gauge about a potential implementation partner is how comfortable they are saying “no” to you. Having a partner who happily gives you any and every enhancement you ask for without question is dangerous. 

As I mentioned in the previous article on choosing a DAM vendor, over-customization can be very detrimental to site performance and functionality, and it can prohibit you from completing needed upgrades. Having a partner who will push back and clearly explain risks is invaluable. 

You want a partner who will be honest with you and tell you when a requested enhancement is ill-advised. But in cases where they do tell you no, they should, of course, also be willing to work with you on identifying a different solution that meets the business need without negative effects on your system.

Just like you did when selecting your DAM vendor, you should ask the implementation partner for references, as well as look to locate additional references on your own. Remember, you’re interested in the whole story — the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

Finally, when talking with a potential partner, don’t discount how important it is that you should not only be impressed with their knowledge and skills but also simply feel that you’ll enjoy working with them. You’ll spend long hours with this team and working through tough decisions, so they should also match your team personality-wise. It won’t necessarily make the work easier, but it will make it more enjoyable.

Ready to build

Take your time and be confident in your selections of both vendor and implementation partner. Together, they’ll form the foundation upon which you build your DAM. 

The stronger the foundation, the stronger and more successful the DAM. Starting with the sturdiest foundation you can build with a team of proven builders you trust can only save you time and money down the road.

Dig deeper: A 12-step guide for implementing a digital asset management system


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Rachel Edwards
Rachel Edwards is an experienced digital asset manager who is passionate about metadata, taxonomies and data governance. She specializes in bringing order to data chaos since 2007.

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