Display of neatly organized, multicolored rolls of yarn.

Organization is key to streamlining your digital assets.

In part one of this series, we discussed the importance of choosing the right technology, and how to make sure it’s adopted in the workplace. Part two will focus on how to streamline your digital assets once you’ve chosen them — because digital clutter can be just as bad as a physical mess for a company’s productivity. 

What Are Digital Assets?

A digital asset is basically any type of digital file that adds value to your company. 

That can be anything from intellectual property (like a logo) to everyday digital files. Video, audio, image, and PDF files all qualify as digital assets. And as technology advances, new formats will undoubtedly be added to that list. 

Say you’re a marketing firm. All the graphics, videos, images, and social media posts you come up with for a marketing campaign qualify as digital assets. So do the logos and branding on your corporate Facebook page.

Looking at it that way, you can begin to see why it’s important to have a system in place to organize and find digital assets. It can be easy for a business to just keep adding new assets with no regard for how they are organized, especially if they’re growing at a rapid pace. But that ultimately leads to disorganization and frustration.

For example, duplicates of certain assets might get made because people don’t know how to find them. Other assets could go unused because they’re too difficult to find or people simply don’t know they exist. 

How To Streamline Your Digital Assets

As tech CEO Kenneth Garff put it in a blog post for his company Amplifi:

“Managing your digital assets is now a critical business process and it should be easy, efficient and satisfying.”

You could choose to invest in a digital asset management (DAM) software system, but even if you can’t there are still best practices you can use to clean up digital clutter. 

Keep It To The Essentials

As we discussed in the last entry, only using technology that actually provides value will keep app clutter down and simplify the management of what programs you do use. Adopt a different app for every function and you’ll be drowning in them before you know it. Stick to the ones you’ve thoroughly researched, and be sure each piece of tech has real utility. 

Settle on one cloud storage system that meets your needs instead of several. Avoid hopping from free trial to free trial because it’s cheaper, as this can create duplicate assets and leave your intellectual property sitting in someone else’s cloud system when you move on. This can be easier said than done when every new app and system makes it sound like you absolutely need it, but discretion is worth it in the long run.

Choose tools that can grow with your company. Scalable software will cut down on the number of times you have to change systems. If you end up selling your business down the line, it could be useful to have tech that can grow with the new owners.

Know whether you’ll retain the rights to assets uploaded to an app or cloud storage system. Apps like Instagram, for example, own the images uploaded to its platform by users. Images uploaded to a corporate Instagram account could fall into that category. Know whether there are similar stipulations on the apps you plan to use by checking the terms and FAQ page. If you’re still unsure, talk to their customer support.

Control Who Has Access

Making certain people responsible for certain tech, and only allowing them to access it, will let you track who’s responsible for the workflows connected to that technology. How you delegate that access will vary based on what your business looks like — you could assign tech responsibilities by department, by job, or any other way that makes sense to you and your people.

Once you know who owns what pieces of technology, communicate this information to the rest of the organization. Make sure people from different departments know who to talk to if they need something from a program they don’t have access to themselves and that everyone is using the same channel to communicate those needs

Controlling access also means good security. Keeping your apps and software up to date and regularly scanning them for viruses and malware is often what protects company assets from malicious hacks. Protecting against cyber attacks saves your productivity and protects your enterprise’s intellectual property. 

Have a Plan

Create procedures and processes for adopting and rolling out new technologies, and enforce them. Make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them regarding privacy and security, including what they can upload to the cloud. Have a process for deleting assets once the app isn’t being used anymore, or if an employee leaves the company. That lets you know what assets are being created, and by who, and makes sure nothing is left behind. 

Clean Up Your Data

Messy filing systems make it hard to find assets when they’re needed the most, so cleaning up your data is one of the first steps you should take to streamline your assets. Adding labels and creating a hierarchy for different asset categories can be a great benefit.

Using metadata is how you create those labels. Metadata is information about the nature and makeup of the asset and helps you create a deeper organizational system than just using descriptive filenames (which you should also be doing). There are two types of metadata: 

  • Descriptive metadata: includes information that makes assets easier to find, like their title, tags, description, keyword or date created.
  • Technical metadata: includes information on the technical side of the asset, such as dimension, file size, resolution, camera type, and who made the asset.

Every asset should be labeled with the relevant metadata. Once they’re labeled, you can easily sort for them later via a DAM software or operating system search. 

Using taxonomy alongside metadata helps on a more macro level. You might be familiar with the term from biology class — animals are divided and classified using taxonomy with subcategories like kingdom, phylum, and class. The same principle can be applied to your data by organizing assets into groups based on the metadata attached to them. 

An example of that might be locating images associated with a certain branding campaign. If the images were labeled with the name of the campaign as part of their metadata, you could search the campaign name and bring up all the assets with that tag, including those images.

You could extend that taxonomy to your folder structure as well, grouping assets by project or department or whatever makes sense for your enterprise. Organizing files into easily recognizable folders, along with searchable metadata tags and descriptive filenames, makes finding and using those assets a breeze.

You probably already have a bunch of digital assets that need to be organized, and that can be daunting, especially when the day-to-day needs of the business seem more pressing. But taking it a little at a time helps. Start with the assets you know people use the most, and move out from there. That can look like creating client portals for commonly accessed assets like images, or adding commonly used forms to your digital library first.

Keep Alternate Versions of Assets, Too

When creating logos, edited images, videos, and even non-creative digital assets like reports and spreadsheets, multiple versions are made on the way to the finished product. It can be useful to keep those past iterations on hand to access in the future in case something goes wrong or you have to revisit the asset for any other reason. 

To do that, build a system for alternate versions into your overall file structure. That could look like an “alternates” folder for every project, or labeling alternate versions appropriately in their metadata — whatever works for you, as long as it helps you organize and you are consistent with the approach.

Backup and Delete Old Files When You Leave

As you upgrade, you’ll need to shut down certain apps when you stop using them. Any assets you leave on the app or in its cloud storage system will be vulnerable to hacks, so it’s important to backup and delete everything before you go.

Leaving digital assets behind is leaving your company’s intellectual property in the open to be snagged by anyone with the know-how to hack the system. Back up and delete everything, especially if it’s stored in the cloud, when shutting down an app or piece of software.

The Importance of Good Digital Hygiene

Now that you’ve got a blueprint, you can get started organizing your digital assets and be well on your way to a more efficient, organized company. Staying on top of your technology isn’t always easy, but with planning and organization, it doesn’t have to be excruciating. 

At Bellewether, we’ve helped countless clients get more organized, efficient, and productive over the years. If you’re interested in making your business better, contact us today to learn more about how we can help. 

This article is part of a series on how leaders can best leverage technology in their organizations. For part one of the series, see: Choosing Technology For Your Business: A Leader’s Guide