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How to create a DAM good RFP: Identifying key requirements for your next digital asset management system

By: Lydia Bird

The theory is a sound one – create a fit for purpose request for proposal (RFP), send it off to the top few DAM vendors, and all your digital asset management trials will be forgotten. However, the practice is often somewhat different thanks to a variety of real world challenges when it comes to specifying the requirements for a digital asset management system.

These challenges are not unique by any means. Any procurement process is one that requires a good deal of research and thought, often by multiple functions within the purchasing organisation. It’s a process that requires a significant time investment and a good organisational structure to get the best results.

The pitfalls of rushing an RFP

It’s easy to get it wrong. In a parallel universe, that of software asset management (SAM), a Gartner purchasing report predicted that as many as 75% of SAM tool users will feel dissatisfied with their purchase in the coming years – a massive three out of four companies. This level of dissatisfaction is very much down to disconnects and misunderstandings during the RFP and specification process, according to Gartner.

One common problem is making RFPs too binary with inflexible yes/no options or limited multiple choice responses – a spreadsheet that follows the MoSCoW method can be useful. MoSCoW is a prioritisation framework that stands for ‘Must have’ (mandatory features), ‘Should have’ (not mandatory but add significant value), ‘Could have’ (not mandatory but add some value) and ‘Will not have’ (not a priority at this time). Prioritising in this way, incorporating any time, money or resource constraints, enables you to zero in on the features and functions that are most important to your business.

The danger of an over-simplified RFP is that it encourages positive responses from vendors to quite complex questions, resulting in an apparent very high or perfect score. When in reality the exact detail has been left unexamined. At Imagen, we know that almost every business case for a DAM is different, and each DAM implementation will be different in a variety of ways. So, it’s vital to be thinking about ‘how’ the vendor satisfies your business requirements, not simply ‘if’ they do.

Questions to consider before choosing a DAM vendor

● What types of files do you need to store?
● How much storage do you need?
● How many users need to be supported?
● What search/metadata capabilities are important?
● What permissions structure is required?
● What levels of security/access will satisfy the business?
● What are you prepared to spend (e.g. cost per user, recurring subscription)?
● What integrations/APIs would be useful?
● Can the platform scale?
● How long have potential providers been in business?
● What certifications do those potential providers have?

Those different business cases and a one-size-doesn’t-fit-all approach do ensure that RFPs get a personalised response, a critical factor in establishing a high-quality business relationship. That effort counts for more than you might expect too, with 84% of businesses starting their RFP process with a referral, according to While a massive 80% of buying decisions are influenced by peer recommendations, according to Nielsen.
Of course, the flipside of the over-simplified template approach is the over-complicated approach, where laundry lists of not-always-complementary requirements are presented by multiple internal functions, then crunched together into a seemingly comprehensive list.
However, there is a two-fold risk here. Firstly, any business critical weighting can get lost in the noise, leading to wasted time and confusion. Secondly, the sheer complexity of the process can stall progress on one or the other side. Vendors may not fully engage with the full RFP, or alternatively the responses become so ungainly and difficult to process that shortcuts have to be made to make the process practical again.

Don’t lose sight of core functionality

A simple management technique to tame that complexity problem is to ensure that core functionality takes priority throughout the process, from initial brainstorming sessions through internal conversations, to RFP and throughout the scoring process. Ensuring that the RFP response and analysis team are all on the same page is vital, especially when multiple stakeholders are involved.

Related to this is another simple but essential ingredient – consistency. Especially in such a developed marketplace as digital asset management, there are similar descriptors such as brand asset management platform or media asset management, which have subtly different implications for the vendor. It’s best to be very clear internally on the core functionality that is required, and ensure that this is the language used consistently throughout the procurement process, and in all RFIs and RFPs.

Another key element of consistency is to establish the parameters under which the RFP responses will be judged. A scoring matrix is an excellent strategy here, but this needs to be set in stone before the RFPs are created and distributed, or else the risk is that inconsistencies will become magnified. It’s also important to internally agree a set period for clarification questions and responses – a clarification window – and build this into the process from the outset. While not every vendor will make use of it, the better (more personalised) responses will want to understand the detail behind the RFP, and this is a valuable opportunity to improve the quality of the response and subsequent service delivery.

Consider scalability and future use

While establishing a functionality checklist will undoubtedly be a key part of laying out the RFP process, it’s helpful to focus too on the objectives for the platform in the immediate, short, medium and long terms. This will also help inform a broad direction of travel for the future, which should be a major factor in choosing a DAM and a DAM partner. Having the space to grow in terms of future functionality scalability is vital to avoid the challenges of changing providers after a few years.

What should be included in an RFP?

Background and solution description – This should include information about your company, the team making the purchasing decision, and the objectives of any new DAM platform. A good RFP must educate potential solution providers about the problems you hope to address in your business.

Functional features – Having too many features can overcomplicate the platform and hinder adoption and/or employee effectiveness. Consider what you need for your product to meet your business goals. Core functionality should always be prioritised and included in a checklist for clarity.

Non-functional features – What are the ‘nice to have’ features you might be interested in? Is there a trial of a vendor’s product? What training will be provided to help you use it? What customer support is offered?

Planning and timelines – What is the project deadline and when would key development milestones ideally fall? What is the implementation process and how long does it usually take?

Pricing – What is the business looking to spend on the new platform and is pricing a one-off cost or a recurring fee? What costs are involved at each stage of the implementation process?

Evaluation – Are there any legal requirements that need to be considered? How are you evaluating suppliers (e.g. a scoring matrix, certifications), and what is the clarifying window – when vendors can ask for extra detail on aspects of the RFP as provided.

Guidelines for vendors to submit the RFP for consideration

Migration is also a key question for your new supplier, and a good DAM provider will be well versed in removing barriers in this area. Look for vendors that have a good track record with your peers as a starting point, but drilling down into the details is key, as every starting point is different.

Many larger businesses will already have a variety of legacy storage solutions to tackle, so ensuring that a rigorous data discovery drive is conducted prior to the RFP process is a good idea, so that any outliers can be captured and included. Providing vendors with the complete range of representative file samples at the outset is important. Some vendors will be able to help with getting content into a state whereupon it is ready for migration. This can be a valuable service that can smooth the process and ease any implementation worries.

Last but absolutely not least, any legal requirements must be captured and included as a core part of the RFP, especially if there are specific regulatory or compliance considerations that apply to your business niche. Ensuring that the vendor has an adequate level of data security in place is also of the utmost importance, especially if sensitive assets are involved.

Imagen supplies cloud-based DAM solutions for any size of business or organisation, helping to store, organise, and activate your digital media content. Find out more about Imagen’s smart, AI-enabled, cloud-based DAM solutions.

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