Guest post by Rob Munz, Chief Product Officer and Founder of inMotionNow. Munz has spent the past 15 years working directly with creative departments at national brands, agencies, associations and mid-size businesses to help them improve their production workflows and complete projects more efficiently.
Creative teams, whether in-house or agency-based, share a common challenge – managing creative workflow. Demands from clients sometimes defy logic and reason, and most creative teams are better at creating than they are at managing timelines and approval channels. Implementing an effective workflow management process can be the difference between success and failure for these teams. But, how do you know if your workflow management is actually effective?
In 2014, inMotionNow launched a free Workflow Checkup to help creative professionals diagnose the health of four key areas of their teams’ workflow:
- Job Requests & Kickoff: How teams process incoming project requests and assign resources and priorities
- Project Management: How teams monitor the status of projects and deadlines
- Review & Approval Process: How teams manage the routing of proofs for review and maintain version control
- Metrics & Reporting: How teams track key performance metrics to improve productivity
Since launching this tool more than a year ago, inMotionNow has gathered workflow health data from nearly 500 creative teams. This data was originally intended to help teams identify areas for improvement. However, we quickly realized that the biggest value in capturing and analyzing this data is helping establish and share best practices for those creative teams.
To accomplish this, we turned to career advertising professional Debbie Kennedy for help. With more than a decade of experience leading creative and operations teams, both in-house at a Fortune 500 company and on the agency side, Debbie provided valuable perspective from our customers’ point of view.
Together, we developed the following best practices with the goal of helping creative teams succeed:
Establish Benchmarks and Measure Key Productivity Metrics, including:
- Number of creative requests received
- Number of versions per proof
- Number of projects completed
- Time to approval
- Length of project lifecycle
Job Requests and Kickoff
- Develop a formal request process and adhere to it.
- Develop effective request forms tailored to different projects and/or clients, as appropriate.
- Use request forms to communicate and set expectations with clients.
- Consider project management software to improve efficiencies, eliminate redundancies and share information.
- Get task and proof status information in addition to project status to gauge the level of effort required for ongoing projects and to keep work assignments balanced and prioritized.
- Use a deadline calendar to communicate and monitor project deadlines.
Review and Approval
- Improve your clients’ review experience by understanding what might be causing delays and taking steps to make the process easier.
- Communicate review expectations to clients to eliminate conflicting or confusing feedback; identify other review challenges; and expand your client review skills.
- Train your clients to be good reviewers with open communication and upfront expectations.
Debbie knows, from her own personal experience, that creative teams face some unique challenges when it comes to digital projects. To meet that fast pace and keep digital projects on track, she recommends implementing these additional best practices:
Do your homework to make sure everyone understands and agrees on messaging, strategy, specs and timing upfront at the job opening.
- Identify the approvers early, since digital jobs sometimes require approvals from people who aren’t usually involved in the creative decision-making. Include them in your touchpoints.
- Have check-in meetings with clients and creative to make sure you are on the right path, since digital may be harder for clients to visualize in their heads. Share comps at pre-established checkpoints to ensure revisions are made before the project is finalized.
- Dedicate a project manager who has experience in digital and can keep those fast-paced projects on track.
While establishing best practices is helpful, expect them to evolve to meet your changing needs. To ensure that your best practices continue to work, do regular debriefings to analyze your results and continue to look for areas for improvement.
There are a number of Creative Work Management solutions available to help, including inMotionNow Work Management. Workflow solutions exclusively built for creative teams are designed to address a range of challenges, including the four key areas discussed above. Identifying the challenges unique to your team can help you determine which Creative Work Management solution might be the best fit for your team.