It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of the day. This can lead to issues that affect production of your creative projects. Implementing a few basic rituals that keep your creative team on track, and on deadline, can take away the production nightmare. Rituals as simple as stand-up or kickoff meetings can increase your ability to successfully scale production on a creative team.
Here’s a shocker: Most creative people are better at being creative than they are at managing time, planning and workflow. That’s why DesignOps have proven to be so effective. If you want to know more about the role of design operations, we've written the guide on it. They address the operational aspects of delivering consistent design at scale. Whether you’ve implemented DesignOps or not, the following five rituals will help you implement effective workflow management processes and empower your team to maximize delivery of high-quality creative projects.
Before you get into the meat of any project, it’s absolutely critical that you establish crystal clear benchmarks by which to measure your team’s progress and productivity. That means identifying and measuring key productivity and performance metrics. From there, you can create a detailed work definition document or creative brief and a detailed work plan.
Your work plan can (and should, if possible) be modeled after previous similar, successful projects. That way, you’re baking in existing protocols and processes that are already known to your team and known to be successful.
Work plans and creative briefs will vary by company, team and even project, but developing a strong framework with benchmarks and metrics to start every project will help your team get off on the right foot and stay in step from beginning to end of a project’s lifecycle. At a minimum, your work plan should clearly define its associated marketing goals, set expectations for scope, establish deadlines, clarify the review and approval process and make specs like format, sizing and style guides readily available.
Angela Harless, Managing Director at AcrobatAnt recommends developing timelines with milestones that everyone knows about. “Projects run much more smoothly if everyone is aware of key milestones and the project timeline...Developing a schedule and timeline and backing into key dates to meet deadlines is a critical step for any project.”
Communication is something we all, ostensibly, know how to do. But people can be surprisingly bad at it, especially in groups, and even more so when there are no clear parameters for how that communication should take place. The good news is, we have about 84,000 ways to communicate with one another these days. The bad news is, we have about 84,000 ways to communicate with one another these days.
Being deliberate about your team’s communication, whether it’s creating project-specific channels in Slack or Asana, establishing formal processes for requests or having weekly stand-ups and check-ins is critical. Clear lines of communication are the lifeblood of a successful team.
Maddie Raedts, Founding Partner and Creative Director at the Influencer Marketing Agency says her teams always include weekly or bi-weekly updates in their processes. They also utilize a flat organizational structure with minimal hierarchy. According to Raedts, “This allows room for smooth communication and more dynamic approaches because everyone has their say.”
Start every project with a kick-off meeting and invite everyone. In that meeting, you should be covering all the benchmarks, metrics and timelines discussed above. But you also need to use a significant chunk of time to discuss your communication processes. Make sure your team knows what channels to use for requests. Open channels for your team to give you feedback on your management methods during the project.
Remember, communication shouldn’t end when the project does. Hold a wrap-up meeting after the project ends to discuss what lessons everyone learned, what went well and what didn’t and to identify areas of improvement for next time.
Raise your hand if you ever wound up with ten versions of the same project on your computer or desk. Spoiler alert: Every designer you’ve ever met is raising their hand right now. Creative projects require many iterations and rounds of review and approvals. Without a clear, streamlined process in place for routing proofs and maintaining version control, you’re courting chaos.
Whether reviewers are clients or colleagues, the first step is to identify what might be causing roadblocks and bottlenecks and taking steps to remove them. This ties into having clear, established processes for communication. Centralize all communication surrounding reviews and approvals and make sure everyone who needs to can see exactly where a given item is in the process.
In a post on Graphic Design USA, Rob Munz, Chief Product Officer and Founder of inMotionNow, recommends training clients to be good reviewers with open communication and upfront expectations. “Communicate review expectations to clients to eliminate conflicting or confusing feedback.” A glossary of terms like this one can be helpful here to make sure everyone is speaking the same language.
Tracking and analysis of outcomes should be built into your project from the start. Andrew Gray, Partner and CTO at Tayloe/Gray says they focus on “building metrics into the foundation of the project” so they can “optimize against them throughout.” This drives them to constantly learn, test and apply knowledge to create more insightful future campaigns.
A lot of companies struggle with what’s known as “Last Mile Analytics.” The last mile of analytics is all about turning insights into outcomes, and many companies treat this stage as an afterthought. However, there’s a strong argument for making the last mile your first priority. A recent McKinsey report found 90 percent of organizations that are significantly outperforming their peers devote more than half of their analytics budget to that last mile. Based on that data, McKinsey recommends embedding analytics into the decision-making process from the beginning of any product. This allows you to be constantly adjusting throughout the life of your project.
Technologies are constantly evolving to deliver better ways of working. Google Docs, Trello, Git, Zendesk and Monday.com are solving problems of communication and collaboration as well as deadline and process control. To scale, you need to have a set of tools behind you that will support your streamlining efforts.
By organizing a toolkit and ensuring everyone on the team is trained on the tools, you give your team less to worry about in managing individual processes and create better transparency across the life of a project. Simplifying workflow is one of the best ways to ensure you have the resources to scale.
A dedicated design team from outside of your company to support on projects should also be part of your toolkit. When your designers are drowning in work, the design team can step in to ensure your efforts to scale are a success.
These tools should be regularly gauged to determine if they still work for where you are in the scaling process. Make a practice of scrutinizing your tools for signs of wear and tear, just like you would the power tools in your garage. It’s also important to keep a sharp eye on new tools coming to market as you grow. At first, Google Hangouts may be a useful chat function attached to Gmail, but as you grow and add more employees and processes, you may find that a program like Slack is better suited for you.
Managing creative teams can be tricky. There are a lot of balls in the air and a lot of people to keep in the loop. At Superside, we employ dedicated account managers to bridge the gap between creative and client. This gives you a central point of contact for all your creative needs. Our talented global team of experienced designers is always ready to jump in and support your team with high-quality design work.
Amrita is a veteran B2B SaaS marketer and the VP of Marketing at Superside. Besides preaching to everyone and their mother about how good execution is the ultimate differentiator for your company, she hosts our monthly Gather & Grow series featuring leaders from Adobe, Dropbox, HubSpot, Intuit, Shopify and more. Find her on LinkedIn and Twitter and say hi!
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