By: Le'Mina McNair on April 15th, 2022
10 Tips to Optimize your Creative Workflow Processes
The manner in which you approach a creative project from beginning to end is an important factor in the overall success of your project. Established workflows that are tailored to the needs of your team can help save time and resources while improving efficiency. However, keeping workflows up-to-date with current technology and ever-evolving team needs is not an easy task.
For example, teams commonly struggle with outdated project management processes that lead to communication breakdowns and burnout, as well as how to handle onboarding new clients and team members with disorganized documentation. It’s essential for creative teams to continuously re-evaluate their processes to identify opportunities to improve protocols and technology. Let's take a look at 10 important tips to help teams optimize and increase the efficiency of their internal creative workflow processes.
1. Streamline Communication
Breakdowns or misunderstandings in communication are some of the most common elements of the workflow that hinder project success. In fact, 43% of project managers found that communication was a key factor in why projects fail. Communication issues can take place for a number of reasons:
- Rapid increase in work volume can bulldoze communication protocols
- Disorganization of tasks can result in lost messages and instructions
- Lack of consistent communication workflows can create communication chaos
In order to ensure streamlined inter- and intra-departmental communication, project managers need to develop a standardized, consistent protocol for creative workflow processes that are designed to move projects along with all information needed. Project managers can develop this process manually by speaking with separate teams and individuals about the details of their work and how it interacts with others, organizing all the resources every team member needs to complete their tasks, and creating assignments for every task needed to complete a project. Project managers can also utilize a project management system to help automate communication processes and collect all data and conversations in one centralized location. We’ll talk more about project management systems later on.
2. Internal Collaboration
Hand-in-hand with streamlined communication is creating an environment that fosters productive team collaboration. This includes collaborative activities between members of the same team, as well as between different teams. It's very common that one creative project will be touched by a number of teams, from copywriting to design to marketing. Rather than closing the door as the project moves from one group to another, teams should collaborate on the project from the very beginning to ensure that concepts, messaging, and design are consistent from task to task. Project managers can encourage collaboration by setting up meetings and activities specifically designed to foster brainstorming and cooperation among teams. The right technology can also streamline internal collaboration; Iconik, for example, is a cloud-native solution that facilitates hassle-free media collaboration and includes powerful automation features to help move projects forward.
3. Client Collaboration
Client collaboration can be just as important as internal collaboration. While the client has trusted your expert team with the execution of the project, they also may have specific ideas in mind that are important to capture. Working with the client once at the beginning and then after the project is done is not sufficient collaboration; limiting client collaboration in this way can ultimately waste more time than it saves because if the final product is way off from what the client is looking for, the team will have to go back to the drawing board, resulting in project delays for the team and overbilling of hours for the client.
Project managers can facilitate streamlined collaboration between the client and the teams by setting up regular discussions to explore the direction and progress of the project. Discussions like these actually save time in the long run because it eliminates the need for teams to start over if a finished product is not what the client was anticipating. In addition, teams can utilize technology that better facilitates client collaboration and media sharing, such as MediaValet, a cloud-based Digital Asset Management platform that helps teams organize materials, collaborate effectively, and easily share content.
4. Anticipate Issues
While project managers know better than anyone what their team is capable of, they also understand that issues inevitably come up. In fact, when businesses were asked to characterize their ways of working, nearly one-third said that all methods were primarily used to solve problems rather than proactive, innovative methods. In addition, businesses expressed that only 73% of projects completed in 2021 met the original goals. Obstacles and changes throughout the course of a project can come in any number of forms, including:
- A team member gets sick and needs to push a project back a day
- The client is slow with delivering the necessary materials to complete a project
- The strategy of the entire project changes direction
To get ahead of potential issues that will come up throughout the course of a project, be sure to build in additional time. It'll help team members feel less pressure, leading to better work, and reassure the client that your team is aware of their time; it’s always better to pad your timelines and deliver early than underestimate and deliver the finished product late.
5. Enhance Role Accountability
As a part of a creative team, accountability for every role is essential to promote an honest and efficient creative workflow. Shifting responsibility and a lack of role clarity only creates confusion that slows down the creative workflow process. You can enhance role accountability for every team member by:
- Making expectations and responsibilities for every project very clear from the beginning
- Having regular discussions with team leaders about areas of success and areas of improvement
- Involving employees in goal-setting and timeline processes
6. Project and Process Documentation
Thorough creative workflow processes are only as effective as their repeatability for new projects and new team members. If team members are left to only their memory of how a process should go, there are bound to be mistakes that slow the process. Project managers should create thorough and organized documentation of projects and creative workflow processes that can be easily accessed at any point. The benefits of easy-to-find, easy-to-use process and project documentation are two-fold:
- New project and clients: Beneficial for new projects and clients to inform the workflows of internal and external teams. As requests for work come in frequently, project managers and other leaders need to be able to document those requests in such a way that work can begin in an organized and timely fashion.
- New team members: Beneficial for bringing on new team members to help them get acclimated and hit the ground running. On-boarding can be an overwhelming process for the new employee and a stressful one for the existing team; make it easier for everyone by handing off clean, organized processes to empower a smooth transition.
7. Creative Briefs
Project leaders can set their team up for success on a project by providing thorough, comprehensive creative briefs. Creative briefs should:
- Thoroughly identify all expectations for the project
- State any preliminary ideas from the team and the client
- Provide internal or external resources
- Offer examples of similar past projects
- Recommend projected timeline and due dates for each step in the project
8. Digital Asset Management Systems
Effective organization of files, assets, tasks, and other data is essential to efficient creative workflow processes. If a team member spends 10 minutes poking around folders to find a specific file every time they have a new task, that time adds up quickly. A sophisticated digital asset management (DAM) solution can provide an organized system to ensure speed and accessibility in a user-friendly interface. In addition, the interaction that internal teams have with certain assets can vary greatly from that of the appropriate clients. Creative teams can utilize their DAM solution to restrict permissions on a case-by-case basis in order to control asset access in a smart and organized way. Premier enterprise DAMs, such as Wedia, help organizations efficiently manage, customize, and deliver their marketing assets for more relevance, impact, and overall business success.
9. Project Management System
An advanced project management system (PMS) can empower project managers to automate complex creative workflow processes in one centralized location. Total visibility into ongoing projects is essential to balancing workloads and understanding exactly where each team member’s energy is spent. The right PMS will empower teams and project managers to:
- Organize tasks with customizable templates
- Streamline communication internally and externally
- Gain workload transparency to eliminate burnout or underutilization
- Integrate the rest of your technology stack for seamless coordination between platforms
- Automate tedious tasks for more efficient workflows
When examining project management, it’s also important to integrate the other solutions in your marketing technology stack to ensure that data can be easily shared and content can be efficiently published. Utilize a content management system, such as Censhare, that centralizes and automates complex marketing processes and integrates seamlessly with your project management system for fewer breakdowns and more effective workflows.
Optimizing your creative workflows is not a set-it-and-forget-it process. It requires frequent examination for opportunities to improve efficiency and organization. Analytics and insights can help accurately re-evaluate your creative workflow processes. Project and resource management systems and other workflow technology can provide qualitative and quantitative productivity analytics to clearly understand the best methods for optimizing your creative workflow.
Being able to track and measure specific KPIs related to performance and efficiency can help in a number of ways. First, there is always room to improve workflows, whether by adding in new steps that better facilitate hand-offs or removing old processes that are irrelevant, given the way the team has transformed. Measurable data can illustrate where your team’s energy is going and how it can be redirected for better performance. Second, generating buy-in from leaders for new hires or new technology solutions requires data. Accessible metrics can provide hard evidence into how your requests will optimize your team’s time for greater company efficiency.
Optimize Your Creative Workflow Processes with IO Integration
Every organization is different, which means that the optimal creative workflow process for every team is also different. The experts in creative workflow solutions and technology at IO Integration can help you visualize what the most optimal creative workflow looks like for your unique organization and develop a creative workflow roadmap. Beginning with a thorough discovery process, we’ll work with your team to determine the best workflows and technology solutions to fit your creative team's needs. Get in touch with the experts at IO Integration to learn more about how you can optimize your workflows.