How To Better Automate Your Creative Workflow Blog Feature
Matthew Bagshaw

By: Matthew Bagshaw on June 12th, 2019

How To Better Automate Your Creative Workflow

creative operations

Automation technology intends to replace the repetitive, rules-based tasks that are required of your human employees. In so doing, it allows them to spend more time on higher-level assignments that play to their strengths, e.g. activities that require creativity and problem-solving skills.

The purpose of automation is to hand over the parts of your business that subtract more value from your business than they add, because they distract your employees and take up their valuable time. Automation technology therefore increases the human element of your business by freeing up time to meet deadlines, complete projects, and ultimately earn new customers.

Like any other organization, companies that have workflows for their creative output can also benefit from automation. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about creative workflow automation, including how you can benefit from it and how you can start implementing it within your organization.

6 Phases of a Typical Creative Workflow

The standard creative workflow has six different phases, each of which can be enhanced by automation technology.

1. Preparation

In this preliminary stage, there are a lot of strong candidates for partial or full automation:

  • Standardizing briefs and routing them to the right people

  • Creating job bag systems

  • Starting a workflow and assigning a status to the job

  • Presenting ideas to the client

2. Resourcing

Once you’ve won approval for your idea, you’ll need to present time and budget estimates to the client. At this stage, you can leverage automated reporting solutions that deliver a more accurate picture of your resources and your upcoming pipeline of work. Your projections will be more realistic, and you know ahead of time if you’ll need to push back the deadline or hire some freelancers temporarily.

3. Concepting

This stage may have less automation in it than the others, since it’s more on the creative side. Still, the people doing the creative work need to inform their coworkers about the status of jobs, as well as file materials in the right place so that they can be handed off to the right people. Automation can help these processes go more smoothly.

4. Design

It’s time to hit the ground running with your creative concept. Actions like parceling out work to individual employees and linking resource management with project management can be automated during this stage.

5. Production and Digital Development

By now, you might want to create different variants of a creative asset. There’s multiple forms of print and digital assets, as well as other formats such as banner ads and social media posts. The more you can automate the production of these variants and their delivery to different platforms, the faster your time to market and the higher your return on investment.

6. Billing

Of course, you need to record your time and expenses over the course of the project. These activities should be linked to your project management software, as well as any approval systems, so that this data is piped into the billing solution automatically.

Benefits of Automation in Your Creative Workflow

  • Time savings: 40 percent of employees say that they spend more than a quarter of their work time on manual, repetitive tasks—presenting a great opportunity for automation.

  • Increased efficiency: Market research firm IDC estimates that business lose 20 to 30 percent of revenue each year due to inefficiencies in their processes.

  • Accurate reporting: The right automated reporting solution will help uncover insights that you can use to improve your business.

  • Decreased time to market: Automation technology helps you go faster and get more done in the same amount of time.

  • Higher ROI: By improving efficiency, accuracy, and time to market, automation helps you deliver on your goal of a higher return on your investment.

  • More time for creativity: Although computers have the advantages of speed and accuracy, they can’t match the creative output of human beings.

  • Happier staff: Employees no longer have to waste time on drudgery and mind-numbing repetitive work.

  • Continuous improvement of processes: Data-driven automation solutions can generate reports that give you better visibility into how to improve your processes.

Where to Start with Creative Workflow Automation

The first place to begin with creative workflow automation is by examining your needs, situation, and capabilities as an organization. Where are you now, and where would you like to be in the future? What technology and staff do you currently have available?

A large, complex system already in place will be more difficult to change than a piecemeal solution using various applications. Instead of swapping things out bit by bit, you’ll likely need an entire overhaul.

This also means that it’s easier for small and medium-size organizations to start simple with automation. Identifying potential bottlenecks and slowdowns is a good way to begin.

Getting approval for creative assets is one of the biggest causes of delays. For example, handing off an asset manually from one department to another has two potential points of failure: the first human employee who needs to remember to send the email, and the second human employee who needs to read the email and take action.

Of course, it’s unlikely that your entire creative workflow can be automated from start to finish. However, there’s a surprising amount of work that machines can now handle, only requiring a human to double-check their output.

Key Features for Better Creative Workflow Automation

When looking for a creative workflow automation solution, consider the six features below that will massively speed up your operations.

  • Checking file integrity

  • Converting file formats

  • Distributing files to the appropriate users

  • Searching files quickly

  • Linking project management tools

  • Linking workflows to approvals

The Results of Automating Your Creative Workflow

When you successfully use automation in your creative workflow, things just “click” all on their own. Assets can go through their life cycle, from concept to delivery, almost independently, with just a few touch-points from human employees when necessary.

There’s no need to have someone watching over the entire time, guiding the project from stage to stage. Instead, the assets will travel between steps on their own, without requiring manual interference. Meanwhile, employees are free to focus on valuable strategic activities and generate more useful insights for your business.


Automation technology can be tremendously valuable for any business with creative output. Want to learn more about making your creative operations more efficient and effective? Check out our all-in-one guide “Welcome to the Age of Creative Operations.”

Understanding Your Creative Operations


About Matthew Bagshaw

Director of Services (UK) at IO Integration

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