Technology in the workplace has continually transformed the corporate world with each new advance — from typewriters to touchscreens, hard drives to Google Drive, WordPerfect to Wordpress. Each advance, each new app or website or "iDevice," promises to solve a new pain or drive workflow efficiency; but despite all of technology's progress, businesses still struggle to keep their processes efficient. Specifically, the struggle lies in transparency. A recent survey report of marketers and office workers in the UK showed that work-related stress stems from a lack of communication and visibility into the work done by others on the team.
In-house creative teams especially face transparency issues because of the complex nature of their work. Request management, approvals, project planning, and resource management can often combine to create a bedlum of chaos that slows processes and limits creativity. In fact, more than half of creative marketers stress over juggling all the work they have to fit into a 40-hour work week. Fortunately for creatives, advances in marketing technology now address issues of visibility for creative teams. By adopting marketing solutions built specifically for a creative team's needs, teams can make sense of their work and find the visibility they need to avoid stressful workloads.
The following five marketing solutions can help improve transparency for your in-house creative team:
Proofing Tool: Become a digital proofer
The iterative nature of creative work requires creatives, directors, and clients to participate in what seems like countless approvals and revisions. Approval processes can range anywhere from slow and slightly frustrating to months-long and extremely aggravating. The relatively recent technology of digital proofing not only helps to reduce approval times with clients and directors, but it can also enable teams to collaborate mid-project. For example, a cloud-based proofing tool allows creative teams to upload digital versions of assets and collaborate with clients or team members from anywhere in the world at any time. Important feedback doesn't get lost in email threads, clients feel confident that their suggestions are addressed, and the creative team can view any suggested edits in real time. ProofHQ is a great example of a proofing tool.
Digital Asset Management Tool: Manage all your assets with a DAM
A digital asset management (DAM) solution is another great tool for increasing team transparency and communication. A major pain for creative teams is that their files often live in several different places, e.g., individuals' computers, company drives, shared drives, web-based tools, etc. With a DAM solution you can easily manage all digital files and control all access and usage of those files, while keeping a curated collection of finished assets for clients. This way, when you or a team member needs an image or an InDesign file from a previous or current project you can easily search in the DAM, rather than navigating external hard drives or asking around. Workfront DAM is an example of a DAM solution that not only offers DAM capabilities, but also easily integrates with other marketing solutions.
Request Management Tool: Channel requests to one location
One of the greatest offenders of a creative team's transparency is poor request management. Too often, an internal client will drop by the desk of a designer they know well and will ask for special help on a project. When the five or more creatives on your team begin processing requests like this, it's no wonder no one knows who is working on what.
Creative teams can avoid this chaos by being more firm on how requests are received. Together with your team, choose one place for submitting and gathering requests. Optimally, you would have a work management system for this, but you could even set up an email account like [email protected] and require your internal clients to submit requests and creative briefs there. Be sure to communicate to your clients that any requests for your team need to be submitted to the single location you've chosen. Any time someone tries to drop a request at your desk or via personal email, politely ask them to submit it via your team's process so you can make sure it isn't missed.
Agile-Friendly Tool: Adopt Agile principles
Agile (explained most thoroughly in the eBook, The Complete Guide to Agile Marketing) is a flexible, team-based work method that emphasizes rapid delivery of smaller pieces of a project, often done simultaneously, versus completing the entire project in a linear fashion. It provides increased visibility to teams because of its transparent approach to resource and task management. While the Agile approach originated with IT, creative teams can benefit from adopting even a few of the same principles and then supporting the approach with an Agile-friendly marketing solution.
One element of Agile that can particularly improve transparency on a creative team is Scrum. Scrum meetings are daily 10-minute meetings in which team members, led by a scrum master or resource manager (this could simply be the creative director), review the team's work, discuss any needs, and distribute any additional tasks the team has received. This and other Agile principles can help your team achieve greater transparency and increase efficiency to ultimately accomplish more work. Creative teams can use online tools that facilitate the Agile method, making the team's work even more visible to team members.
Collaboration Tool: Stop using email to collaborate
Email is one of those technological advances that made work much more efficient. But anymore, it's simply not the best way to communicate in many cases, especially on a creative team. Email can quickly blur a creative team's visibility by creating silos and information traps where relevant conversations and attachments are kept far from fellow team members and clients who might not be included in the thread.
Here's how you can solve the problem with technology: move all communication about work to a single, preferably web-based, location that organizes and houses collaboration, updates, and notifications in the context of the work being done. This way, all work communication is easier to track and manage and fewer pieces of information are lost or forgotten.
Combine Marketing Solutions to Further Simplify Creative Work
These marketing solutions will help to cut down chaos and increase visibility in certain areas of the creative process, but if these tools don't play well together, they could potentially be more hassle than help, all things considered. Robust Marketing Work Management solutions include many, if not all, of the listed marketing solutions and can even address other aspects of creative work, like chargeback billing and client reports. For best results, be sure to combine as many of these solutions as possible.
Your in-house creative team can't escape all the moving parts of corporate creative work, but with the right marketing solutions and processes, you can gain transparency into all the moving parts, including your team members' work, and align all the moving parts to work in tandem. With improved transparency, your team can work more efficiently, offer more visibility to clients, and increase the overall value of the team.
To learn more about how the Agile methodology can work for your creative team, check out our blog post, "Dave's Guide to Getting Started with Agile Marketing".
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