The words “creative” and “operation” don’t seem to go together, as the former is often associated with advertising and branding, and the latter is associated with systems and organization.
However, the creative process is often chaotic, and without a set structure. There’s also a higher chance for miscommunications, missed deadlines, and stretching of budgets and resources.
That’s why creative operations are becoming increasingly popular for organizations to bring more order into the process.
In this article, we’ll look at what creative operations are, why they’re important, and how organizations offering creative services can get started with it.
What are creative operations?
Creative operations — also known as “creative ops” — is a framework that adds structure and management to the creative process. Its purpose is to manage the creative workflow and optimize it to produce higher-quality of work with the same or fewer resources.
That means your creative designers will spend less time on repetitive administrative work and prioritize their tasks so they can even accommodate ad hoc requirements without triggering a delay.
You can also think of creative operations as a supply chain that details the steps, people, and other resources needed to get creative from point A to point B.
A successful supply chain ensures no delay in production or delivery to keep up with customer expectations and increase profitability.
Similarly, creative operations simplify the workflow of your brand agency and give you complete visibility of the bottlenecks so you can resolve them and complete creatives on time.
This concept may seem similar to project management due to its definition and scope, but in truth, both concepts have a few differences, which we’ll outline in the next section.
Creative operations vs. project management
Both creative operations and project management have a lot in common. In fact, creative operations include some project management best practices like creating project briefs and closely monitoring the project scope.
However, the most significant difference between project management and creative operations is that the latter exists to fit the specific needs of a creative team while the former oversees project completion.
Creative operations manage the department as a whole and ensure that the creative team has sufficient people and tools to deliver the project and structure the creative workflow.
That’s why, when it comes to creative ops, the teams own the project and play the role of key decision-makers and stakeholders. In the next section, let’s dig a little deeper into who the key players are in creative ops.
Different roles within a creative operations team
Creative directors, copywriters, designers, photographers, and videographers are part of the creative operations team within a creative agency. But a few roles are unique to this team as they specifically focus on process creation and organization. Let’s take a look at them below:
- Creative operations director: People in this role have 10+ years of operational experience in a creative background and are responsible for setting up systems that improve creative efficiency and improve processes by taking inputs from account leads and other stakeholders.
- Creative operations manager: These personnel typically have 5+years of experience and have a deep understanding of the product, marketing, and brand lifecycles. Their role involves assisting the operations director, maintaining cross-department alignment, and ensuring that projects run smoothly.
- Creative operations coordinator: These people work under the direction of the manager and director to analyze current creative processes and oversee timekeeping for all the resources —internal and external — working on the project. They also coordinate daily operations reporting, prepare materials for meetings, and organize projects, records, and resources. So, they should have strong analytical skills to communicate numbers and ideas to different departments.
So far, we’ve understood what creative operations do and their key players. Next, let’s look at why this initiative is important and the results it can bring to your organization.
Benefits of creative operations
The right Creative Operations Platform and framework can help you see upsides right away, regardless of the size of your teams and the issues you're facing. Let's look at some of its best benefits in detail:
- Efficiency: Creative operations help teams move faster by optimizing each person and process and closing technology gaps.
- Collaboration: Centralize where you work and get everyone on the same page, so messages and feedback don’t fall through the cracks.
- Accountability: Get a detailed view of which team member is working on a specific task and avoid confusion.
- Compliance: Ensure that the creative work meets compliance regulations through the additional insight that creative ops provide.
- Data-driven decisions: See which areas of the creative process need improvement, communicate resourcing needs, and quantify your value to leadership with reports and data.
- Forecasting: Create accurate forecasts of how much money, time, and resources you’ll need to complete a project.
In short, you need to implement a creative operations process to ensure that your creative team can streamline its workflow and move faster. In the next section, let’s look at how you can implement one.
3 steps to follow if you want to implement a creative operations process in your organization
The benefits of deploying a creative operations process are manifold, but getting started on it is daunting. That’s why we’ve outlined three key steps to help you create a successful creative operation.
1. Map out your current creative workflow
It’s impossible to develop an effective creative operations process unless you know where your current process lacks. So, map out your current creative workflow from start to finish by following the steps below:
- Take stock of how the current processes work: Interview various team members in different departments to get a clear picture of what your creative process looks like.
- Observe the workflow: Once you’ve mapped out what the creative process looks like on paper, you should observe what the actual workflow looks like by sitting in on meetings, understanding your team’s work style, keeping track of deadlines, etc., as the theoretical process may not line up with the actual process.
- Document the process: Write down or illustrate the workflow in an easily understandable and changeable format to make revisions to it later.
2. Identify problems
Once you’ve clearly illustrated a workflow, determine what works and what must change by following the steps below:
- Start with the intake system: Take a close look at how your creative process starts, as it could make or break your workflow. Ideally, you should have a clear creative brief outlining all the requirements and information needed to kickstart a project. If the problem lies with the brief, check out this article on how to write a creative brief to understand how to make one that provides clarity to your team members.
- Review deadlines and resources: In this step, you will determine which steps in the creative workflow take the longest and pinpoint the reasons behind delays. Most of them arise due to technology, resource, or communication issues, or a combination of them, so audit your workflow to check for them.
- Make a list of the technology gaps: Often, creatives have to use legacy software to get their work done. This means wasted time and missed deadlines. So, review all the tech that creative teams use to build, manage, and deliver content, identify where the gaps are, and the tools you can use to streamline your efforts.
3. Find solutions
Now that you’ve identified critical problems and their causes, you’ll have to find solutions and establish a creative operations process that works for your organization. Here’s how you go about it:
- Map out your ideal workflow: Define your ideal process and work backward to determine how you’ll achieve it based on the information you’ve collected so far.
- Communicate with your team: Talk to your stakeholders, decision-makers, and team members to help them understand where the current creative process lacks the root cause of all issues and your suggested fixes.
- Enlist the help of software: Get a workflow management software tool like Artwork Flow to centralize your creative operations process quickly and get everyone on the same page. We’ll get into more detail in the next section.
How Artwork Flow helps create a streamlined creative operations process
Artwork Flow is an end-to-end software you can use to construct an efficient, creative operations process for your organization. Here are some of its key features:
- Workflows: Divide your project into stages and connected tasks and assign each task to a specific team member.
- Centralized feedback: Get stakeholders from marketing, legal, and other external agencies to get feedback in a central location with all team members in the loop.
- Analytics: Understand how a project progresses and identify bottlenecks in the process immediately.
- Digital Asset Management (DAM): Store all your assets in this library, share them easily with your team members and find the most recent version so you can collaborate more efficiently.
- Proofing tools: Identify typos and other errors that will likely cause compliance issues to speed up your revision process
- Follow-up automation: Free up your team’s time to get more done and speed up your launches by allowing the platform to automatically follow up on creative review and approval tasks.
LesserEvil, a snacks brand, used these features to improve team collaboration and reduce creative approval delays. Check out their case study to learn how Artwork Flow helped them do it. To learn more about how Artwork Flow can help your brand establish a streamlined creative operations process, sign up for a free demo right away.