When people imagine what goes into creative work, probably the first thing that comes to mind is a messy desk captained by an unwashed individual pulling her hair out in clumps. And out of this high-stress chaos comes marketing magic the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Mad Men went off the air.
While this sketch of creative life might be all too true for some, most creative agencies know that, to survive and prosper, deliverables need to be churned out in a predictable, scalable, and timely manner. Not to mention: they need to be good. A good marketing project management workflow will create an environment where deliverables can exceed expectations.
Why Creativity Needs Boundaries
Most notable creatives had a daily ritual of some kind. Some rituals involved lots of long walks, whereas others involved more extreme measures (think 50+ cups of strong coffee/day extreme). A workflow is essentially a ritual for your creative processes. There’s not some magic concoction of coffee and sunlight that’ll lead to some groundbreaking work—it’s simply that you take the guesswork out of your day. Taking the guesswork out of your creative projects will liberate your team to think about the important stuff: doing good work.
There’s also the added benefit of understanding exactly what goes into a given project from a top-down perspective. Every blog post needs a draft, review, and design work. And that design work needs a creative brief, access to existing creative assets, and so on. This gives you a better understanding not only of timelines but also how to effectively budget and price your projects. You can also ensure the right connections are made between team members because a workflow can be a visual representation of who depends on whom for what. Instead of work sputtering to a halt for lack of knowing whom to go to with a request, a workflow makes sure every contingency is spelled out so that your team knows where to go for answers.
A workflow might sound like some boring inheritance from the suits of yesteryear that stymies creativity and empowerment. However, in reality and in the hands of a great project manager, workflows beget a project environment where your creative team has the right amount of time and support to execute to the best of their ability.
Workflows Meets Machine
Even the best project manager isn’t superhuman. Occasionally, it helps to have software to take some of the workflow burden from the shoulders of your PMs. This is actually where workflows add even more value. Instead of having to recreate the wheel at the beginning of every new project, your PMs can simply set up a series of Project Templates complete with assigned roles, and voila: you have a system that can be executed without human intervention. This leaves your PMs free to provide the human touch that all projects need. Workflows are like the If This Then That of the project management world. Where would IFTT be without software to facilitate the process?
A Workflow for the Road
Now that you’re ready to master project management workflows for your team, it might help to have a model you can take with you. Let’s consider something we can all wrap our heads around like writing a blog post.
Step 1. Receive request from client—“We provide interspecies therapy for pet owners and we’d like you to write an article discussing recent findings about cats having the ability to actually love their human companions. Please remember to use companions instead of owners—thanks! :)”
Step 2. Validate blog request with some market research—does the internet need another article about whether cats actually like people? A resounding yes emerges from the depths of the web.
Step 3. Research. Eye your cat warily as you do so.
Step 4. Write a draft.
Step 5. Send to In-House Editor for review.
Step 6. Review and implement feedback from In-House Editor.
Step 7. Repeat Step 4.
Step 8. Send final draft to client for review.
Step 9. Review and implement any feedback from client.
Step 10. Repeat Step 7.
Step 11. Send final deliverable to client.
So, as you can see, breaking down something as simple as a blog post reveals the moving parts behind it. At the project level, the complexity only increases. This might seem daunting, but a good project manager can create workflows that automate a lot of the thinking behind these processes—especially when they have the support of project management software.