“ASAP” is a familiar phrase to many marketing and creative teams. Stakeholders and requesters always want work as fast as possible – and often push for unrealistic deadlines. An overabundance of poorly managed quick-turnaround projects can be a real morale killer for marketing and creative teams. Fortunately, there are effective strategies for managing this quick turnaround work.
A quick note before we get started. Terms like “rush” and “fast track” can mean different things to different teams. In this post I’ve tried to distinguish between two main categories of quick-turnaround work. Of course, your team may use different terms, or organize all quick-turnaround work together. Hopefully this post will give you some guidance and inspiration for developing your own system for managing quick-turnaround work!
The difference between “Rush” and “Fast Track”
Let’s start by defining terms. When it comes to quick turnaround work there are two main kinds. The first, which I’ll call “Rush”, is work that needs to be done much faster than it typically would take to do it. This is the stressful stuff. Second is what I’ll call “Fast Track”. This is work that is by its nature quick to complete. It shouldn’t be stressful, but somehow it often is. Let’s dig into why.
Fast Track work suffers from scope creep
Fast Track work isn’t stressful because it’s fast – it’s stressful because requesters will try to use the Fast Track designation to get their foot in the door, and then start adding stuff on. This is why it’s important to define what a Fast Track project is at your organization. Here are some characteristics you might use:
- A simple reprint of an existing asset
- Fewer than X number of changes
- Copy updates only
- Logo updates
- No new content
- Limited review
Essentially, Fast Track projects aren’t for creating new content, but for making straightforward, pre-approved changes to existing content. Of course, it’s very easy for requesters to say “Oh, hey, while your updating the logo, can you……” This introduces scope creep, and suddenly a project that should have taken 5 minutes is now taking days or weeks. To prevent requesters from sneaking in this scope creep, define the parameters for Fast Track work, and strictly enforce them. By leveraging a robust request intake process and saying “no”, your team can happily help out with quick work while not being overwhelmed with scope creep.
It’s also important to think about the review process for Fast Track work. Fast Track projects should have minimal review, if any. Requested updates should be pre-approved and straightforward, so once the work is done the designer should be able to simply deliver it to the requester. Depending on the nature of the work and the team, it may make sense to do a single round of review with just the requester. Either way, be sure to set expectations for reviews in the parameters of the project and stick to them.
Rush projects depend on data
Unlike Fast Track projects, Rush projects are projects that should take a certain amount of time (for example, 30 days), but are needed in less time (for example, 20 days). Rush projects inherently introduce stress into the creative workflow. For this reason, data is your best friend when it comes to managing Rush projects. Here are 4 ways you can use data to manage Rush projects.
- Define standard timelines. Is 20 days to produce a series of display ads a Rush project? The only way to know is to have a benchmark for how long it typically takes your team to produce display ads. If you know from looking at the past 10 display ad projects that they take 30 days on average, then you can say with confidence that this timeline is aggressive, and will therefore be categorized as “Rush”.
- Tag Rush projects. You’re going to need to be able to report on Rush projects after the fact, so make sure you will be able to identify them in your reporting.
- Look for trends. What is the normal number of Rush projects in a quarter? Has there been a recent uptick in Rush projects coming in? What percentage of your team’s work this month was Rush projects?
- Know the source. Who is requesting the most Rush work, and why?
Rush project are a fact of life for marketing and creative teams. The goal should not be to never have Rush projects, but to understand what they look like, where they come from, and if the team is getting too many of them. Use data to advocate for your team, and to partner with stakeholder and requesters to help them understand standard timelines and procedures, so they can work with your team more effectively.
Managing Fast Track and Rush projects is easy with a marketing resource management platform that drives alignment, delivery, and accountability with stakeholders to achieve better content outcomes. Schedule a demo of inMotion ignite today!
Elise Hauser is a product and content marketer with a passion for telling brand stories. She has produced inMotionNow’s annual In-House Creative Management Report for 3 years, webinars, content sessions for major industry events reaching audiences of 1,000+, and of course, countless blog posts. When Elise isn’t writing about the marketing and creative industry at inMotionNow she is teaching economics and hanging out with her cat, Tucker, at her home in Raleigh, NC.