Creative leaders must embrace adaptability to keep up with a fast-changing industry.
“We need to be obsessively rethinking the way works gets done in our organizations,” said Kevin Brucato, VP of Creative Operations at Prudential, during the opening of Henry Stewart’s DAM NY 2017.
Speaking to an audience of creatives and marketers, Brucato teed up a theme that would be echoed in many other sessions and discussions throughout the day: To keep up with today’s fast-changing industry, creative operations must be adaptable.
“Protect the future, not the past,” continued Brucato. “So often innovation gets shot down before it has a chance to work. Our job in creative ops is to protect new ideas, new processes, new technology, and new ways of working from those who resist them.”
Although constant innovation might sound great on paper, for most creatives and marketers, managing change is easier said than done. But according to Brucato and many other industry leaders, creative teams must learn how to quickly and easily adapt the way they work in response to the unpredictable, disruptive nature of the digital era—or risk falling behind.
While each speaker at DAM NY shared a unique perspective on mastering creative operations, one thing they all agreed on was that innovation can’t happen without a strong foundation. Optimizing the way your team collaborates to get work out the door is fundamental.
“Collaboration is the result of trust plus coordinated communication,” said Kristen Schweitzer, SVP, Global Operations Director at GTB. “Increased efficiency doesn’t matter if the way work gets done is ineffective.”
According to Schweitzer, leaders should optimize the way collaboration occurs between the members of their team throughout their process by implementing communication practices that make sense for different disciplines. For example, roles that are responsible for generating ideas, information, or content need to have the most coordinated communication throughout the process to efficiently produce successful deliverables, while less centralized roles like account managers or internal clients might not. That gives teams more flexibility to shift or pivot as necessary without fundamentally altering the way they collaborate to get projects completed.
The other crucial component of running adaptable creative operations is establishing a scalable process. For Jason Gould, Senior Project Manager, Creative Operations at L.L. Bean, successful creative ops are structured enough be repeatable, predictable, and efficient, but dynamic enough to expand and evolve in response to disruption, whether that’s organization changes, new methods, or technologies.
To accomplish this, Gold sits down with his creative team leader to turn abstract goals like, “We want to produce more content faster, better, and cheaper” and “We want more personalization” into more concrete objectives. Then, they think through how to evolve and improve processes to accomplish them.
But Gold’s quick to caution that it’s important to make strides towards future strategic goals, you can’t scale your process until you’ve identified and addressed current pain points.
“While we know what we want to do moving forward in terms of achieving goals, we need to stay focused on fixing inefficiencies and challenges that are occurring in the work we’re doing now,” he says.
Optimizing the “people” and “process” portions of creative operations will help teams get work out the door, but without adopting technology to manage their workflow and digital assets, they won’t achieve the speed and efficiency that’s needed to scale with the pace of today’s industry.
“Our world has completely changed since adopting our workflow system,” said William Bealmear, Supervisor-Creative Media Group at Exelon. “What workflow technology does is actually refine and optimize your process. Our system gives us a ton of data that lets me see how long projects are taking or how to allocate resources. That increased visibility has changed everyone’s lives for the better.”
It’s crucial that team leaders get the operational visibility they need to understand the impact of workflow management and DAM solutions—both for their team and their broader organization’s bottom line. But more importantly, creative leaders need to stop resisting change and overcome their fear of failure.
“Team leaders need to understand that failure is going to happen, but fixing things is an incremental part of the process,” said Brucato. “When your creative operations run like a well-oiled machine, you’re able to evolve along with the industry and digital landscape. Transforming often is the key to creative innovation.”