This is part one of a three-part series.
Every marketing organization stands to benefit from increasing the speed at which they’re able to deliver new content. It’s critical for brand building, revenue generation, and competitive advantage.
When I’m consulting for marketing and creative organizations, there are three foundational steps that I always share to help them deliver their content at a faster rate:
- Establish a baseline for your team’s current performance level.
- Surface the factors preventing your team from improving their speed.
- Set goals and systematically begin to test new ways of working.
I’ll walk through all three steps in this three-part series.
In this post, I focus on step 1, establishing a baseline. I explain the performance indicators and metrics you should report on and why I recommend them. Don’t worry; you don’t need a reporting tool to benefit from this post. In fact, not all reporting tools track the particular metrics I share below.
OK, let’s get started.
Establish a baseline to show the ROI of your efforts
Establishing a baseline for how quickly content passes through your delivery process is a foundational step toward increasing your team’s delivery speed.
As your team tries to improve their speed, they will compare their results to their baseline to measure their success. This approach also enables them to quickly learn which parts of their process are working well or hindering their performance.
I suggest using two types of performance indicators to establish your team’s baseline: lagging indicators and leading indicators.
Use lagging indicators to show whether you hit a goal
Lagging indicators are relatively easy to measure because you would typically report them after an event or timeframe.
Some examples of lagging indicators are:
- Project on-time rate — to measure the percent of projects delivered on time
- Number of projects completed — to measure your team’s project capacity
- Percent of over budget projects — to measure the percent of projects with overruns
- Lead time — to measure the time it takes to deliver on a request
Lagging indicators reveal if you were successful in achieving a goal or hitting a target. You may find that you already have some of this information readily available.
To increase your team’s speed of delivery, the lagging indicator I recommend you focus on is lead time.
What is “lead time?”
If you’re like most internal marketing and creative organizations, you’re serving the needs of many different internal customers. In that context, to measure your lead time, you would track the amount of time that elapses from when a customer submits a work request to when that person receives their final deliverable.
Your team’s goal should be to reduce their lead time, which equates to faster delivery.
Why should you use “lead time?”
Think about your customers’ experience from their perspective. Two dates are most important to their goal in working with you: the day they submit their request and the day they receive your work. The elapsed time between those two dates is your lead time. It’s what matters most to your customers, so it’s what should matter most to your team.
Lagging indicators are undoubtedly useful, but because they fall short in terms of helping you improve or influence your outcomes, it’s also important to analyze your leading indicators.
Use leading indicators to predict and influence your results
Leading indicators help you improve the predictability of your results. They tell you if your trending in a particular direction so that you can take steps to course-correct before it’s too late. They can also help you pinpoint parts of a process that may be problematic so you can make improvements.
To increase your team’s speed of delivery, the leading indicators I recommend using are:
- Average time to accept requests
- Average time to your first proof
- Average cycle time
- Average process cycle time
Average time to accept requests
The average time it takes your team to vet and accept work requests will tell you if you’re taking in work faster or slower than usual. If your team is trending in a less-than-desirable direction, they can make improvements that will influence their performance.
Average time to your first proof
By measuring the average time to your team’s first proof, you can learn if they’re getting work out the door at a faster or slower pace than usual. Similar to looking at their average time to accept requests, if your team is trending in a less-than-desirable direction, your team can adjust.
Average cycle time
The time that it takes a deliverable to pass through your entire process is your cycle time. It begins when your team starts working on a particular deliverable. It differs from lead time in that it excludes the time that elapses between when the request was submitted to when it was accepted.
If your average cycle time is trending upward, you know you have a problem within your process. If that’s the case, you need to isolate where the problems exist. That’s where process cycle time becomes useful.
Average process cycle time
The time that it takes a deliverable to pass through a single phase of your process, such as “research,” “planing,” or “production,” are all examples of process cycle time.
By monitoring process cycle time, you can see which phases of your process are either slower than others or just slower than usual. Using that information, your team can dig deeper into the problematic phases of your process to understand the root causes behind their slow delivery speed.
Why should you use these leading indicators?
I believe in tracking the minimum amount of data that helps you arrive at an end goal. To increase your team’s speed of delivery, I’ve found that you don’t need more than these leading indicators.
There are certainly other kinds of data you can monitor, but collecting and analyzing more information requires more time. These are easy to track and they provide the insights your team will need to boost their delivery performance.
Are you ready to take the first step toward increasing your team’s ability to deliver content faster?
If you have a reporting suite that reports on the performance indicators I’ve recommended here, then you’re ahead of most others. If you don’t, you’ll need to take a more manual approach, but don’t let that stop you.
Start small. You can begin by measuring the performance of a single team, a single campaign, or a single deliverable.
Reach out with any questions (my email is below) or leave a comment.
Up next is step 2: Surface the factors preventing your team from improving their speed.
Brian has over twenty years of experience working with agencies. He is an advisor to the inMotionNow Product Team through his role as a fractional Director of Product. He is also the founder of Lodestar Agency Consulting (www.lodestaragencyconsulting.com), a consultancy devoted to helping agencies adapt their principles, positioning strategies, and practices for modern marketing. You can reach Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org.