It's time to start planning for 2019! Do you have the data you need to forecast budgets and build a business case to your key stakeholders?
Planning for 2019 is upon us, and for some creative teams, that can be a big source of stress. It’s one of the most taxing times of the year for creative management. Have you spent all of the money allocated? Are you going over budget? Or worse, under? (worse because that can mean your budget is cut for the new year.) And it doesn’t help that this falls during the busiest production time of year for many teams.
When your marketing and IT counterparts put together their budgets, they have data they can use to show why they were over/under, what outside influences contributed to the results, and analytics to predict 2019 needs and to back up their staffing ask for the near year.
For most creative leaders, however, it has traditionally been a struggle to summarize the past year and justify a budget for the next. Great news! If you have a solid workflow solution in place, your 2019 planning will be easier and more data-driven.
Every project or task that you’ve entered into your workflow solution over the past year tells a story. When you combine those stories, you have a solid data set to help you plan for the new year, back up your staffing ask, and explain in great detail your 2018 performance. Think of it as your crystal ball into the future.
As a former Director of a robust in-house agency, I was faced with these exact problems. My homegrown workflow tool contained so much information. The only problem was how to leverage it. My team spent many hours sorting through all the data to try and tell the year end story. Searching, sorting, exporting into Excel, reformatting. And doing it all over again, every time my management asked a new or different question. Applying those metrics to new-year planning required year-over-year analysis, more searching, sorting, exporting, reformatting. Explaining. Redoing.
Then we onboarded inMotion, and pulling reports became easy, painless, and automatic in real time. Here are some suggestions of ways use your data to jump start your 2019 planning:
Predicting 2019 workflow needs by client
Sort your data by client and the projects you supported for them last year.
- Meet with each client and go over the project list to help predict their needs for 2019.
- Discuss what worked and what needs improvement.
- Partner with clients to work ahead whenever possible to avoid overlapping priorities
- Provide insight into busy periods so that clients can ensure that they will have available approvers during their busy spikes, to avoid missing deadlines.
Planning 2019 by estimated due date
Sort your projects by due date for 2018
- Determine your busiest months of the year.
- Can anything be moved to an earlier or later date for 2019 to keep smooth timelines?
- Did you have a large amount of work due right at the end of the budget year? Consider moving some of those items into the next fiscal year if they have a negative impact on the budget.
Planning 2019 staffing needs by creative team member
Sort by milestone and due date (copy due, design due, etc.)
- See the busiest time of year by role: copywriters, art directors, motion graphics, UX designers, production team, etc.
- A good rule of thumb is if an individual is booked for over 75% of their time, they have too much on their plate to handle projects you can’t predict.
- Is your work seasonal? If so, consider contract support rather than hiring up only to layoff later. Turnover is costly in many ways.
Determine your workload increase/decrease year over year by category
Sort by category (broadcast, digital, print, etc.)
- Did demand for one category increase while another decreased?
- How does staffing correlate to demand by category?
- Was there any particular factor that influenced this shift in 2018 that will be different for 2019?
- Did you miss more due dates in one category than others? This could be an indication that you need more staff for that category, or that the clients in that area aren’t providing good information at project kickoff or during reviews.
Determine your problem areas
Sort by projects that went over time or over budget
- Is there a pattern? Are they all from the same client, or from the same category?
- This could be an indicator that the scope of the work is being under predicted. By knowing this in advance you can prevent it from happening on future projects of a similar nature.
If you’re like me, once you get started using data you’ll get super excited about ways to use your data to help you predict the future. What insights are you hoping to leverage for 2019 planning?
About the author: Debbie Kennedy is former Head of Advertising Operations with CarMax, and is currently Creative Director for Capstone Production Group, and CEO of Write for You, a Digital Content and Creative Workflow Consulting Firm based in Durham, North Carolina. She’s been a power user and advocate of inMotionNow since 2014.