By Cherise Oleson and Alicia Renner
Franklin Energy delivers energy efficiency and grid optimization for utilities. Their purpose is “to help all people use our world’s precious resources more efficiently.”
With this ethos, it makes sense that two creative leaders at Franklin Energy also wanted to make the most of another invaluable resource — time. To streamline their creative workflows, improve communication between creatives and stakeholders, and shorten the proofing process, Cherise Oleson, Senior Creative Director, and Alicia Renner, Director of Client Marketing, introduced inMotion to their teams and stakeholders in 2018. Then, they rolled out inMotion ignite in 2019.
Their goal? To automate tedious manual tasks, remove inherent bottlenecks in their proofing process, and reduce the number of days spent on reviewing creative assets.
In this article, Oleson and Renner explain how they transformed Franklin Energy’s creative workflows using inMotion ignite. Their hope is that taking a page from their data-driven playbook could help your organization achieve similar results.
Life Before ignite: Manual Processes and Wasted Time
Although every creative team is unique, our story is probably not much different from any team out there. We’re all working against tight deadlines to deliver solid outputs that deliver the outcomes our stakeholders and clients expect. But in order to do that, we need tools that streamline the processes that otherwise threaten to slow us down.
Prior to partnering with inMotionNow, the Franklin Energy creative team used old-school proofing methodology and manual processes to obtain feedback and approval on creative assets. We’d walk a hard copy proof over to a stakeholder’s office, leave it in a physical in-box, and wait for red-pen edits. It could take weeks — and multiple follow-ups — to get the proof back.
We also managed all our projects manually through Excel, a shared server-based drive, email, and weekly update phone calls. Was this ideal? No. But it was somewhat workable when we were a smaller team.
However, after a few rounds of rapid growth through mergers and acquisitions, that low-tech creative process wasn’t only inconvenient, it became completely impossible. Since creative talent came from each of the companies that were now merging together as one — and since we now had a decentralized structure across multiple states — we needed a workflow automation tool that would free us up to collaborate more effectively. Furthermore, we needed to understand exactly what our creative teams’ true capacity was. We couldn’t measure that when we were bogged down with manually tracking hundreds of projects in production.
That’s why we ultimately decided to partner with inMotion in 2018 and subsequently adopt ignite in 2019. (An unforeseen upside of the partnership? We were equipped to work remotely long before COVID-19 forced us to do so. Many team members commented that we were fortunate to be so well-positioned to weather that unexpected challenge. In terms of creative production, ignite ensured we didn’t miss a beat.)
Leveraging the Data: How to Roll Out ignite and Gain Buy-In
Introducing any new technology can be a challenge. Even though ignite is intuitive and easy to use, we encountered some, albeit expected, resistance to adopting a new system. So we rolled it out granularly. We first began using ignite with our creative teams and gathered data to show where there were bottlenecks and delays, particularly in the proofing process. Then, we used that data to gain buy-in from internal stakeholders and get them on board with changing how we review and approve assets.
Here’s how to replicate our approach.
Establish Baseline Metrics to Show Your Stakeholders Change is Needed
If you want to manage change effectively and gain buy-in from your stakeholders, people need to know the why of your decision. Just telling your stakeholders that your creative team is overworked won’t be enough to inspire real change. You have to show them the impact of your current reality and demonstrate why it matters to them.
To do this at Franklin Energy, we began initiating and tracking our creative projects in ignite, but we maintained a largely manual review process with stakeholders. That way we established an accurate baseline for future comparison. We learned:
- In 2020, we completed a total of 2,587 creative projects, including assets like email alerts, social ads, videos, direct mail, catalogs, and packaging
- 42% of those projects were classified as “rush” projects
- On average, it took 43.7 days to complete a project from start to finish, even when factoring in rushed production schedules
- 29.8 of those days were spent in review — meaning stakeholders consistently took a full month to provide edits and feedback on the work submitted to them
- 23.6% of all projects required more than five rounds of review
- Reviewers consistently weighed in on elements of the project that didn’t pertain to them, further confusing and slowing down the process
The reporting tool in ignite translated these proofing process frustrations into cold, hard facts. But to achieve meaningful improvement? We had to further leverage this data to convince program managers that change was worthwhile.
Communicate Effectively With Key Stakeholders to Influence Team Buy-In
Once program managers realized they had a vested interest in the process, they became our internal ignite champions. And that’s when we started to see some momentum. To encourage program managers to adopt ignite and influence others to do the same, we painted a qualitative picture to bring quantitative data to life. For example, the data showed that 23.6% of projects required more than 5 rounds of edits. What does that actually look and feel like? It might mean:
- Waiting to hear back from appropriate stakeholders and resorting to emails and phone calls to remind them to review the asset
- Wading through long, convoluted email threads in which multiple people are providing feedback — but no one makes a final decision
- Receiving feedback in person or on the phone — and then trying to communicate requested changes accurately to the designer responsible for implementing those changes
- Chasing down the right stakeholder to sign off — only to have them punt the decision to another department or leader entirely
The result for that program manager? Mistakes, delays, and outputs that don’t achieve desired outcomes.
By contrast, the proofing panel in ignite makes it easy for everyone to weigh in on an asset directly on the digital proof. This proofing happens online in real-time. Everyone’s comments are in one place, and feedback can be specific to various aspects of each asset. It’s easy to see when feedback is resolved, what still needs to be addressed, and what the final decision is on how to proceed.
To further streamline the process, review structures and tiers assign specific portions of the review process to individual reviewers at various stages. This ensures the right reviewer is looking at the right part of the asset at the right time.
The Long Game: Full ignite Implementation
More and more of our internal stakeholders are adopting ignite, and we are beginning to see better alignment and improved results. Although we won’t be able to compare hard numbers until 2021 ends, we can say for certain that ignite:
- Improves efficiency
- Ensures consistency
- Prevents bottlenecks
- Reduces mistakes
- Creates transparency
We’ve begun introducing ignite to some external clients, too, and so far the results are overwhelmingly positive. One client told us, “Nothing has ever been this easy to use. We are such fans of inMotion. The process is definitely a lot faster and it’s so easy to see everyone’s comments and changes!”
In the coming months and years, we look forward to rolling out ignite with our remaining internal stakeholders and more external clients. Doing so will allow us to make full use of its functionality and further streamline the creative process.
Since the proofing process can be one of the biggest bottlenecks in the creative workflow, it made sense for us to invest in online proofing technology to track every stage of the process and identify the specific components that weren’t working. Doing so allowed us to transform our creative workflow and deliver better outcomes for our stakeholders and clients. We can’t wait to see 2021’s data so we can show just how far we’ve come.
Power Up Your Proofing Process
Waiting for round after round of stakeholder feedback and eventual sign-off derails your carefully crafted output cadence. And it’s even worse when you’re relying on email threads and spreadsheets to keep track of the process.
Check out what we had to say at the inMomentum customer conference, where we took a deep-dive into how we powered up our proofing process to drive better content outcomes!