If you already have a perfectly effective creative workflow management process that helps you manage all aspects of your projects, then maybe this article isn’t for you. If you’re more like the rest of us, struggling to juggle design, development, deliverables and deadlines as you look for ways to best manage and collaborate with your team, well, join the club.
Virtually any part of a project, from the kick off meeting to securing final approval, can be disrupted if everyone involved isn’t clear on project details, objectives, needs, feedback and timelines. That’s a lot of information to manage, and there’s no one right way to do it. Some agencies and creative teams still use Stone Age era tools like email and spreadsheets while other creatives have branched out to explore SaaS solutions to help manage workflows.
However you’re tackling creative workflow management currently, we just have one question for you: is it working? Is it doing everything you need it to do? (Okay, that was two questions.) Let’s explore what creative workflow management is, and how software should be fitting into your processes.
Creative Workflow Management: The Bare Bones
Creative workflow management is just another way to describe the process of tracking your workflow during creative projects. It’s common practice for creatives to implement workflow processes at design firms, marketing and ad agencies, print shops, digital agencies and any other organization that produces creative materials of any kind for dissemination.
Projects generally come in four broad phases: ideation, creation, review/approval and product launch. Within each phase, a lot of information is exchanging hands and several different processes are working in tandem to push a project forward.
Ideation: Every project should begin with a kickoff meeting that lays everything out on the table. This is where you need to set goals, define the metrics by which you’ll measure progress throughout a project, outline team structure and responsibilities and establish what the deliverables will be and their accompanying deadlines. Ideation may also include further research into different design approaches, similar products, competitors and more.
Creation: The process of creating should always begin by developing a collaborative work environment that promotes brainstorming and the open exchange of ideas. Use tools to help your team share opinions and feedback as a design develops. You should also check in with any external clients in addition to your team so their feedback can also be taken into account and guide the direction of the design.
Review and approval: This phase of your project is incredibly important but often overlooked. No design, regardless of how good it is, will make it to the launch phase without securing final approval. Your review process should begin internally, ensuring that all stakeholders are satisfied with the outcome before sharing deliverables with external stakeholders. Set up an approval process with organized workflow stages to ensure proper order.
During a project, but especially during review and approval, email is not recommended because it doesn’t allow you to centralize feedback and manage your responses. During revision cycles, you also need to watch out for scope creep as it can change the parameters of a project and endanger your deadlines.
Launch: This last phase is also the best. It’s when your design goes out into the real world, whether it be the printing and distribution of print materials, releasing a video or publishing digital materials. This is also the point at which you can get paid. Even after a project is over, though, you should still take some time to review all the work you did and learn from any mistakes made along the way.
Breathing New Life (With Creative Approval Software)
Throughout the phases of a project, the use of technology can improve the effectiveness of your workflows. Here’s what you should be able to do:
Protect Project Scope: From the onset, you should have outlined the parameters and objectives for your project. As you move through design, development, approval and launch, it’s your responsibility to stay within scope by tracking project deadlines and activities. That becomes much easier when you organize projects on a central platform that everyone on your team has access to.
Chart Your Workflows: As a project develops, it’s important to choreograph your processes including versions, approvals, feedback and other actions still needed. A system designed to aid in review and approval allows you organize people and information, who has and hasn’t fulfilled their responsibilities to a project, how many revision cycles you’ve been through and more.
Dictate How Approval Happens: Approval software enables you to be clear about who reviews deliverables throughout development and when they are able to do it. You’ll also be able to track feedback, assign deadlines and manage multiple versions of each deliverable. If you want to give everyone access to review at the same time, or if you prefer a more structured approach with several different stages, it’s easy to execute the process to your specifications.
Track Activity to Measure Productivity: Don’t allow yourself to stay in the dark. Whether designers are sharing mockups with one another for feedback, sharing deliverables with managers for internal review, or sending deliverables to clients for final approval, you should be documenting it. By centralizing activity on a single platform, you’ll be able to construct a timeline and quickly assess progress.
Get Your Life Back With Ashore
By establishing a creative workflow process, you will finally be the master of the development of a project, the design and its many revisions, the review of deliverables and the deadlines you’re beholden to. While creative workflow management can be successful without utilizing software, you’re much more likely to be effective with the help of technology. That’s why we created Ashore in the first place – to organize review and feedback, and obtain approval for projects faster.
To help our users have more control over their lives, we’ve added features such as automated workflows, automatic reminders, version stacking, contextual commenting, proof timelines, tagging and customizable proof preferences. The level of flexibility built into our platform allows us to cater to a variety of creative teams, each with their own approach to the creative process. If you’re ready to move your workflows to a single, powerful platform, sign up for a free Ashore account today.