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Creative Workflow Management: A Complete Resource

by: John Coburn
Creative Workflow Management: A Complete Resource

Creative work is not easy.

Add production-line levels of demand, and it can be challenging to balance creative flow & consistently hitting deadlines.

Having effective creative workflow management is essential to get projects done on time without burning out your creativity crew. (Which is a lot easier said than done, of course!)

Apart from meeting deadlines, managing creative processes can help teams assign roles more effectively while allowing them to execute tasks with greater precision and excellence. It’s a growing method that many companies are undertaking and beginning to thrive with. Creative workflow management is the rise. It’s beginning to dominate fields such as:

  • Branding
  • Advertising
  • Publishing
  • App development
  • Marketing 
  • Enterprise In-house Agencies
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail 

Any industry that requires sales, marketing, or UI design can benefit from the implementation of creative workflow management. 

Without effectively implementing these methods, you run the risk of falling behind competitively. 

What is Creative Workflow Management?

the-creative-process
It doesn’t have to be too complicated 🙂

Creative Workflow Management is also known as Creative Operations. While these terms sound corporate and bland, the concept seeks to apply structure while allowing the creative process to bloom. Essentially, creative workflow management sets up responsibilities, tracks progress, and aids creative team members in managing their time. 

It gives your creative team members space to channel their ideas and concepts. It also keeps their work streamlined with the overall organization of the project.

 Each unit can then work cohesively, have open communication, and complete their tasks on time. Creative workflow management is a set of simple structures that aim to improve the reliability of staff output. 

What are the ingredients of Creative Workflow Management?

creativity-looks-like-magic-to-most-people

Creative Workflow Management consists of a fairly simple model of operations. There are five core steps outlined below for managing your whole project from start to finish. 

These steps are integral to the success of any project you work on, and they (maybe most importantly of all) help with successfully meeting client demands while keeping within budget and deadlines. 

The steps involved in creating a workflow may vary depending on the project, the size of the team, and the resources available. 

You don’t need a large team to require creative workflow management. 

It’s also been an excellent method for freelancers to achieve great results and scale their successful projects. 

The following list describes the core functions involved with the design of a competent, creative workflow.

1. Project definition – After the initial stages of procuring information from the client, the scope of the project is then defined and presented to the team.

This is also called a creative brief where there is an open discussion about the clients’ demands and what direction the team should take to produce quality output.

It’s a space to brainstorm and agree on ideas to move forward. Approved ideas are then strategically placed together to form the overall project. 

2. Role Assignment– Before embarking on any project, it’s important to define roles and responsibilities for each team member clearly. This prevents any confusion of duties and tasks. It helps to avoid situations where two employees end up doing the same job while another task goes unnoticed and unfinished. 


Having assigned roles also enables team members to focus only on what they need to finish and contribute to the overall project.

When positions are assigned, everyone is aware of who is responsible for different tasks. For example, what if Task A requires the output of Task C? The employees assigned to these tasks can then collaborate and work together. 

3. Scheduling – When the project is defined and roles assigned, the next step is creating a schedule. Deadlines for each task are outlined, milestones are specified, and team members are then expected to comply and manage their work and time accordingly.

Having a proper schedule improves efficiency and helps bring some order to the chaos that is creative work. Achieving tasks in milestones can also break up the workload. Phased projects are also less stressful for creative employees.

Many creatives can seem to have their heads in the cloud (myself included), but having a proper schedule can help them to remember deadlines or meeting dates. 

4. Creation – With all things set in place, the project is then able to move forward, and creative production can begin. This is when the magic happens, and all units work in unison.

now-it-begins
This migghhhttt be an exaggeration.


Whatever the size of the team may be, from 2 employees to 20, the creation process is the most important. Having a structure to follow means that fine details are taken care of, and information is readily available. This allows creative staff to work inhibited and focus solely on their duties.

5. Review and Completion – When all parts of the project have met their deadlines and are put together, it is then ready for presentation. However, before the final presentation, there may be several drafts presented. Sufficient feedback and client co-operation throughout the whole project are both necessary for any project’s success. 


Team members, at this point, can make any required changes and fine-tune their work. Once the project has reached its fullest potential, then it can be approved and concluded. 

So, How can Creative Workflows be effectively managed?

In order to ensure that all steps are perfectly streamlined, there are many factors that need to be addressed. These factors can make or break a workflow, so it is important to ensure that they are properly executed. Some of these factors include: 

Diagram Your Workflow Model

Creating a visual diagram that clearly outlines roles, tasks, and schedules help in maintaining order. Since you are trying to manage creativity, what better way than using a visual aid? Whether it’s digital or pinned to the wall, the workflow model must be displayed and available. 

This enables team members to double-check their schedules, make a note of deadlines, and get an overview of their tasks. It also helps to put your ideas into practice. 

Creating a diagram allows you to see how everything connects to each other and how tasks are to be aligned for optimal productivity. It also maps out various roles and duties of team members. It’s a guide for the whole project and also helps with forecasting and data analysis. 

Communication 

team-communication-is-key

Communication is an extremely crucial part of a successful project. There must be clear communication between the client, upper management, and the creative team. How can a project manager communicate with his or her team?

Frequent staff meetings – scheduled meetings can keep the whole team abreast of the progress of the project. Meetings are the best place to relay information from the client to the team. Changes in budget, reviews, or changes in the project can easily be addressed. 

Feedback from employees can also be presented in meetings. Having weekly meetings keeps the team well informed. Meetings can also assess presentations of completed tasks for feedback and review from the client. Meetings can also boost morale and motivate employees to be consistent and innovative.

Communication tools – Team members need to communicate with each other, especially if their tasks overlap. The use of communication tools, such as internal messaging platforms, emails, and filesharing programs are essential. 

The use of online communication tools also keeps the client in the loop. Clients can actively participate in the process, provide feedback, and request changes. Apart from text-based communication, video tools can also be practical.  

Technology and Equipment

It’s important to keep your team well equipped to complete their tasks. Having the right tools and technology plays a major role in how efficiently work is done. Providing team members with reliable tech tools and equipment makes their job easier and produces better results. Updated computers, design software, imaging devices, and even reliable WIFI connections can positively affect the overall output and timing of tasks. 

Software

The use of flexible project management software can be a massive help. Such programs enable precise tracking of task completion, team contributions, overall project progress, and much more.  

Creating a workflow from scratch can be challenging. Using software to manage your team keeps it simple and structured. It allows visibility amongst the team and interconnected tasks. This can ensure that everyone is working as they should and that there are no obstacles. 

The software can also be used to aid with time management, sending alerts and important messages to the team as well as providing reliable methods of communication. Cloud storage and data backup tools are also great assets to utilize to secure all project data and team contributions. 

A project management tool we’d recommend is our own Taskworld! 

While most project management tools are process-centric, Taskworld is focused on the people that use those processes. 

Create custom workflows with our awesome project templates, which make it easy to take your teamwork to the next level. 

How does it boost your workflow?

With visual task management, project-specific communication, and real-time chat, the feedback loops for creativity, productivity, and successful reporting become much tighter. 

If you take a look at our blog home page, you’ll see awesome, consistent thumbnails that are descriptive & super creative within a tight frame. 

How did we get this? With a creative workflow that makes sense. 

Step 1) Create the editorial calendar.

Step 2) Go to the “Marketing Design Request” project

Step 3) In order of the calendar, create tasks for each upcoming title. 

Step 4) Our graphic designer extraordinaire, Posachet Kositpatana, uses a templated, neutral background and puts together a topic-relevant thumbnail that works perfectly!

How long does it take him per thumbnail? Only. 5. To. 8. Minutes.

Wow.

5-8 minutes that might normally take 30-90 minutes.

That’s the power of a solid creative & collaborative workflow. 

Benefits of Creative Workflow Management

As previously mentioned, creative workflow management aims to streamline the creative process. It also bridges the gap between creativity and project management. There are a ton of benefits to setting up a creative workflow such as:

  • Clearly defined project goals – A workflow that outlines the central ideas of the project, and the various goals and milestones involved sets the tone for the whole project. Establishing clearly defined goals and timelines allows team members to prepare themselves and be more organized.

  • Manage the order or phases of your project – A creative workflow management system maintains structure and order. Each task can be sequenced and phases implemented. This ensures that everything ‘flows’ and there is no confusion.

  • Track and save time – Having a creative workflow management model also saves on time. Instead of playing by ear or winging it, deadlines are established. Team members then have sufficient time to do their jobs and prevent delays.

  • Track duties and tasks – A creative workflow helps the team to track their duties and tasks more efficiently. They can be aware of what is already finished and what is next in line to work on. It helps in allowing team members to work independently. They can manage their tasks and even collaborate with each other to meet milestones more quickly.

  • Allow all teams to be aware of each other’s task – A well-informed team means a more streamlined creative operation. Knowing who is in charge of certain tasks keeps everyone informed of their specific duties.

  • Facilitate effective communication- Maintaining order also incorporates active communication amongst the project team.

  • Save money – The organized structure of a creative workflow saves money. With everything in its place and running on time, there is little room for confusion and mistakes. There is no wastage of resources and no time overruns, which can affect the budget.

  • Keep team members organized – Creative minds aren’t always great at being on time or staying organized. Having a structure in place can help in personal organization and productivity. Alerts and reminders about deadlines or appointments can greatly improve employee conduct.

  • Allow client input and feedback – The end goal of a project should be a satisfied customer. Having platforms in place that allow the client to review and observe the various stages of the project is essential. Their feedback allows creative team members to make necessary adjustments to meet customer demands.

  • Maintain transparency – Creative workflow management helps creative agencies to maintain transparency in its operations. Transparent roles and responsibilities limit confusion and conflicts. Transparency in accounting and budget spending is also easily managed in a structured system. 

Key takeaway;

In conclusion, creative workflow management has a myriad of benefits to boost productivity and impress clients. A well-organized team is critical to the successful and timely completion of a project. 

Employing a creative workflow also encourages teamwork and unity. It builds a more reliable and productive staff. Different departments are able to work in sync with each other to ensure smooth production. This reflects well on the agency and attracts valuable clients. 

More agencies and companies are jumping on board with creative workflow management. Creative fields are very competitive. Therefore, in order to stand out, agencies must be innovative and produce high-quality content. This cannot be achieved if there is no order or process in place to manage creative outputs. Inconsistent work, cost overruns, and delayed projects are more than enough to turn a client off.

Having great creative workflow management in place won’t affect creativity negatively (it’s natural to worry that a process might disrupt the creative flow). Instead, it can help by providing clarity in every aspect of the project. Roles, duties, timelines, and budget are factors that you can easily address in a workflow. 

This reduces stress on creative team members. Having clear responsibilities and access to solid schedules allows for clearly laid out goals that can give peace of mind. This allows for creativity to thrive and promotes mental clarity and well-being. The creative process is allowed to flow smoothly. Being organized can even increase creative output. 

Creative Workflow Management brings structure to creativity without placing pressure on the employee or limiting their ideas and creative innovations.

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