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Avoid admin and get creative

Prioritise creativity with creative management software

Unleashing your full potential means streamlining, automating and optimising your workflow. Here’s how creative project management software can revolutionise your creative processes.

How much is admin costing you?

admin and creative management software

You didn’t sign up to be a photographer, filmmaker, artist or writer just to spend countless hours doing tedious admin. Yet modern workplaces, workflows and tools often seem designed to frustrate the very creative processes they’re meant to support. This means that managing and coordinating multiple creatives can quickly become all-consuming, often turning an elite team of ideas people into an overpaid and resentful admin department.

How bad can it get? It’s been suggested that the average UK employee spends up to two hours a day simply trying to find assets – not surprising when the typical asset library comprises some 164 terabytes of data!

So, it’s a serious problem with serious consequences for productivity. Creatives bogged down by laborious file management and endless report writing are quick to lose interest. Efficiency drops through the floor, ideas get lost, and results suffer. According to Imagen’s 2021 Marketing Tech Report:

● 29% of UK-based marketing professionals say that their biggest frustration is not having enough time to be creative.
● 19% of those surveyed said that most of their time is spent on admin tasks.
● 58% of marketing professionals in the UK spend more time outside of working hours to catch up on the non-admin parts of their role.

Costs can go up, too, with teams having to recruit more creatives to make up for the time they’re losing to admin. The irony is that these larger teams require even more management, creating yet more hassle and obstruction.

It isn’t meant to be this way. Creative teams work best with intuitive tools, organised into fluid, highly automated processes. Gruntwork should be someone else’s problem, leaving artists, writers, editors and other stakeholders free to exchange ideas, create and iterate, uninterrupted by boring, distracting or repetitive tasks.

Crucially, addressing the time lost to finding assets – and recreating lost ones – can produce vast savings. Did you know that the average company can save nearly $189,000 (£134,000) over five years by implementing digital asset management? In creative agencies and production houses – high salaries, fragile processes, time and quality-sensitive results – the savings can be greater still. All you need is a better workflow, supported by the right tools.

How do you overhaul a broken workflow?

workflows for creative projects

Before trying to protect and improve any creative process, it’s worth taking a step back to establish what that process looks like – both for individuals, and the teams they work in. For the former, creativity depends on the ability to get into the ‘zone’ – a near mythical place where ideas are acted on and realised with freedom. Getting into the zone – and staying there – is essential to ‘flow’, a prolonged state where creators are usually at their happiest and most productive.

Creativity is unpredictable and personal, and each creator may get into the zone differently. Some thrive in a bustling office, for example, while others like peace, music or podcasts to help them focus. But while everyone has different ways to unlock their creative flow, it’s usually most vulnerable to common problems: tools that don’t work, needless interruptions, or difficulty collaborating.

” Imagen has helped to build our perfect workflow, enabling broadcast partners to source the content they need in the fastest possible time.”
Louise Lawler, WTA Media

This last point reflects a wider challenge. Creative people rarely work completely alone, and for teams the creative process is inherently more complex. Ideas often come from team discussions or meetings, while work typically flows from creators, through editors or directors to other stakeholders. Just to complicate things further, it’s usually an iterative process, where work loops back round again several times until the end result can be signed off and delivered.

Working collaboratively is only viable when teams have the tools they need to discuss, edit and comment on work together. But the creative ideal of an unfettered flow is threatened by the intrusion of admin. Dealing with messages such as an editor’s feedback can create interruption, breaking the flow of new ideas and assets.

Successfully managing assets (and avoiding other pitfalls)

managing creative assets

On the subject of assets, the creative process depends on a team’s ability to securely store and share the work they’re creating, and to grab any assets they need to get started. When assets go missing, creatives spend less time in the zone, and more in tracking down or recreating the collateral they need to do their job.

As an example, if a video editor needs to cut a 30-second trailer for a longer piece of content, they need to know where to find the relevant source material. In the absence of a centralised, coordinated library for assets, individuals often ad-lib their own solutions, for example getting a colleague to share source files via WeTransfer. Quite apart from the potential risks of sharing via an unencrypted platform, working out how to store and retrieve files is just another administrative task to get in the way.

The new normal

Even as offices and workspaces open up, the pandemic has caused permanent changes to the way we work. For creative teams, the new normal revolves around more distributed working patterns – less time in the office, and an increased reliance on freelancers or other external partners.

These changes add to the admin of managing and maintaining creative workflows. Particularly, there’s a greater need to focus on easy communication, and the smooth sharing of digital assets. In this permanently altered world, the temporary fixes of lockdown need upgrading to permanent solutions.

The struggle to find assets isn’t the only challenge for creatives trying to stay in the zone. In teams that rely on manual conventions for naming, incrementing and sharing files, mistakes are inevitable as assets go through several iterations. All too often, something will get overwritten, someone will base their work on the wrong source file, or someone else will share an asset that hasn’t been properly reviewed and approved.

These kinds of slip-ups are inevitable when your workflows rely on creatives to take on an administrative burden. Admin isn’t their chosen subject. Even if they’re good at it, it’s often seen as an imposition, and it always derails the creative process. This loss of efficiency is compounded by the extra time everyone spends fixing the mistakes – whether it’s tracking down lost files, or urgently recalling work that isn’t up to standard.

Unblocking the flow for creative teams

unbocking workflow for creative teams

For creatives, and for the teams and agencies they work in, it’s critical to remove the admin tasks that get in the way of creative work. Some of this can be culled by auditing and improving existing processes, but the biggest gains are to be found in finding tools that allow things to be done in newer, faster, more streamlined ways. This is the role of creative project management software, which aims to pick the administrative olives off the pizza of creativity.

As is so often the case, there’s no single idea of what a creative project management solution should look like. While some packages major on the challenges of organisation and scheduling, other tools solve issues relating to collaboration and communication. Others, such as creative asset management platforms, organise and streamline the storage, sharing and management of source files, works in progress and the final product.

Three ways to support the creative process

Creatives’ biggest frustrations come from a lack of organisation – e.g. the inability to find and share assets, plus difficulties collaborating effectively with other colleagues and stakeholders. Fortunately, there are powerful software solutions that can address these problems. The challenge is choosing between them.

● Creative project management software helps to organise and schedule work, reducing the burden on individuals.
● Asset management solutions support the creation, iteration and sharing of work throughout production, editing and approval.
● Collaborative working features, or dedicated collaborative workspaces, can vastly simplify and improve communication and teamworking among multidisciplinary or distributed teams.

In reality, there’s often overlap between the main functions of creative project management software. For example, a digital asset management solution (DAM) will often include extensive commenting features to support collaborative editing and iteration. At the same time, features like version control and fine-grained access permissions help to reduce the organisational overheads. In practice, the most effective creative agency project management software is likely to be a combination of tools, working seamlessly together.

What are the benefits of creative project management software?

Creative management software benefits

To understand the benefits of creative project management software, simply flip most of your administrative and organisational pain points on their head. Where you currently struggle with labour-intensive admin or the friction of clunky workflows, the right software will bring efficiency savings that liberate creative staff from pen pushing.

More specifically, by addressing the organisational headaches of a multi-agency, multi-skill workflow, creative workflow management software can radically simplify the coordination of your content creation process. With centralised visibility and control over creative tasks – including their prerequisites and outcomes – creatives face lower time overheads from managing their own work.

There’s less time lost to work performed out of sequence, or tasks that stall because the prerequisites haven’t been delivered. And crucially, creatives regain more time for undisturbed working, helping them spend longer in the zone.

Collaborative workspace software – or the collaborative features found in other platforms – is also important to increasing the time teams spend creating. This is particularly true when it comes to in-line commenting, discussion boards, and other features that support the free exchange of ideas and information. These may be best used asynchronously, leaving creatives to dip into discussions or refer to comments or directions during natural breaks in their content creation process.

“[Imagen] sets a new standard for global content management.”
Nick Moody, Head of Production, Premier League

However, perhaps the biggest boost to creativity comes from solving teams’ asset management headaches. Creative asset management ensures that assets are stored securely in a central repository, where they can be easily found by the person who needs to work on them next. Not only does the team no longer have to chase up resources, they get quick visibility of when those resources have been created, allowing them – or the project planner – to better schedule their work.

Creative asset management solutions support version control, helping prevent time lost to confusion over different drafts, or whether the final files have been approved. The best software includes comprehensive commenting, for example allowing filmmakers to add time-coded instructions or observations for their colleagues.

Should you give a DAM?

give a DAM for creative project management

Where creative teams are struggling for efficiency, and under pressure to deliver greater returns, it can be hard to justify investment in more software tools. However, the efficiency gains from creative project management software are such that it will comfortably pay for itself.

For creative work, any time lost to interruptions, missing assets or scheduling snafus is compounded by the fact it takes people out of the zone. And over time, constant distractions create a bad work environment. Disillusionment saps the collective mojo. Work gets worse, and less of it gets done.

Just as no two artists, writers, photographers or filmmakers create in the same way, no two companies share exactly the same creative workflows. While creatives share common headaches, the exact irritants, obstructions and frustrations depend on how you’re set up to work, and they vary project by project.

“All the flexibility and functions we need in one package.”
Mike Wells, programme officer, BBC Media Action

So, what does creative project management look like to you? However you work, it means software tools to support improvements in the process. It means the ability to eliminate pain points through automation and integration. And it means support to stop the administrative burden of collaborative working impeding the freedom needed to create.

Creative project management software supports everyone in creative teams to work in the way they want to. More than that, in a post-pandemic workplace that’s permanently tilted towards distributed, multi-agency workflows, it’s a pillar on which teams can explore new ways of working. While creators discover ways to best realise their vision, creative project management software quietly gets on with the admin.

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