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5 Ways to Strengthen Process without Compromising Creativity

Marketers and creatives can get a little skittish when talk of process comes up. This should come as no surprise. After all, we hire them for their ability to be original, imaginative, and even unconventional. We want them to think freely, get us off the beaten path, and build an innovative brand that stands out in a crowded marketplace.

We can’t then turn around and expect our creatives to be highly structured, process-oriented rule followers who can’t wait to analyze the nuances of efficient workflows.

But even the most free-spirited among us have to admit that when processes are weak or lacking, chaos reigns, and that’s not good for creative output.

In a world where the average knowledge worker spend 57% of their time on everything but the work they were hired to do, putting the right kind of structure in place is more essential than ever. It’s the only way to keep pandemonium at bay and enable everyone to do their best work.

Here are five ways to strengthen processes in order to reclaim time for rewarding, creative work that aligns with the enterprise’s most important strategic goals.

1. Be Stealthy About It

I’m a big fan of Kelsey Brogan’s “sneaky process” approach. As director of integrated program management at T-Mobile, Kelsey loves proving to people that structured workflows don’t have to be stifling.

A lot of people don’t love the word ‘process’—or the notion—because they think it’s super rigid. It’s not about creating restrictive boundaries to keep people in their lanes. It’s about knowing where things are, where things should be, where they fit. It’s about centralizing everyone’s lists and putting them somewhere that everyone has access to.

Kelsey Brogan, Director of Integrated Program Management at T-Mobile

But she doesn’t rely on her powers of persuasion or resort to top-down mandates to get teams on board. Instead, she helps one team transform at a time, and then she allows the obvious benefits of stronger processes to speak for themselves. Once nearby teams can see the difference enterprise work management makes, they quickly start clamoring to be part of it themselves. Kelsey’s approach is proof that when change is managed successfully, it extends and broadens organically.

2. Apply Templates to Repeatable Work

Creative types tend to dislike repetitive, mindless work more than most. Set them free from drudgery by applying templates wherever it makes sense. Use enterprise work management technology to develop complete task lists for different project types, automatically assign job roles to tasks, and even estimate duration and planned hours for each subtask. This essentially makes all that painful process stuff invisible to your creatives.

Marketers can just log in and instantly see the work that’s assigned to them individually. And creative managers can use built-in resource planning tools to track everyone’s availability, rather than having to make educated guesses or send dozens of emails to figure out who has time for what.

3. Say Goodbye to Sticky Notes

Something as simple as streamlining your intake protocols, which sets the stage for the rest of the project, can make a big difference to your overall creative process. Start by ensuring that every work request is submitted the same way—and not by email, sticky note, or instant message. You could set up a Google form that automatically populates a centralized spreadsheet or, even better, take advantage of the work-request functionality in your enterprise work management platform.  

4. Take the Pain Out of Proofing

If you were to pick just one piece of the creative process to strengthen and streamline, proofing is the one most likely to win the hearts and minds of your creative team. With digital proofing technology, you can eliminate unwieldy email chains, conflicting feedback, and version confusion. Creatives and traffic managers can easily see who has responded and who hasn’t, drastically reducing the need to chase down stakeholders or beg for feedback.

For bonus points, add digital asset management (DAM) to your suite of tools. All marketers will appreciate having immediate access to the latest versions of approved assets, which they can resize and export in the formats they need, without going through a graphic designer gatekeeper. Imagine the look on your designers’ faces when they hear they’ll never have to email someone a black-and-white jpg version of the company logo again.

5. Invite Everyone’s Input

Whenever you’re making changes to existing processes—whether you’re undertaking a complete digital transformation or implementing targeted workflow updates—invite input from those who will feel the impact of the changes the most. While you’ll probably have a system administrator or project management expert doing the hands-on work of analyzing the workflows, documenting the steps, and building out the templates, make sure the creatives who are expected to abide by the process are involved every step of the way.

Give Process a Chance

You’ve heard the old adage that good design should be invisible. Work processes should function the same way. When they’re working well, you should barely notice them. They shouldn’t feel disruptive or distracting or tedious. They should quietly, invisibly support the work that needs to get done.

And a funny thing happens when creative types experience work processes in this way—their resistance to talk of structure and workflow all but disappears. They quickly realize that well-designed digital processes do more than free them from busy work and repetitive tasks. They also empower them to deliver higher quality work more quickly and consistently, reclaim time for creativity and innovation, and spend more of each day doing the work they were hired to do.

Heidi Melin

Heidi is the Chief Marketing Officer for Workfront. Heidi is a high-energy, results-oriented senior executive leader and advisor with more than twenty years of experience in developing and executing go-to-market and marketing strategies that drive growth.

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