Workflow management can be one of the biggest challenges for any manager or team leader. At the same time, it can be the most critical factor determining the project’s success – or failure.
Without structure, completing a project will be a process filled with confusion and frustration, resulting in missed deadlines and disappointed clients. Yet, the thing is a structure that works for one person may not work with another, and this is why establishing a proper workflow that is agreed by everyone involved in the project is very important.
In any creative work, there are administration processes involved. 82% of surveyed creative workers admitted that they spend as much as 25% of their time in project management and administration rather than doing creative work. Proper creative workflow management can help in tackling this issue.
Let’s discuss how we can implement proper creative workflow management in your team, which will involve taking a closer look at your existing process, finding patterns and mapping them out, and using an intuitive workflow management tool for the implementation.
Essential Principles for Effective Workflow Management
Before we begin discussing how we can implement effective workflow management, here are some important principles:
#1. Understanding the concept of the creative workflow
The first step to effective creative workflow management is to understand what a workflow is.
A workflow is a sequence of how tasks must get performed to achieve a specific objective. However, although it is a sequence (or structure), it doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be rigid and inflexible. This is especially important to consider in a creative workflow when a rigid structure is often shunned.
However, any workflow should contain some standardized factors like SOPs, but treat these common factors as guidelines rather than roads that should get strictly followed in the creative workflow.
Ensure that everyone involved understood the importance of workflow management and ensure the documentation process is as easy as possible for everyone.
#2. Understand and communicate the why
Why does your team need workflow management in the first place? Can we—-as a creative team— rely on our creativity to fix the apparent workflow issues?
It’s essential to understand why implementing workflow management is important, and communicate these reasons to the whole team to commit to the implementation. List potential benefits: keeping everything and everyone on track, a more efficient approval process, fewer revisions, and so on.
List as many as you can, and make sure everyone is on board.
#3. There’s no such thing as a perfect workflow
This is crucial to understand: you won’t ever get a perfectly managed workflow, period. You will always meet new problems and issues along the way, but what’s important is to adjust to these problems and continuously revise your workflow.
So, what’s the point of workflow management if we can’t get a 100% perfect one? Because the journey of continually adjusting and revising the workflow process will also increase outputs and more efficient performances. Although workflow management is a process, your business will also get better along with it.
Step-By-Step of Implementing Creative Workflow Management
Step 1: Create a Creative Brief and Collect Data
The first step of creating a creative workflow is to collect every required and related information in one place.
This is not only limited to a list of tasks, but also other items like milestones, events (i.e., pre-scheduled meetings), repeated tasks, and more.
Then, develop a creative brief based on this information for a rough description of the project and the end objective(s)
Step 2: Set Milestones
The next step is to break down the project into smaller milestones. This is important to track a creative job’s progress, especially in more complex projects with extended deadlines. It is very important to track your progress by defining measurable milestones visualized in the workflow.
Step 3: Defining roles
This is another crucial step in a workflow management process. Carefully define roles to each member of your team and clearly define their key responsibilities. Map out the project team’s structure based on these roles and a transparent chain of command. This will significantly help in eliminating communication issues throughout the length of the project.
Step 4: Define Priorities
Now that you’ve gathered all the required information, the next step is to set your priorities: what tasks need to get done first and which can wait.
Depending on the number of items included in the workflow, this can be very simple or complicated. Some elements might need more in-depth insights before we can decide their priorities.
A great approach is to put yourself in the client’s shoes while defining these priorities: make sure you consider them at every step of the process, their needs, preferences, and expectations.
Step 5: Anticipate Problems
As we’ve discussed above, there will always be problems with your workflow. Our workflow management job is to take advantage of your team’s collective intelligence to anticipate and prevent these issues before they start.
The more structured and organized your workflow is, the easier it would be to detect incoming problems and mitigate their effects.
Step 6: Visualizing your workflow
In this step, we will transfer the collected information into a visual-based workflow management tools like Aproove. This allows your team members and stakeholders involved in the project to have a central “to-do” list with oversight of all the tasks they are involved in. Being online overcomes any location or timezone issues.
You can also create templates for tasks/business processes that you often repeat, so you don’t have to create the process from scratch on every project.
Step 7: Analyze, Adjust, and Optimize
Make sure to analyze every task included in the workflow as the project goes: how long did it take to accomplish a task, how much did resource X cost, and others. This ensures you can improve the workflow for future projects and make the process even more efficient than before.
Another critical consideration is to optimize communications with each iteration of the workflow. Make sure to implement the right communication tools according to your team’s size, project length, and project’s objective
Implementing workflow management in a creative project can result in a more efficient project turnaround, reduced compliance risks, and, ultimately, happier clients.
It’s important to understand that a proper workflow will enable creativity rather than limit it. Still, at the same time, we’d have to create a flexible workflow structure to avoid rigidity.
Proper workflow management can bring transparency and accountability to your creative project, so everyone involved in the project can understand their responsibilities, leading to a higher quality of deliverables.