Lessons from a gathering of Creative Operations professionals

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Creative Operations

The Creative Operations Exchange conference, April 2017, San Francisco, CA

It’s always awesome to visit California, but Widen’s trip in April to the inaugural Creative Ops conference in San Francisco was a great excuse to go.

Creative Operations is a new-ish term for the group more commonly known as Creative Services and is responsible for increasing efficiency and compliance in the creative production process. Moving production under the umbrella of operations is elevating its value – a good move if you ask me. While the group has always been essential to the success of the creative process, it’s also been seriously underrated in terms of creative input, output, and problem solving.

Touchnology = the human touch behind technology

Creative Operations

While great weather and food were motivating factors for a trip to CA, our team really went to the conference to share findings from our recent market research with creative, marketing, and tech professionals. This investigation centered around how they want to connect, the tools they use to make that happen, and where they see connectivity going in the future. We chaired the event for a room of open, talented people ready to discuss the evolving creative production process in enterprise business. Which was inspiring and just plain fun.

The key takeaways from our presentation weren't earth shattering but were great validation of how important the human element still is when it comes to Tech versus Touch.

1.  People connect to satisfy human needs. There are even recent studies that show how the human brain is actually hard-wired to connect socially. Social connection is part of our DNA.

2. Collaboration and community are two key avenues that enable the human satisfaction we get from connecting. The human satisfaction we crave is about more than sitting together in a room with other people. It's about building something greater together than we can do on our own.

3. Technology is a conduit to human connection and therefore requires a human touch. Our digital tools are the conduit that makes human interaction possible on a whole different level, so they have to incorporate a human touch, too.

To learn more about our research discoveries and how Widen customers are using DAM, project management, and workflow tools to connect their work and teams, check out our whole presentation below.

As most of us know, people have a basic need for human touch. What was surprising from our research, however, is just how much people want that touch in their digital connections, too. And how much we need to DISCONNECT from digital devices in order to FEEL connected to others. And to be creative. We like to call this concept, “touchnology.”

This need was evident in the interactions of the people at this conference as well. More than one person at the event said they felt like they “found their tribe” – those like-minded people you can share best practices, challenges, and work hacks with. They wanted to interact personally with others to understand the different ways they’re getting things done and elevating their production teams.

How did people respond? After a day of tech talk, the human side was a nice break. And a good reminder of what motivates people to act on technology. Lots of talk about what’s not working, personal accountability, follow through, and managing projects. All people related to be successful.

The unanswered question from the conference was whether Creative Operations is really a separate function from Creative Services, or simply an evolution of the same team? There was some energy around it being a separate function, leadership, and skillset. But after much discussion and entertaining debate, I didn’t hear a unanimous cry either way. I guess we’ll have to learn more at the Creative Ops conference in New York this May.

The top takeaways and tweetables from the 2017 Creative Operations Exchange:

  1. Balance the trifecta of People, Process and Technology. (And a bonus 4th of "information" or "insights".)
  1. When it comes to technology and process integration, business requirements are the WHAT, functional requirements are the HOW.  Start with WHY!
  1. Designers like data! Creative ops leaders must embrace data and metrics.  Align with marketing and finance on the metrics that matter most, for real business insights.  Look at data regularly, but not too much. You should know your average cycle time and rounds of revision to work at capacity. 

    It's not just about efficiency & costs, quality & effectiveness matter to your teams too!
  1. "Find the balance between specialist and generalist when staffing the creative team." You'll find a range of org structures across creative teams, and that's something many of you really want to know more about.  We'll be sure to bring more awareness of Creative Ops org structure as we grow this community!
  1. Technology won't fix process, if it’s broken to begin with.  I agree.  Put people and process (and how you align them) first!  When it comes to technology, cross functional team buy-in is critical for system adoption to succeed.
  1. "Digital Asset Management is becoming the engine of the digital marketing technology toolkit."  I like that one!  It's certainly important to have structured content managed as a strategic asset in this "omni-channel" world.  Recognize what makes an asset, an asset to your business and the teams that rely on your creative operations!
  1. Many of you share a common goal in that you just want to let your creatives be more creative (by minimizing mundane administrative tasks through automation and more streamlined processes), have the right amount of visibility, and understanding from your leadership.
  1. There's a lot of potential for new roles.  Invest in people!  Consider Creative Ops directors, data scientists, resource managers, and other emerging roles to help you navigate this evolution from Creative Services to Creative Ops.
  1. Don't forget about the creative brief and project intake.  Set standards across your creative process beginning with a well-defined creative brief.  Know when the brief is complete to avoid scope creep.  It's okay to have different briefs for different deliverables for as long as there's clarity and consistency.
  1. Constantly look at what does and doesn't work in your processes and work to fix it.

Team transparency breaks down walls and empowers open conversation across teams!

Want to learn more about Creative Operations and DAM? Contact us.

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