Research shows that, on average, creative teams dedicate just 40% of their day to the job they were hired to do. The other 60%? That time is spent on arduous administrative tasks, such as meetings, requests and review processes. How, then, can creatives find the right balance and win back the freedom and flexibility to do what they do best?
As part of the recent Digital Summit, The Drum, in partnership with Adobe Workfront, brought together a panel of creative professionals to discuss this seemingly eternal conundrum. The Drum’s assistant editor Jenni Baker chaired the session and was joined by Andrew Hall, EMEA digital sales and field marketing, Workfront BU, Adobe; Belle Lawrence, associate director, Immediate Future; Nicolette Seifert, creative client strategy partner, PMG; and Jeff Tan, innovation solutions officer at Dentsu, Americas.
Tan kicked things off by discussing the difference in approach required to manage an agency’s administrative and creative functions: “I think the first thing we need to do is verify and ascertain the difference between creative work and routine work. Most of the time, with routine work, you want lower variance and encourage more predictability to increase your chance of success. Creative work, on the other hand, requires a completely different mindset. You want to encourage variance and try new things. You also need a safe place to fail.
“So, the key questions are: how are we managing routine work? How are we managing creative work? Are the tools, processes and metrics that we use for the two are distinct? Because they absolutely should be.”
Seifert suggested that it is useful to broaden the definition of creative when building client teams. She said: “At the start of a project we would sometimes pair a social strategist or a digital strategist with a creative duo or even a producer or somebody from the account team. We build these super teams of people that have different perspectives during the development and ideation phases. This can save time in the long run, helping us spot any potential red flags from a logistical or technical point of view.
“Likewise, I think the most important element of pulling together a project plan (dealing with logistics, timelines, budgets and so on) is knowing who your client stakeholders are and involving them in the process early on. Timelines can get blown up, forcing you back to square one, just because you didn't have the right people weighing-in at the right time. Knowing from the very beginning who needs to see the work along the way, and letting them voice their opinions, bring any red flags to the table and can ultimately get you to that finish line a little more easily.”
Structure sets you free
Discussing the concept of Agile agency/client relationships, Hall said: “At Adobe Workfront, we come from a technology space that enables agile methodologies but often there is a basic misunderstanding of what an agile methodology actually delivers. Often people assume that it means you'll do things quicker or you can break protocol whenever you like ‘because you’re doing Agile’!
“Agile is actually about providing a solid structure to allow flexibility in workflow management. It doesn't mean a total free-for-all. It’s the structure that sets your creatives free. Understanding and respecting the process within this agile methodology can mean quick iterations, responding to changes faster and, essentially doing things in a more nimble, efficient way, but it doesn’t necessarily mean quicker delivery.”
Hall added: “You need technology to underpin exactly how you build a campaign because what often happens is you get to a moment where someone says: ‘Oh my goodness, we forgot about to consult the legal department’ or ‘we’ve revised our branding since we started this’. Even small and seemingly insignificant changes can end up creating hundreds of different variations across the course of a campaign that can seriously cut into an agency’s margins.”
Immediate Future’s Lawrence agreed with Hall on the fundamental importance of structure in facilitating creativity. She said: “It's all down to planning and process. If you get that boring bit right, you've got the space to be a bit more creative. We try to balance things so that 60% to 80% of our time is spent on ‘billable’ things. Our process is about more than ensuring our creative teams fill out their timesheets to show productivity. It's also about finding out if there's a bug in the system that’s stopping them from being creative.”
Other issues discussed during the 45-minute panel session included:
- Tips and techniques to get the creativity of your team members flowing
- How to balance the turnaround expectations of clients against the need for quality creative output
- How to deal with toxic ‘Devil’s advocates’ inside your team who kill creative ideas too soon
- How best to store, access and revisit your existing creative work
- The non-creative tasks that are cutting into the working time of your creative team
Summing-up the session, Adobe Workfront’s Hall said: “Creators shouldn't be trying to figure out things that aren’t creative and strategic. They shouldn't be trying to fill gaps in a brief or struggling to find the resources they need to get on with the job. If we can protect the creative engine and make sure that they are focused primarily on strategic creative ideas, everybody wins.”
You can watch the full panel session here.