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Creative Ops – the common mistakes.

By Melissa Smith     

Henry Stewart, organisers of Creative Ops events, asked me for my thoughts on Creative Ops & Project Management.

What role does Project Management play in Creative Ops?

If an organisation is fortunate enough to have dedicated Project Management, they play an essential part of successful Creative Ops. The Project Managers are the eyes and ears on the day to day operations, planning and implementing projects in the heartland.

A culture of proactively evaluating strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures on live projects will support Creative Ops in continual improvement at an organisational level.

Procter & Gamble’s Marc Pritchard got the industry talking earlier this year when he said he would like “creatives to account for three-quarters of agencies’ resources” – what do you think the optimal split between Creatives and Project Managers is?

The split is dependent on the organisation’s creative process and the complexity of the marketing plans and final output, but the creative doesn’t start and end with an idea by a ‘creative’.

I believe the most effective creative work is the result of a process that’s highly collaborative, involving various people who can amplify and build on the initial spark of an idea.

Do you think you can blend the roles of Project Managers and Producers, creating a hybrid role of the two?

Most certainly! I was a 360 Project Manager for years, but if you have a 360 end-to-end hybrid, they will need to work across a smaller number of projects than a dedicated Project Manager.

There are very compelling benefits for employing hybrids – we all want a leaner, more agile approach, a holistic view and less baton passing. However, if a project is run properly there is still the same number of tasks to be completed. If you are employing a hybrid model to reduce staff costs you may be cutting off your nose to spite your face. Always assess how much duplication there are in responsibilities and accountabilities before cutting numbers and employing a hybrid model.

In my experience, organisations get to a certain size (normally 100+) and start splitting roles and distributing tasks allowing them to focus on key skill sets, scale up and be more efficient.

How would you describe the differing roles of: Creative Ops, Project Managers and Delivery Managers?

Titles can be confusing and differ per organisation – it’s key to clearly define someone’s responsibilities and accountabilities so there is no confusion or duplication between these roles.

Creative Ops lead at an organisational level, managing internal people, process and profit. They should be looking at the internal strategy and vision for the company with a focus on continual improvement and future proofing operations to keep up with trends in the marketing space like product design, AI, automation, etc.

Project Managers lead at a project level, managing the constraints of their projects – time, budget and scope whilst delivering the best quality project – they are the project planners and have a complete view over their allocated clients, brands or projects.

Delivery Managers are responsible for the production and final delivery of the output, working hand in hand with the creative teams and project managers to craft the best possible product internally or using specialist production companies.

What are the key qualities and values that differentiate a Project Manager from a Creative Project Manager?

All Project Managers follow a project cycle including scoping, planning, implementation and evaluation. A creative project manager will add value to each of those stages from creative development through to final production.

They would be consulted and give advice on the casting and talent, the production processes and how to produce the best possible creative within the budget and time.

Do you think Project Management tools are useful?

I’m a firm advocate of project management tools and with the speed to market required now, having live information at your fingertips is essential.

I’m always surprised that many companies have little or no visibility of project health due to a lack of tools. Issues become problems that could have been resolved much earlier on projects through better visibility and reporting that’s made possible with the right tools.

How do you get people to use these tools? 

On-boarding and advocacy is inherently tricky as everyone has different motivators but for a Project Manager or Creative Ops person, it’s crucial everyone engages and inputs the necessary information.

Key to getting people to use the tool is to map out your creative or company process and demonstrate how the tool will enhance and improve areas of the business – making sure the tool is working for you and your team are not working for the tool.

Take people through this process first so they understand how important their individual input and engagement is and treat it as a project – appoint a Project Manager and a steering committee with a representative from each department to act as the guardian and spokesperson with regular meetings to continually evaluate how the tool is working for the organisation.

Staff need to understand that their collaboration and input is vital to the success of any tool at an organisational level, look at what motivates them and work with this.

Are you starting to see brilliantly managed projects being celebrated as opposed to just outstanding creative?

I think the role of operations and Project Management is more important than ever before due to the complexity of campaigns. Many of the industry trade bodies and publications like the IPA and Campaign are finally recognising these people in their awards which is appropriate as it’s always a team effort and they play an important role in that team!