My colleague, Ceil Wloczewski, wrote an article last year addressing the relevance of the Traffic Manger role today, particularly in relation to workflow automation systems. The feedback from many creative services teams was that it's great to have a good Traffic Manager, but it may be a luxury for many organizations.
There are many factors that come into play when automation is seen as a replacement for Traffic Management and/or Project Management. One of the most important factors is the type of work that is typically done in your organization. That's what really drives the functions you need in place, whether they be systems or people. Let's look at a few examples.
First example: The bulk of your work is on complex projects of long duration that involve many creative resources and plenty of reviewers. Project management is very important for this type of work. A workflow system can help with scheduling and project data, but it can't resolve cross-functional dependency issues or automatically readjust schedules when delays occur. So, if this is your type of work, project management will be needed. If you don't have project managers, then creative staff will have to fill the gap, and usually, they aren't very good at it.
Second example: Your projects are relatively short term, everyone thinks their project is top priority, and some of your resources are pretty stretched (sound familiar?). In this case, a good traffic manager can make all the difference. A workflow system is great for managing project intake and getting initial schedules set up, but in this environment, there will always be priority changes and the need to reassign work to other resources, and a good traffic manager can make that happen and keep your organization productive.
Third Example: Most projects are derivative or repeat work, and your creative staff is well balanced for the workload. This may be a case where a workflow system with a good intake capability may provide enough functionality to eliminate the need for dedicated traffic and project management resources. Projects can be routed to specific creative resources or to the next available resource based on workload. Work comes in to the department, is routed, and completed with minimum intervention. And yes, this picture may be a little to 'rosy,' but many internal creative services organizations operate this way at least with some of their projects.
And that's the key to recognizing your specific resource needs. Your organization may be (and probably is) a mix of all three of these scenarios. When you truly understand your mix of work, you can segment your workload and apply the appropriate resources as needed. A well-configured workflow system can apply rules to segment work at the intake stage. Then those jobs that require little intervention can move through the system automatically. The projects requiring attention due to priority and resource issues can be managed by a traffic person who will make it happen - because that's what they do. And finally, those complex, long-duration projects can be in the hands of a good project manager who can keep them on track and on budget.
So analyze your work stream and understand the true requirements for managing an effective and efficient workflow. Then apply the resources that make sense for your particular organization. If you need help with that, talk to us at Cella. We can help you define your true requirements for both people and systems.