Although I'd be the first to acknowledge their validity and usefulness in managing an in-house creative team, I'm not a big fan of numbers. I barely hobbled through Trig in high school. But the fact of the matter is that most of our left-brained colleagues, and especially the ones with the power of the purse who control our group's financial fate, use numbers to measure success. So I often grit my teeth and jump into Excel docs with a passion. You should too.
That being said, I've recently caught myself throwing the baby out with the bathwater. What about the effectiveness of the actual deliverable? Sure it was on time and on budget with a minimum of man-hours associated with its creation, but I'd argue that quality is the prime metric by which our success should be judged. If the work is not meeting the needs of our clients and is not well designed then it makes no difference how efficient or cost effective our teams are.
But how do we measure and demonstrate quality? Well it sure isn't with numbers. I'd like to suggest 5 strategies for tackling this elusive metric.
1. Conduct reviews and critiques with key stakeholders in your team's business. This is an activity that most teams engage in during the iterative design process so why not document client and peer feedback and consolidate it so that at the end of the year there is a record for upper management to review.
2. Research and create case studies. On larger high visibility projects, it may be worth the time and effort to retroactively capture the creative process by documenting the project goals and scope, the evolution of the creative, the final deliverable, how the final design met the original project goals and then, most importantly, the impact the deliverable had on the business.
3. Conduct stakeholder surveys. In addition to getting client feedback on your team's customer service, on-time delivery and cost effectiveness, including questions/ratings on the quality of the design is a great opportunity to assess this aspect of your team's work.
4. Solicit industry expert ratings. Every design community has respected design experts you can tap to review and rate the quality of your team's output. Organizing and arranging for an expert critique is a great way to not only get a valid and credible assessment of design quality, it also can be a great learning experience for your creatives.
5. Enter awards competitions. Going up against talented peers in other companies not only gets you feedback on the quality of your work in the context of general design criteria, it also will give you and your managers a sense of how you stack up when compared with other creative teams.
If you're going to implement any of the above practices, I suggest that you do more than one. Each strategy engages a different group for feedback and when conducted in isolation will only yield a decidedly one-sided take on the quality of your team's deliverables. Employing two, three or even all of the suggestions will give you and your managers a more accurate holistic assessment of the quality of your work.
It's critical for you to measure quality, otherwise your work will be viewed as a mere commodity and the value of your contributions will be diminished and your role as a strategic player in your organization minimized.
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Andy Epstein is an industry thought leader in the field of in-house creative. He currently serves as the Resource and Studio Manager for The BOSS Group at Merck where he manages a studio of approximately 65 design, editorial, and multimedia creatives. Andy has written and spoken extensively on in-house issues and published "The Corporate Creative," a book on in-house design, in partnership with F&W Publications in the spring of 2010. He is a co-founder of InSource, an association dedicated to providing support to in-house designers and design team managers and is currently head of AIGA In-house Design where he is continuing his efforts to empower in-house teams and raise their stature in the design and business communities.