Cella takes a holistic approach when assessing Marketing and Creative organizations, and far too often, a neglected area of focus is the use of foundational operational support tools and mechanisms.
There are commonly used tried and true tools available to support the health of Marketing and Creative Operations. Different tools focus on different areas; a RACI matrix will clarify roles and responsibilities within an organization, project charters will provide visibility and clarity into initiatives, process maps will detail and align a team to standard ways of working, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will measure the health of your operations.
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There are certainly more tools beyond the few I have mentioned here (we did not forget about you SOPs), and it is likely most operations have utilized a combination of the available options for support at one time or another. When used correctly, these tools create efficiencies and alignment and can support your teams in taming even the wildest of workloads. So why do we often neglect them?
There are a few common reasons why these tools get left to gather cobwebs. The most common reason is that maintaining tools and mechanisms takes dedication and resources. As workloads increase, we often sacrifice the very things that can help us to manage them. Tools are often behind the scenes taking a backseat to the actual Creative and Marketing work being produced and are sometimes seen as nice-to-haves when prioritization time comes around. Another common reason these foundational types of tools get abandoned is because the expectation of technology tooling can simply be too high.
Technology can embody a suite of tools - for instance a PM system might have workload balancing capabilities, prioritization scorecards, in-system proofing, operational reports, etc. And yes, the correct technology tools can be invaluable to your Marketing and Creative operation, but they will not solve for everything. An operation utilizing the correct technology and foundational tools is much more likely to achieve operational excellence.
RESPECT YOUR TOOLS
How do we respect the tools so that they can support us? We bring these tools out from behind the scenes and give them a starring role on the operation stage. Adoption and enforcement of the tools across the team is key to ensuring consistency and maximizing potential. Here are a few best practices for utilizing operational tools to support Marketing and Creative operations.
Prioritize resources required to keep your tools up to date. If a tool is out of date, it is essentially meaningless, and your team will not use it.
Establish the correct cadence for updating changes to the information within the tool to ensure it is meaningful to your operation. If you are in an organization that focuses on continuous improvement, you may need to revisit your process workflows often to ensure they are relevant.
Identify who is accountable and responsible for the upkeep of each tool and any subsequent change management to ensure time is allocated for this work. If your organization is utilizing many tools for support, you may want to explore adding a dedicated role for change management.
Set expectations for your teams to use the tools.
Clarify how and when the teams should be utilizing the tools. For example, you may set the expectation for yearly resource planning that your teams will utilize the orgs RACI matrix when requesting headcount. Now let’s assume the RACI matrix is up to date and your team is aligned going into the planning exercise. The expectation might be that each team will use the RACI matrix to highlight the changes that are expected based on their head count requests and to assure accountability and responsibilities across roles are properly distributed and aligned to job role descriptions.
Establish measures of success that align to tools. Reinforce the use of tools to measure goal and performance success. A KPI is of course a great mechanism to use for measure, it is the definition of what it is designed to do. However, other tools can also be used to support measuring success. For example, you might measure a team’s goal to automate process not only by the impact to specific KPIs but also by the number of non-value add steps removed from a process workflow.
Lead by example. If you are asking people to use and maintain tools, show that you are also utilizing them and why they matter.
Use the tools to trigger action. Let’s say you’ve asked your team to ensure all initiatives or projects are tracked using project charters. When a project charter update is emailed out, prioritize responding to signals you are reading the information and using the charter to keep updated on the projects within the operation. If a task or milestone has gone off-track or is at-risk, send a timely follow up email response to your team asking how you can support the team to get the task back on track. The work that goes into creating a well thought out project charter will likely be seen as time well spent if it results in the correct visibility and support to achieving project success.
Utilize tools to educate. A great way to show just how important these tools are is to use them yourself when it matters. And why wouldn’t you, they help inform and educate when included in business requests to leadership, during planning and deep dive exercises, on-boarding new team members and partner education.
Leaders in the Marketing and Creative Operations space who are striving for operational excellence often find it difficult to identify and prioritize all the necessary pieces of their unique operation. Cella can offer a holistic, independent point of view on your operation. and help you define the organization and implementation plan that is practical, and best suits your needs and goals. For more information, please email us at [email protected].