What do you do when your creative organization is experiencing success through growth in staff, services and clients?

Internal Creative Services departments don't usually begin as full-service studios with well-defined roles and responsibilities. The department may have roots in the print shop that serviced copy requests and literature orders. Or maybe marketing hired a designer to help create marketing materials or service the sales staff. Whatever the start, creative departments grow organically with the growth in staff and services addressing specific short-term or long-term needs of the corporation. As the leader of this group, you may have been that first designer, or copywriter, or maybe marketer with a good eye for color. But now, you are leading the group and the workload is growing, and it's time to take a hard look at how your organization is functioning. Here are four areas that may need attention as your group continues to evolve.

How are you organizing and managing work within your department? Now is the time to look at some of those things you keep putting off like process definition and Service Level Agreements ("SLAs") with clients and support staff. It may be time for you to step away from work assignment and complete creative control and put specialized resources in place, like a traffic manager and an art director. This is also the time to take a serious look at the metrics (assuming you are tracking them!), and determine what mix of high-end creative versus production resources is appropriate. You might also look at how best to use external resources for those busy times of the year and also for those projects that are outside your "sweet spot." Maybe something like web design is best outsourced, at least for now, but make it a conscious, strategic decision.

Client Interface
Who is managing communication with clients? In small departments it may be individual designers, an admin resource, or "whoever I worked with last time." Defining communication channels can make it much easier for clients and staff. Well-defined intake processes can contribute to large efficiency increases by eliminating that missing information and those misunderstandings that can easily occur. Throughout project lifecycles define the responsibilities for review and approval, and establish the rules of engagement so your clients know who to call and what is expected of them. With proper definition you may even eliminate those "drive bys" that interrupt creative staff and add to the confusion.

Strategic Engagement
Well, if you've been managing intake and work assignments (and doing some design on the side), what's left for you? Now is the time to set aside the tactical engagement, and start to think and plan strategically. This includes both planning for your department and how you will better serve your clients, but also engaging your marketing clients at a strategic level. They are the marketing experts, but you are the communication expert. You can offer them valuable help with planning their communication initiatives. Become a strategic resource that they can rely on for long-term planning and for creative consulting. It's time to move beyond being an 'order taker' organization.

How are you managing your work and your assets? You may be outgrowing that spreadsheet of projects or the homegrown project management system and the shared server for managing work and assets. It may be time to assess your technology gaps and look for new tools to support your department's operations. There are many low-cost tools that can get you started with workflow management and Digital Asset Management. These and other technologies can contribute to increasing your effectiveness as an organization.

Recognize that change is hard. In order to grow you will need to let go of some familiar things and take on new challenges. But the benefits will be well worth it and we at Cella can help you through the challenges, including assessing what activities and initiatives make the most sense to change first and/or invest in.