If you work in the creative services department of a large organization, you occupy a unique — and growing — space in the creative industry. Providing creative services to multiple departments of a single organization presents challenges that are sometimes similar — and sometimes vastly different — to problems that independent creative agencies face.
Keeping track of who is working on what, scheduling multiple concurrent projects without dropping the ball, and keeping lines of internal and external communications open are all common challenges for creative groups. Other problems, such as complex or even chaotic project intake processes, a lack of understanding or respect for the role of creative services within a wider organization, and justifying staffing decisions, have more impact on In-House teams.
Because few Project Management systems have been developed for In-House creatives, these groups must be very careful when planning for and investing in, new software. Here are 9 things to keep in mind as you search for a project management tool that fits you ‘just right’.
1. Know What Needs Fixing.
Understanding what is wrong with your current project management process is the first step to improvement. Begin by involving as broad a spectrum as possible of your team members in developing a list of requirements, as pain points will be different for different team positions. Working with your team in this way will help achieve buy-in and ensure that the new system has the best possible chance of success.
Look for: Features of your current system that you can categorize as "Must Haves", "Should Haves", and "Don’t Needs". You can use this list when you evaluate project management options.
2. Know When Enough is Enough.
This is where many people get into trouble. After opting for something super simple they find it not as robust as they need, and their next choice is something with loads of capabilities. The problem is that they often choose something so complex and clunky it ends up not being used. Either way, time and money are wasted.
Look for: Free demo or trial versions of project management options to assess whether the feature suite meshes with your needs. Take each of your shortlist options for a test drive before you make a final decision. Note: This is also an ideal time to assess customer service and response time for each option.
3. Know a Good Thing.
Not all providers offer an Online Project Request Form, but it is a game changer for anyone fed up with projects coming in to the shop with details that are incorrect, incomplete, or just plain missing. The more chaotic the intake process, the more likely it is that projects will be lost or forgotten. On the other hand, an Online Project Request starts each project with the right information and contacts and sets you up for success.
Look for: An online Project Request form that lets you establish expectations for essential information at the outset so you are able to start off on the right foot.
4. Know Where the Time Goes.
If you don’t use cloud-based timesheets, you are missing one of the most important — and easiest — project management tools. Whether you charge by the hour, or simply want to know where your team’s time is spent, web-based timesheets provide astonishing insight. They can help boost efficiency and productivity, provide data to support staffing decisions, and facilitate project forecasting.
Look for: Online timesheets that are simple and intuitive to use and can easily be adapted to the terminology you prefer.
5. Know What To-Do.
A Task Management feature is invaluable in keeping projects on track. Like a To-Do list with super powers, it gives you tremendous control over what each team member is working on. For Corporate Graphics teams, it is particularly useful as it helps you assign workload fairly, follow up on the progress of each task, and ensure that no task is forgotten.
Look for: Software that improves your ability to gather information. Unlimited custom fields can help you capture exactly the data you need, and display it in the way that is most useful
6. Know the Schedule.
A robust project scheduling capability provides instant access to view, plan, and adjust project timelines and team resources. It will also help prevent schedule overloads and simplify project planning.
Look for: Gantt Chart and calendar-view project schedules, as well as CEO Desktop features that show critical information at a glance.
7. Know All the Details. Right Now.
An online project management system has a tremendous advantage: immediacy. The right product will allow you to produce reports in multiple ways almost instantly. No waiting till the end of the month, the end of a project or even the end of the day to learn whether a project is on track or going seriously sideways.
Look for: The ability to instantly produce reports, charts or graphs to inform you about the things you most want to understand — productivity, resource management, personnel, clients or departments.
8. Know How to Communicate.
Project Blogs and File Sharing improve internal communication and collaboration by keeping all project updates in one place. Begin a new project blog as soon as a project request comes in, and keep the thread going throughout the life of the project.
Look for: A project blog that the whole team can use to exchange files and comments, and to store project information chronologically
9. Know What’s Important.
Beyond the 9 tips here, there is something that can make or break your experience with project management software — customer support. The best is unlimited, free customer support that lasts from your first contact, during set-up and implementation, and throughout the life of your relationship with the suplier. Without this, you are liable to face restrictive or expensive support packages, and training, or on-boarding charges that leave you out on your own just when you need a helping hand.
Look for: Friendly, knowledgeable customer support people that know their product inside out, understand your business, and respond quickly to any questions or issues you might have.
The right project management software can make a hugely positive difference, simplifying your administrative tasks, creating organization out of chaos, making the most of your resources, boosting productivity, and garnering respect from your organization. Do your homework, keep your expectations high, and be ready for your creative department to take a giant step forward.