Essential Guide to Creative Project Management
By Jodie Byass
When one mentions project management, the first thing that comes to mind is IT or construction. What people don't realize is that project management is no longer the exclusive domain of these industries and that other industries are using it too.
So, considering this, can teams manage creative projects in this way? Indeed, they can, and many are successful in making their creative projects more efficient and productive.
But what exactly is creative project management and how does it work? What creative project management tools are there to help teams streamline their processes? Lets' delve into these and other questions in more detail.
What Is Creative Project Management?
Creative project management is simply project management in the creative industry. To give a wider definition, it's a process that teams use to organize and manage creative projects, while also nurturing the more organic way that creative ideas come to life.
In other words, with creative project management, teams follow a process that streamlines their work, but leaves room for creativity. In contrast, traditional project management processes plan, execute, and control the work in a fairly rigid process that doesn't leave much scope for this.
And that's where the biggest difference between traditional project management and creative project management lies.
How It Differs From Traditional Project Management
Traditional project management follows a sequential timeline for project management, through the planning stages, the execution, and the finalization of the project. Everything that needs to be done is planned into the process. Sure, there are some project methodologies like Agile that leave a bit of room for some creativity, but they all operate on very similar planning and execution principles.
The thing is, a rigid sequential process doesn't work with creative people who design and implement marketing or advertising projects. Creativity is more fluid and subjective and the planning and execution process will differ with no set roadmap from beginning to end.
Success is also measured differently in creative project management. In traditional project management, success is measured on progress, goals, and outcomes. With creative projects, good designs and concepts come from inspiration that takes time. It isn't something that can be rushed or bound to specific timelines. Creatives need space and time to find their inspiration.
In conclusion, a creative project is still a project that has milestones and deadlines so it's important to manage creative teams productivity while also encouraging and fostering their creativity.
What Are the Challenges of Managing Creative Projects?
Much like creative project management requires a unique process for managing marketing projects, it also has some unique challenges.
Unrealistic Client Expectations
It may be helpful to look at an example here. With traditional project management, for instance in IT, a client might want a specific app that has specific features. They'll know exactly what these features are and what they'll do. Most of all, they'll be able to explain what they want.
With project management for creative teams, the client might know what they want, but not what they need, and they may not be able to explain what they want. Ultimately, they just want something that drive results for their marketing campaign.
Client education is therefore far more important in creative project management, not only to guide them through the process, but also to align their expectations to their needs. To achieve this:
Listen to the client. In this way, teams can get a clear understanding of their concerns, their challenges, and what they need. When teams understand these problems, they can work with the client to set clearer, more realistic goals and produce what they want.
Educate the client. It's important to explain the creative process and help the client understand how long it takes to produce what they need, set expectations, and how they should provide clear feedback during the working relationship.
Talk to the client. Keep the project on track with collaboration and good communication. Adopting tools such as creative project management software that promote good communication and clear client feedback can assist the process tremendously.
Creative Projects Are Complicated
Tying in with customer expectations is the fact that the creative request process is complicated. With clients often not knowing exactly what they want, apart from results, it can make it difficult to formulate a brief for the creative team.
When the brief is too high-level without actionable information, creative teams aren't able to work effectively which leads to more meetings and follow-up which, in turn, leads to delays. When the briefs require too much in-depth information, clients don't complete them and leave vital information out. This isn't useful at all and bogs down the creative team.
Going back to the app example, with traditional project management, it's easy to replace managers or team members. Likewise, it's also easy to add more team members to reach goals and outcomes faster.
As said, creativity is subjective, so each creative person is different with different approaches, ways of thinking, and skills. As different people get inspiration in diverse ways and come up with different ideas.
Also, unlike a traditional approach, creative campaigns can't be completed faster by adding more people to the project and design problems won't be solved by devoting more staff hours to it.
Ultimately, this means that creative projects can't be scaled like IT or construction projects. Adding more team members doesn't speed up the process, but rather adds an extra layer of complexity by spending more time brainstorming, working through idea, and managing the team.
Best Practices for Managing Creative Projects
Traditional project management works on the principle that there is a defined roadmap for a project. This roadmap helps managers to gather the requirements for the project on monitor its progress through these five stages:
Now, creative project management also manages projects in a similar way, but it adds another feature. It must nurture the organic way creative ideas are drawn from inspiration. In other words, creativity is at the heart of every project and teams should plan the process with this in mind.
Remember, every creative project is unique with often undefined objectives. This requires special communications skills and relies on collaboration.
Now, communication is also important in traditional project management, but in creative project management it requires a fair amount of translation. What does this mean? Well, in effect clients and creatives speak different languages.
This means, as feedback is passed from clients to the team, what the client needs, needs to be translated into concrete tasks for the team. Likewise, the team's feedback needs to be translated to manage client expectations.
So, how can teams manage the challenges and best practices of creative project management to make their processes more efficient and productive? That brings up the next point.
Why Teams Need Creative Project Management Software
To create campaigns that deliver results for clients, teams need to manage their processes, overcome challenges, and adhere to best practices. On top of that, they should move with the trends and know what works and what doesn't. To say this is complicated would be an understatement.
For this reason, creative project management software is an essential tool for managing marketing projects. Some reasons why any creative team needs creative project management are:
- A central location for ideas and inspiration. It allows teams to gather all ideas from brainstorming sessions or team members in one place that makes it easier to manage and curate ideas, making the ideas more accessible for everyone on the team.
- A streamlined way of accepting and managing project requests. It streamlines and automates the process of receiving, assigning, and executing tasks. This makes sure that work is done on time, and prevents teams falling behind on important tasks.
- It aggregates feedback in one place. The creative process thrives on feedback, not only from other team members, but also from the client. By managing the feedback from one hub, it is visible, clear, and actionable. In this way teams can resolve conflicting feedback and good collaboration is facilitated.
- Reduces last-minute changes. These make the creative process less productive and leads to delays. When all the information and feedback in one place, everyone on the team knows what is expected from them and by when. The ability to set hard deadlines also keeps teams on track and prevents last-minute changes.
- It creates more time for creativity. In combining all the above benefits into one platform that makes managing creative projects easier, creative project management software saves time and lets creatives focus on what they do best.
Must Have Features of Creative Project Management Software
It's clear that creative project management software can go along way in simplifying the creative project management process, but what are some must have features it should have?
To make project management for creative teams as easy and streamlined as possible, it's always better to choose software that:
- Allows real time and efficient planning. To gather all ideas and inspiration in one place and transform them into actionable tasks, the software should contain an extensive planning feature.
- Promotes collaboration. Collaboration is one of the pillars for successful creative project management, so it's essential that the software promotes collaboration.
- Manages resources and workflows. To keep projects on track and finish on time, it's essential to effectively manage workflows and the allocation of resources to every part of the project.
- Allows project workflow customization. As every project is different, teams should be able customize and adapt the workflow for each project.
- Manages documents and versions. Keeping all documents, illustrations, mockups, and designs in one place and managing their versions is essential for any project to run efficiently.
- Provides visual timelines. Visual details about what needs to be done and by when, keeps creative teams on top of the project.
- Provides efficient and visual reports. Unlike traditional project management, creative project management reporting should more visual and graphical, so the software should deliver here.
- Manages reviews and approvals. When reviews and approvals are managed efficiently, it cuts out conflicting feedback and eliminates confusion for all team members.
- Manages data accurately. With marketing project comes data. It shows what parts of the campaign are most effective and what parts are not. This data should be accurately managed and accessible to all team members.
Creative projects can be complicated and tough to manage. Despite that, teams should still deliver the highest quality product to clients, so it's essential that they manage the process as efficiently as possible.
By using the tools and best practices mentioned here, teams will be able to up their game when it comes to creative project management and stand out from their competitors.