More efficiency and effectiveness in the creative process

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1 FOCUS PAPER More efficiency and effectiveness in the creative process The creative supply chain under control

2 The creative supply chain under control: More efficiency and effectiveness in the creative process Supply chain management postulates that in the future it will no longer be enterprises, but rather supply chains, which compete with one another. Because: The fewer interface problems and breaches an enterprise encounters in its processes, the more efficiently and effectively can it serve its customers. In times of comparable products, extremely competitive markets and global competition, this is a key element necessary to survive in the market. But what is the status of the supply chains in marketing and communications the creative supply chains? Are they both efficient and effective i.e. competitive or are they more like a ball and chain for market communications, in matters of quality, cost, and speed? This focus paper is dedicated to the challenges within the creative supply chain, and demonstrates timely solutions, with the aid of modern IT, which make marketing forceful and agile in regard to processes. Interfaces: The Alpha and Omega of Marketing Hardly any other corporate field is comparable to marketing in its emphasis on interfaces in its processes. Information, ideas, concepts, and thoughts are exchanged via these interfaces, and their conclusion should be of a successful campaign as the output of the creative process. A particularly critical process in marketing is the creative production process: There, diverse process participants within and outside the enterprise exchange an idea, a concept, and its results. Creation usually takes place under enormous time and cost pressure in the triangle of objectives regarding quality, costs, and time, at least one dimension suffers and so do the nerves of the participants. Figure: The Creative Supply Chain Challenges in Creative Supply Chains Several problems and challenges arise for the participants in the course of a process of creation. The most important are as follows: - Capture requirements and ideas in a structured manner Marketing receives ideas, wishes, or suggestions for campaigns from product management, from the sales and distribution department, or directly from the corporate leadership level, and in addition generates its own plans. This input is captured in a variety of forms; sometimes in the form of s; sometimes only orally in informal BrandMaker GmbH, Mirko Holzer Page 2

3 talk at the coffee machine; sometimes in a regulated process as well. But: Only rarely plans and ideas for creative productions are captured centrally and designated as a job. This results in a lack of transparency about the current workload and the pipeline of currently existing projects. Thus, not only in marketing itself, but also on the corporate leadership level, it is elusive exactly what is pending or already underway. - The crux: Briefing Once the process of creation is started, the next step involves the selection and briefing of the appropriate service provider whether an internal production department or an outside agency. Whatever is received as unclear input unclear here, will not become any clearer in the course of creation; for this reason, a core challenge in the creative process is the preparation of an exact, complete, and timely briefing. - Coordination and Reviews Briefing is followed by creation and the associated coordination processes. In a more or less time-consuming process going back and forth, the desired solution is approached in a step-wise way. Working efficiently and the effective communication of desired changes and feedback are a particular challenge. In reality, this process frequently takes place via , involving large mailing lists and file attachments. It also involves the conversion of files, so that all participants can take a look at the design: For example, before each review the layout draft must be converted from a desktop publishing (DTP) program into a PDF or other well-established format. The result is an abundance of file versions and a process that is no longer fully traceable, so that in the end, sometimes it is not even possible to explain why one has selected one thing over the other. - Time Pressure In the previous process step, time pressure frequently grows sharply, because coordination takes longer than anticipated or because a concept must be redesigned in its entirety because there is a new idea or the original idea is just not realizable. Time pressure frequently results in loss of quality, which in turn leads to the need for corrections and reviews. The real objective is to be able to invest as much as possible of the little time available into the creative process by minimizing the time spent for reviews, corrections, and file transmissions. - Status and Release In the review phase, staff easily lose the overview over the current project status, over costs, and releases which have been given or are still pending. The results are errors due to lack of transparency; forgotten releases, exploding costs, and erroneous transmission of documents due to a chaos of versions. - Lack of Standardization A further source of error is the lack of standardization in the course of a project. Even though the content of each creative project may be different; the workflow sequences may be standardized to a great extent, at least as long as media are the same (for example, for all advertisement or for all brochures which are developed). This is utilized only by a small number of companies which in part is understandable as different employees are involved in different projects: from an individual point of view, the easiest is for each of them to execute the project in his/her own way. However, especially in the standardization of the creative processes there is an enormous potential for increased efficiency. BrandMaker GmbH, Mirko Holzer Page 3

4 Tough timelines for creation and processing Increased number of required reviews and corrections Lack of transparency, unclear requirements and briefings More errors Figure: The review cycle in marketing from the hundredth to the thousandth Approach to a Solution: Web-based Workflow Management in the Creative Supply Chain The approach to a solution for marketing departments which want to simplify, accelerate, and better document their creative workflows, are standardized processes, together with the application of a suitable software platform for the support of those workflows. As a starting point, the creative production process may be divided into its individual components and these components can be analyzed as to their optimization potentials. This analysis eventually leads to a holistic improvement of the process: Order Briefing and Quote Creation Reviews and Feedback Corrections Approval Pre- Production / Typesetting Production Figure: Processes involved in a creative production process How to Standardize Creative Processes Creative processes can be standardized by dividing them into two components: the framework the scaffold, so to speak, for the sub-process; and its content. The process framework represents the component that may be standardized: Here mistakes can be minimized, quality optimized, workflow times speeded up and costs reduced. The content-related component refers to the creative work. Here, effectiveness and efficiency largely depends on the persons involved in the process. BrandMaker GmbH, Mirko Holzer Page 4

5 Objective of process optimization is to provide a framework to the creative part of the work which provides enough stability for standardization and at the same enough flexibility to optimally support the execution of creative work and to allow that the available resources can be fully focused on the content. This means: minimal frictional losses, and total focusing on the creative core mission of the marketing and communication spheres. With the help of specialized software adapted to marketing and creative production this framework can be optimally supported. Software for the Framework A software solution that provides a framework for the execution of creative supply processes in marketing must master the balancing act between standardization and flexibility. Standardization is required to work efficiently; flexibility is needed to incorporate the specific aspects of each creative project to the degree necessary. In the search for suitable software for marketing workflow management, there are several necessary prerequisites: - Web-based Projects, workflows, and media must be centrally filed and accessible. This is best accomplished via client server-based software or, even better, web-based software, so that users as well as outside service providers such as agencies and printers can access their projects and the media via the Internet from any location. - Flexible The online project platform for the creative supply chain must flexible enough to cover the job contents and the processes specific both to the enterprise and to the project. This is the only way to achieve complete project documentation and frictionless workflows, by, for example, providing standard workflows for each type of media, so that e.g. print adverts automatically go to the appropriate approver, and online banners likewise are automatically routed to the right contact person in the company. - Collaborative The processes shown must of course enable collaboration between the employees working on the project. As these participants are both internal and external users, different access rights and project views are indispensable. Role-based access capabilities meet this requirement. - Any File Format The review process must always be of the same simplicity, independent of the file format to be reviewed without additional file conversion and multiple saving of files. This way, a company saves a great deal of time on the part of external service providers and internally. The Optimized Creative Supply Chain But before any advantages of a software solution can take effect, the process must be highlighted and analyzed. Thus, in the following, the standard creative process is outlined with its essential characteristics. Additional comments give information as to how a software solution provides support in this step. It should be noted that the concrete characteristics of an optimal process differ from company to company; depending, for example, on the kind and number of external service providers, or on the organization of the approval processes. The following depiction is intended as an aid to becoming aware of existing and optimal processes in your own company. BrandMaker GmbH, Mirko Holzer Page 5

6 Process Component What happens in this step? What information is required? Who are the participants? How can software support the process? New Project - Assembly of the briefing for a new project, - Internal coordination of given guidelines and conditions. - As much as possible! - Basic information such as timing, cost parameters, client, type of media to be created. - Content-related information such as overall concept, objectives, channels to be activated, etc. - Internal person in charge of marketing and internal client (either marketing itself or another department; for example, sales and distribution or product management). Depending on the media, specific web-based data forms can be provided (for example, advertisements, web banners, brochures, etc.) which include all required information (for example, printing parameters for printed media, and technical data for online media). The completeness of this data can e.g. be defined as prerequisite for the creation of an order. Briefing and Quotes - The briefing is transmitted to one or more of the selected service providers (internal or external). - This is followed by visual inspection, clarification of questions, and if necessary, submitting a quote. - Available and appropriate service providers and their contact data. - Project manager and service providers. Service providers are stored in the software with their histories and evaluations to support the selection process. Automatic transmittal of the complete briefing to selected service providers, and automatic notification of project managers in case of questions or submission of a quote. Procurement and Creation - The production order is issued and the actual creative process begins. - Offers and costs of various service providers. - First ideas for realization. - Project managers and selected service providers. Assignment of contracts via software only allows selected service providers continued access to the web-based job file; the remaining service providers now can no longer view the job. Review and Feedback - Designs and concepts are created, commented upon, and revised. - Challenge: Feedback from various persons must be consolidated; there may be contradictions; back and forth corrections; time loss. - Media designs must exist in a format which makes it possible for the client to provide feedback. - Change requests and feedback about the designs. - Media designs in versions 1 to x. - Project managers and service providers. A software solution with a review tool allows viewing of any file format and entry of comments in the form of virtual sticky notes directly online. The service provider can directly upload source files without file conversion. All participants review the same current media version, and the comments of others are transparent and traceable. BrandMaker GmbH, Mirko Holzer Page 6

7 Process Component What happens in this step? What information is required? Who are the participants? How can software support the process? Corrections - The service provider makes required corrections and provides a new media version. - Cumulative correction requests and changes, as well as the media version with comments. - The new media version. - Assigned service providers. Central and transparent entrainment of all comments to each media version allows simple and structured incorporation of changes. Updated media versions are provided directly via the software, and replace manual sending via . Approval - The client approves the medium for production. - Final medium, final cost data, timing. - Internal project employees, but also, for example, technical approval by project management, or legal approval by legal department. The required approvals are obtained via the tool. At any time, the status of missing approvals is visible. The software sends automatic reminders and information notices on approvals. Pre-Production / Typesetting - The released medium is given over to production preparation or to typesetting. - Review, correction and approval steps follow as described above. - The project may be returned again for new creation. - The final media version, and as necessary, also information on corrections and changes as well as releases. - The producing service provider and the internal project manager from marketing. Automatic notification of the production service providers, concerning an existing order. Correction copies, etc. for release can be provided via the software. Production - The medium is produced and delivered to the client. - Final media version and production approval. - Production service providers. Following conclusion of the project, the job folder is closed and archived in the software. The performance of the service provider can be assessed. Past orders remain traceable and transparent. BrandMaker GmbH, Mirko Holzer Page 7

8 Advantages of Software-Based Supply Chain Optimization in Marketing The use of suitable software for the management of creative workflows in marketing supports the realization of potential savings, higher quality, and better timing of creation. The advantages in detail: - more transparency for the process participants through traceability and documentation, - better evaluation of weak points and risks; for example, more accurate estimation in advance of the time needed for creation up to the delivery of the finished media, - early recognition and solution of bottleneck situations by transparency over the entire volume of jobs, - faster and more structured coordination via standardized processes, less complexity, and up-to-date information, - higher quality through complete information, - flexible job handling by workflows and job files specific to different types of media, - faster approvals, - better communication within the team, - Reduction of administrative costs (file format conversions, transmission). Figure: Job overview and interactive review tool using the example of BrandMaker Connection to Media Asset Management (MAM) Software solutions for workflow optimization in the creative supply chain are frequently inseparably connected to media asset management, a central database for created media objects. This connection is recommended to companies that BrandMaker GmbH, Mirko Holzer Page 8

9 strive for a complete integration of their creative processes, without media breaks and interface losses: - The media asset management system is the central storage location for all media designs and for the final media. - It guarantees a transparent and correct version control. - It provides further optimization of the creative processes through a direct connection with the desktop of the designer allowing the interface-free uploading of data. - Immediately following release, media are available in the media asset pool for intended users. Possible applications for Media Service Providers, Agencies and Print Shops The scenario which is described here can be turned around from the point of view of the creative companies involved in the value chain, because an optimized supply chain, on the basis of appropriate software, also offers increased potential for these companies. If, for example, an agency or a printing service provider installs a web-based review tool in order to present its customers media designs and correction copies for coordination, correction, and approval online via the tool, the company provides itself with a considerable competitive advantage. For: - A web-based review tool provides an incomparably comfortable possibility to view and comment media for clients at the company side. No more umpteen megabytes in the in-box, no version chaos, no redundant feedback on a now-obsolete design. Via web link, the client goes directly to the review tool and provides his/her feedback. - In addition to perfect customer service, a service provider can gain time for itself and its clients, since review and correction cycles are accelerated. - The service provider also retains the upper hand on source data of the designs, if this has been agreed upon with the client. - And: Service providers who are able to offer their clients more service, faster processes, and better timing, have a notable and positive competitive edge in a hard-fought and crisis-prone market. About BrandMaker BrandMaker is a Marketing Resource Management (MRM) system, which provides a broad spectrum of solutions: Offered are solutions for marketing strategy (scorecards as guide rails for marketing) and management modules (for example, software for integrated market planning and budgeting); as well as modules for marketing implementation and for optimization of the creative supply chain (job management, review management, media asset management, a web-toprint module, event planning, and a module for creation of online media). The system has a modular design and is applied according to the individual client requirements. The software is developed and marketed by the company BrandMaker GmbH. BrandMaker solutions are in use successfully in marketing departments of companies of varying size and in various corporate sectors for example at EnBW in the energy sector, Commerzbank AG and DekaBank in the financial sector, at international service providers like Ernst & Young and companies from the producing industry such as ZF Services GmbH. The software company for optimized marketing processes has about 150 employees across Europe. BrandMaker GmbH, Mirko Holzer Page 9

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