One of the challenges I often encounter working with internal creative organizations is the idea that their processes are, and should be, unique. This is often because the business itself is relatively unique, or they are subject to constraints such as legal and regulatory conditions. Another reason can be that the internal creative functions developed organically from a small service, such as a print shop. In these situations we often start with a high-level overview of process. Usually it becomes apparent that at a level such as, Planning - Concepting - Development - Execution/Production, creative processes tend to look the same. Of course you need to throw in the appropriate review/approval steps and recognize that many, if not most, jobs don't require concept work, but at a high level we do the same things regardless of the vertical we're in, or the specifics of the company's business.
But, sometimes, companies truly have unique business requirements that require unique processes for fulfillment. It's important to recognize when this is the case. For example if a consumer retail company needs to respond quickly to moves by the competition, it may be necessary to develop a specific quick-turn capability for responsive marketing collateral. Or, a financial institution may need a specific process for creating marketing communications to customers in response to the ever-changing financial markets. In these situations it may be necessary to create processes, and potentially staffing changes, to respond to these unique situations.
So, is this a problem? Well, having unique requirements shouldn't mean throwing out industry best practices. It's easy to think that 'some' uniqueness means totally unique. In reality, the particular unique requirements may only affect a small percentage of total projects, or may only affect certain stages or sub processes. It's important to recognize that most creative services best practices are independent of industry verticals and can be applied even in unique situations.
There are some basic steps that can be applied when analyzing these situations:
- Map your current processes in enough detail to identify bottlenecks and non-standard tasks dealing with unique requirements. Concentrate effort on these areas.
- Identify root causes of bottlenecks. Are they due to your unique requirements, or can they be eliminated by applying best practice process definitions.
- Examine non-standard tasks and the underlying requirements. Are these tasks truly either adding value or required for other business reasons?
- This can lead to some difficult questions. If these additional tasks are meeting specific regulatory requirements then the challenge is to redesign processes to minimize the impact on efficient and effective delivery. But it's important to verify that the requirements are truly valid. Make sure your business partners understand the impact of these requirements and that they are truly necessary, unlike the following:
- The true cause of rush jobs is poor planning, not nimble response to industry changes
- The VP Creative wants to approve every project just to be aware of what is being produced
- Legal or regulatory review is in place for all projects, not just those that need it because "it's easier that way"
- We've always done it this way, and people don't want to change
- In my process consulting work I've heard all of the above. There is nothing wrong with adapting your processes to meet unique business requirements. Just make sure that these are based on true business needs. Different is okay. Different and effective is even better.