It's that time of the year again: some of your teams are pushing hard here in the final stretch this week, while the rest of your teams have started to taper off following the final rush that most creative teams feel beginning in November (and for the retail companies, much sooner). We finally have a minute to breathe now, and the promise of a new year comes into focus.

We're all looking forward to some time to plan--because typically we're too busy leading up to the holidays to think about 2014 outside of the mandatory budgetary planning we squeeze in around the chaos of Q4. January holds the promise of time to strategize and prioritize.

As you consider what to include in your 2014 Strategic Plan, take into consideration the most common improvement opportunities we see within in-house creative teams:

  • Track your time--I know, you're sick of hearing me preach this about this one, but it's a huge opportunity for teams
  • Implement a creative-specific project management system--SharePoint, Basecamp, or Excel spreadsheets aren't going to get you to the promised land, look at a true creative-specific system
  • Implement tiering--at minimum, you need to know how much of work requires creative concepting and how much is "bang-it-out, templated" work
  • Update your processes per your tiering--not every project should have a creative brief and the Creative Director should not review every project
  • Use metrics to tell your story--using numbers to substantiate your team's capacity, demand, efficiency and more is how you get more money for your team
  • Specialize roles--once your team gets to 15 people or so, less people should be wearing multiple hats
  • Partner with your clients to forecast demand--being regularly surprised by projects is partially on you; talk to your clients about upcoming work
  • Implement a flexible labor strategy--if you don't already use freelancers for surge support, make it a priority to do so versus burning your team out during peak periods
  • Poll your clients--don't live in a black box, ask the hard questions of your clients
  • Know and live your value proposition--articulate what and how you can deliver, don't chase every opportunity unless it fits in your vision