To many people, creative operations management sounds like an oxymoron. Creativity is about flexibility and free-flowing ideas. Add in words like “operations” or “management,” and it’s easy to assume that you’re making things too rigid — perhaps even too stifling — to accommodate creativity.

That’s not necessarily the case. As counterintuitive as it might seem, creative operations management might be your secret sauce for delivering innovative projects in a way that’s streamlined and efficient. 

What is creative operations management?

Imagine if your team was only focused on creativity. Chances are, you’d end up bouncing all over the place. 

You’d pursue one big idea for a bit before moving onto the next shiny object. You’d lose track of your project goals, scope, and timeline. You’d have a bunch of half-finished initiatives hanging over your head. You’d hit the same roadblocks and bottlenecks over and over again. 

Creative operations management addresses all of these pain points and brings some much-needed structure to your team’s creative process. It makes your creative process more organized and measurable. 

“It involves looking at the creative process like a supply chain and figuring out where to optimize each step to produce more with the same (or fewer) number of people,” explains an article for Bynder

Key elements of creative operations

From creative briefs to status updates, there’s a lot involved in creative operations. However, as Alexander Lee explains in an article for LinkedIn, many experts break this concept down into three core elements:

  • People: These are the creative team members who are actually completing the work.
  • Process: Those team members use a defined process (such as moving from creative brief, to project planning, to execution, and so forth) to tackle creative projects.
  • Technology: That process is supported and streamlined by technology that can automate tasks, centralize communication, and organize the work. 

So, to put it simply, people use technology to simplify the creative process. See how all three elements are included in that sentence? 

An example of creative operations in action 

A variety of businesses and industries can use creative operations to tackle projects in a more strategic way, but let’s look at one example for clarity.

Johanna is a creative agency operations manager at a marketing agency that serves B2B clients. Despite the fact that her team has consistently built buffers into their deadlines, they’re always delivering projects behind schedule.

Johanna talks to the team and takes a magnifying glass to their creative process. She realizes that client reviews and approvals are a major bottleneck. She decides to implement the Wrike Proof add-on to centralize feedback and shorten the feedback loop. 

She talked to the people on the creative team, pinpointed a problem with the process, and used technology to resolve the issue so that her team could deliver projects more efficiently (and with less headaches). 

Why is creative operations important?

You’re probably already starting to see why creative operations management is important for improving the way your team gets creative work done and making the most of their lightbulb moments. But, let’s spell out a few more advantages. 

1. Boosted efficiency

You can’t always rush the creative process, but that doesn’t mean you want your work to drag on and on. Especially when creative teams can be small. In fact, inMotionNow and InSource’s In-House Creative Management Report found that 72% of respondents work in teams of nine members or fewer — meaning that efficiency is crucial.

Managing and streamlining your operations enables your team to get more work accomplished with fewer hassles and headaches. 

2. Greater accountability

We’ve all been to those brainstorming sessions where it seems like nothing gets done. You spitball a bunch of big ideas, but there are no action items and nobody actually pursues anything that was discussed.

That’s a common frustration, and 91% of employees say accountability is one of the most important things they’d like to see more of in their workplace. Creative operations management implements a structured system for tackling creative projects — so there’s actually some follow-through. 

3. Better consistency

Creativity can be fleeting. But, if your team only completes projects when they’re feeling their most inspired, your output will be sporadic at best.

Creative operations management offers a schedule and a process that keeps your team on the straight and narrow, so you can deliver winning projects more consistently. 

What is the difference between project management and creative operations?

Those benefits sound a lot like the ones you get from effective project management, don’t they? 

You’re not far off. There’s quite a bit of overlap between project management and creative operations. Some might even consider that creative operations management is the application of project management to creative projects

However, here’s the distinction we like to make: project management is more about overseeing existing processes, while creative operations management is about streamlining processes. It’s more of a process improvement angle. 

Remember our example of Johanna and her agency? She wasn’t only coordinating and tracking creative projects, but actively pursuing ways to make them run more efficiently. 

What is the role of a creative operations manager? 

Exactly what a creative operations manager is responsible for can vary from company to company or industry to industry. 

But, if you boil it down, a creative operations manager supports the work of creative teams. That means they connect with all of the departments involved in a creative initiative to ensure smooth processes, effective collaboration, and ultimately successful projects.

Why your company needs creative operations software

Remember when we talked about the core elements of creative operations? If you need a refresher, those were people, process, and technology.

That technology element is a big piece of the puzzle, and a reported 82% of teams use some sort of project management system

That’s for good reason. Having the right digital tools in your corner can make creative operations a lot more straightforward by:

  • Centralizing communication about creative projects
  • Storing files and assets in a single place
  • Documenting tasks, workflows, and deadlines
  • Streamlining reviews, feedback, and approvals
  • Creating reports to measure progress and performance

Wrike is a creative operations software option that offers all of these benefits (and more). Ready to systemize and improve the way your team gets creative projects across the finish line? Start your free trial now.