Intelligent operations is among the hottest topics for agencies in 2021 with companies looking to find better ways to work and opportunities to grow in a tough climate. So what are intelligent creative operations? It sounds like a mouthful, but the idea is simple, and the solutions are readily available...
The use of the term ‘intelligent operations’ can be traced as far back as 2010 and it’s use was largely centered around smart cities, futuristic technologies, and rapidly evolving business environments. One of the main proponents of the intelligent operations concept was IBM who once defined it as ‘diverse data driven operations using applied intelligence and human ingenuity to empower next-generation, real-time decision making, exceptional customer experiences and breakthrough business outcomes’. So how did these buzzwords creep into creative operations?
The concept of intelligent creative operations is no different to the original idea above. It involves a process of creative problem solving wherein creatives conceive, design, produce, and activate business solutions using AI and intelligent software. It is not designed to replace the creative industry, but instead augment it.
Before the pandemic began, the agency landscape was already changing rapidly. Agency client relationships were moving towards project-based agreements instead of retainers and expectations were rising in relation to quality of work, turnaround time, and value for money. According to Forrester, cuts to marketing budgets impacted agencies to the tune of 12% last year and 52,000 agency jobs will likely be lost in 2021. Agency headcounts were already shrinking before the pandemic, but this has been accelerated.
As a result of economic pressures and an evolving agency environment, there are several creative operations challenges currently facing agencies. Here are some of the most pressing issues today:
Firstly, there is more pressure than ever to find ways to create more with less. Headcounts are shrinking but there is more competition than ever for work. This means agencies will push the boundaries with capacity by taking on as much work as possible. Agencies need to find a way to reorganize operations so they can produce more with less effort and resources. In many cases, the previous pace of production will inhibit growth or result in lost opportunities.
“When is the deadline?” … “As soon as possible!!”. Timelines seem to be increasingly tighter as clients expect their briefs to be delivered in a speedy fashion. Clients are under pressure to produce campaigns and results so in the agency world it is never a case of slow and steady winning the race. If your creative operations are not fully in tune, then you will not be able to work at speed. Make sure you don’t get left behind!
Clients expect to be kept involved in projects once their brief has been submitted. Regular updates, milestones, approvals, and client feedback are all continuous elements of the production cycle so you must ensure your communication and collaboration systems are robust and fit for purpose.
In the current climate, you’re going to need a team that is lean and agile. If agency teams are shrinking in size, then there will inevitably be occasions when skills gaps appear. Dipping into the freelancer market is inevitable and you’ll need to make sure no time is lost with onboarding and getting freelancers up to speed.
In addition to skills gaps, you may have to bring agency staff into a project at certain points while discharging them when they’re not needed. Without an agency management system in place, it is a labor intensive and time-consuming process keeping tabs on who is working on what.
Automation can be used by agencies in many ways but the most impactful will likely be the benefits associated with smart workflows. These workflows can be built to ensure the right people are engaged at the right time ensuring required approvals are captured and production delays are eliminated. In addition to speeding up the production cycle, automated workflows ensure that brand identify is secure as content will never fall out of the approval cycle and the right eyes will always see what is being produced
Agency management software provides a platform for agencies to systematize skill sets so that the right person is paired with a job. You can leverage content rich profiles to align resources across your network and ensure that each person is maximizing their contribution in accordance with their ability. These systems can also be used to store information about freelancers and help onboard them quickly into the team when there is a skill or resource gap to fill.
If clients are going to be more involved in the content production cycle then you will need to find a way to collaborate that doesn’t entail long email threads or endless messenger notifications. An intelligent creative operations tool will act as a partnership eco-system where ideas and feedback can be easily shared and documented throughout the lifecycle of a project. Instant feedback ensures there is less wastage as content can always be kept on track in the eyes of the client.
Agencies don’t want their growth plans inhibited by the size of the firm. If the sales team are bringing opportunities through the door, then you want to be ready to take on more work. Agency management platforms provide the opportunity to fast-track elements of the content production process by automating repeatable tasks and modifications. Smart templates make versioning less technical and make tasks easier to be completed by large pools of resources. Often, clients will ask for many variations of an asset to accommodate different channels, audiences, or languages. If you have built a level of intelligence around these requests, then you can avail of automated templates to skip the labor-intensive elements of the process!
Screendragon have provided intelligent creative solutions to agencies long before the term came into existence. Organizations like McCann World Group, MullenLowe, Geometry, JKR, and more, use Screendragon’s smart workflows and creative operations solutions to keep up with the pace of the rapid agency world. If you’d like to learn more about how agency management software transforms operations at these agencies, then book a 30-minute solution introduction below!