Measures of creative operations efficiency is important for a couple of reasons, according to Brent Chiu-Watson, Sr. Director of Product Management, Adobe Creative Cloud.

“First, it provides a predictable forecast of output to the broader organization,” he says. “When you can share how long a project will reasonably take, it helps creative teams avert the last-minute fire drills.”

The second reason is about making the case for additional creative resources. It’s also “increasingly important as in-house creative teams grow larger.”

Why?

Because when marketing and business leaders “inevitably ask for more content, the creative director can show metrics and say, ‘Here’s how many projects we’re doing and here’s the average time these take. If you want to do more personalized campaigns and faster, then I need more people.’”

Creatives on Measuring Creative in Their Own Words

Mr. Chiu-Watson’s comments were published in a contribution to the 2019 In-House Creative Management Report, which we team up with InSourceto produce annually.  As part of the process this time around, we focused on the metrics creatives and creative partners recommend tabulating.

We posed the measurement question in a couple of different ways to the 550 respondents. First, we asked respondents if their team kept metrics on creative operations and production. We asked respondents to state their level of agreement with the following question:

Our creative team has robust reporting on creative production. (For example, how many projects are completed a quarter, how many rounds of proofs are required for approval, etc.)

The answers?

  • 36% agreed (26%) or strongly agreed (20%);
  • 45% disagreed (30%) or strongly disagreed (15%); and
  • 19% neither agreed nor disagreed.

We followed up with an optional and open-ended question that asked:

What metrics should the creative team be tracking?

More than 90 respondents wrote in to provide commentary – and we’ve observed there’s a lot of interest among the creative community in understanding what other creative are measuring. So, we sorted through the comments – eliminating remarks like “I don’t know but would like to find out” – and narrowed the list down to about 70 verbatim answers. We’ve edited only for spelling, punctuation and style.

Those who agreed or strongly agreed wrote:

1) “Client usage trends, cycle time, revisions, project forecasting.”

2) “Customer journey related activity in response to creative, production speed is irrelevant if it isn’t effective.”

3) “I keep track of what was requested, who requested it, what type of asset we’re working on (video, collateral, website, social, email, PowerPoint, etc.), when it was requested, when it’s due, which designer is assigned to it, and when they complete it. I also log each project for the level of difficulty and have math equations built into Excel to tell me how many videos we do each quarter, average time spent on projects, etc.”

4) “Number of projects completed, types of projects completed, time from creative brief to the completed project, number of rush projects, the time it takes from proof to feedback, and time from feedback to expected next proof.”

5) “Number of projects completed, sales bump results if available, average time per project, project title, type of asset (is it a video, a campaign email, a piece of marketing collateral, a PowerPoint, etc.), who did it [creative assigned], what day it was assigned, what day it is due, what day it was completed, the ROI, click-through rate (CTR), open rate.”

6) “Number of requests submitted, projects started, tasks created, average turnaround time.”

7) “Time, rounds of approvals, types of work (digital, print, video) all by the client.”

8) “We work under a chargeback model. We can show how many projects, review rounds, page counts, labor hours broken down by design/editing/project management/image purchases/external vendors.”

9) “Number of project-briefs each week; the number of projects in progress; the number of deliverables in progress; the number of clients stick to 2-rounds [of review] or go past that number of rounds of revisions.”

10) “Number of projects, number of clients, project billings.”

11) “Balancing workloads and identifying if specific reviewers or clients create a disproportionate amount of review cycles or time-to-complete deliverables.”

12) “Causes of delays.”

13) “How many hours it takes to complete an average project.”

14) “On-time delivery, production quality (how many times have we had to reopen to fix functionality or content misses after deployment), and client satisfaction.”

15) “Our team counts the number of proposals submitted vs. number of proposals won.”

16) “Productivity, efficiency, speed to market and reduction of errors.”

17) “Right now, we are tracking a number of projects although could use other types of metrics; rounds of review and changes are not always faithfully tracked.”

18) “Success of material created.”

19) “Timesheets should be kept.”

20) “We currently track completed projects monthly to get a productivity score.”

Those who neither agreed nor disagreed wrote:

21) “Audience metrics: satisfaction, perception, attitudes.”

22) “Cost per job, number of jobs, time vs. difficulty or complexity, proofing cycles, bottlenecks, clients who need to be fired, capital expenses, operational expenses, P&L, digital asset costs, usage, performance; digital and analog media costs and ROI.”

23) “Half of the creative team tracks their time; so, we have great metrics on hours spent as well as how many projects we’ve completed. (Company was part of an acquisition, so we merged two creative teams into one).”

24) “I track how many jobs per period we do, but that is about where it stops. I can go back and see how many proofs/comments are on most projects, but it is not done regularly.”

25) “I would like more ROI on projects.”

26) “Number of projects and revisions. Capacity: team member time spent on non-work tasks.”

27) “Number of projects, piece count, type of projects, requestors, on time delivery, approval rounds/delays.”

28) “Our team tracks how many projects are completed but lacks the tracking on rounds of reviews and proofs.”

29) “Speed to market; the number of projects utilizing repurposed content.”

30) “Time, assets and accuracy.”

31) “We should be looking at the time each project takes and the number of proofs. Currently, we only review the number of projects.”

32) “We use Pareto charts to capture the numbers and reasons for:  Briefs approved/rejected by the team; concepts approved 1st time; artwork to print on time and delivered in full (when production is included); number of jobs / capacity / turnaround (both average and spread); public errors and fixes picked up by the team; customer feedback; admin time vs. production time; estimated design time vs. actual time; ROI – expected and actual on a project (when/if shared); profit/savings/recommendations made.”

Those who disagreed or strongly disagreed wrote:

33) Percent of work spent on specific departments, customer-facing vs. stakeholder-facing projects.”

34) “Better visibility on all projects assigned to any one designer on any given day in one view without having to create a custom report each time.”

35) “Brief. Confirmation. Stay on Brief. Delivery to timeline. Delivery to Brief. Delivery within or under-budgeted hours. Customer retention.”

36) “Hours spent on each project; the number of projects completed for each internal team.”

37) “How long it takes for a project to go through approval and volume of projects completed a year.”

38) “How many [creative] jobs, types of jobs, length of time to completion, amount of reviews.”

39) “Number of projects per person vs. projects in queue.”

40) “Number of projects, what outside company prints and produces the projects, how much [money] each project brought in, number of quotes that actually turned into projects.”

41) “Project completion and rounds of proofs would be GREAT.”

42) “Proofs before approval, the number of projects from each department completed, time taken to receive proof feedback/approval, the financial impact of projects completed (“how much money did we save/earn for the organization by completing this project”).

43) “Requests received, versions, projects completed, time to approval, length of projects, designer workload.”

44) “The creative team doesn’t track those things, but the marketing side does.”

45) “The creative team shouldn’t be tracking any metrics. That’s a project manager’s job.”

46) “The number of projects we work on, the number of hours, not just impressions on a print copier.”

47) “I’d like to track estimated time vs. actual time worked on projects, I also want to implement a time tracker to help determine better actuals vs. estimates for future planning and forecasting.”

48) “We are only just starting to track such things and it tends to be more for specific events [rather] than everything we do as a whole.”

49) “We have the ability to do this with our project management system, but many find it hard to use so [they] don’t. It would be good to show how many hours each designer spends and truly be able to see their workload in real-time, to make a case for more design help.”

50) “We recently merged several systems together. We’re only now starting to track. Currently, we’re starting with the quantity of jobs being produced. We will soon need to report how many hours are spent on projects I believe.”

51) “We should be tracking all metrics: number of jobs active, number per designer, asset management (as in when all components were delivered by clients), then [the timeline in] reverse, etc.”

52) “We should probably track creative through-put for planning purposes. We don’t currently though. We are too small of a team currently and until we can expand our capacity some things fall off the radar.”

53) “We typically have a wrap-up meeting where we talk about successes and challenges, but we don’t talk about anything else we are working on outside of that project.”

54) “The speed and volume of requests for everything from website designs to PowerPoint text; changes makes it difficult to capture tasks in Excel or other office software.

55) “Amount of time spent in revisions – this is time wasted.”

56) “[The] creative team has no reporting that I’m aware of. It’s a free for all.”

57) “Doubt and complexity are more valuable than quantity.”

58) “[Creative] jobs completed; how much time is spent supporting various business units.”

59) “Average amount of time per job, the average number of rounds per changes.”

60) “No one really pays attention to how much we do – just the results.”

61) “Nothing is currently being tracked except the total number of hours (not even by project), so anything would be an improvement.”

62) “Number of versions, hours spent, meeting deadlines, number of projects per person.”

63) “Projects completed per year. The number of projects entered per department.”

64) “Quantities of project outputs by [the] team and sub-teams or individuals. Savings vs. outsourced equivalents.”

65) “Quantity of projects, how many rounds of proofs, the urgency of the request.”

66) “Rounds of proofs.”

67) “The financial savings of doing all production in house.”

68) “They do record how many projects are completed, but it is bogus. Let’s see…mark a single flier as [just as] important in the [total] count as a multi-dimensional campaign or event project, with moving parts and many deliverables. It is frustrating. We should have a report that we complete to improve on certain process areas. We seem to stay busy just doing the work and then on to the next project.”

69) “We have some things (usually web-related) that don’t get put into our various tracking systems (jobs request, web request, etc.). Management doesn’t think it’s something that’s important.”

70) “We need the ability to pull reports on individual users such as how many projects are assigned; how many have been completed within a time frame; how many open projects overall, not just the ones with proofs uploaded. We find it extremely challenging to get this data without a few hours of pulling multiple reports and then sorting and deleting duplicate data depending on the filters and then hope it is accurate. Reports on user statistics should be simpler to pull.

How to Get Started with Creative Metrics

With a handful of exceptions, most of the metrics listed above are measures of efficiency, not effectiveness. No surprise there – that’s what we asked for in the question!

However, these two concepts are linked, according to Mr. Chiu-Watson. Efficacy is a little more challenging to measure. It requires “a level further in terms of creative organization maturity and complexity” and no one has “really finished the job of enabling performance metrics to make a round trip back to the creatives in a simple and consumable way.”

So, what’s the path forward?

“The best way to get started is to agree upon and codify a system to coordinate work, align people, and visualize the creative process as it unfolds. If you don’t put the effort into defining a system, you are just looking at the requests and output and missing all the insights from the real work in the middle.”

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You can download a copy of the survey here: 2019 In-House Creative Management Report.

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