Video & Digital Media Operations
In The News
Jonathan Carrera, LinkedIn
In this guide, I will outline ways to streamline the workflow for a creative operation that handles a high number of video and design projects. These tips are rooted in professional project management techniques and as such you’ll probably find their underlying principles useful in other operation management scenarios.
1. Centralize communication for complex projects.
If a project involves multiple inter-departmental stakeholders, using a centralized project management system, like Basecamp, can be a lifesaver. With Basecamp, for example, email still works as normal but every email is archived into a single thread in which anyone with permission can access the history of correspondence, saving time by eliminating the need for people to search their inbox for a misplaced email or asset.
2. Decentralize communication for simple projects.
Using a heavy duty project management system for simpler, single client projects could be creating more admin work than needed, burdening the workflow. A simple rule of thumb is if a project takes less than a day to complete, and only has a single stakeholder, there’s probably no need for a creative producer to waste energy managing it the same way they would a more complex project. Do be certain, however, that the simple projects are being logged onto a record of deliverables.
3. Prevent scope creep.
Scope creep is when a project grows way beyond its original creative brief, unexpectedly consuming your resources. It often happens when the project sponsor (the person who needs to approve the ultimate deliverable) is for some reason left out of the communication loop until a later stage, causing revisions to be needed that could have been avoided. A simple solution is establishing a standard operating procedure in which, for all complex projects, the creative team always loops in the project sponsor.
4. Optimize the inter-departmental billing system.
When a creative operation has internal clients, there are three ways billing can work: no billing, partial billing, full billing. Full billing is when a department making a creative service request must foot the entire bill needed to pay a producer to complete the job. No billing is when there is no charge to the department making the creative service request, as the job is considered a company function. A no billing system can be problematic because of the scope creep that occurs when a project sponsor is allowed to ask for endless revisions with no apparent charges accruing. Partial billing is effective, however, in keeping both the positive presence of an in-house creative operation, and the accountability shared with internal clients to be cost effective with the execution of creative projects.
5. Manage media, secure data.
Media and data management is often overlooked, but its poor handling can bring your operations to a crawl, or even a crash. Design project files should all lie on a protected server to allow creatives to easily access a file whenever they need to, whether they are on-site or working remotely. Video assets are many times larger than design assets so a server solution for video might be too costly for certain companies, but every video workstation should at least be working off a RAID, and all completed video deliverables should be living on a cloud server, such as a SaaS video hosting platform.
6. Implement a robust online video hosting solution.
Consider whether you need a more robust solution for video hosting, or if the current one you’re using is fulfilling your needs. Using an enterprise grade video platform can give you tools to streamline multiple functions of your operation. For example, tagging all videos with pre-chosen keywords will allow any internal user to easily find a video, even in a heap of thousands, which can be faster than digging through hard drives or even accessing a well-organized local server. Also, online video hosting platforms like Brightcove allow users to generate preview links for inter-departmental review and external client approvals — a process that is much quicker than having producers export compressed videos to share via email or dropbox.
7. Write out creative guidelines.
Without clearly communicated guidelines, it is difficult for a creative operation to scale while maintaining quality. Eliminate the guesswork. Write out creative and branding guidelines, standards, and templates, and distribute them in a simple PDF that both your internal and external creatives, and inter-departmental stakeholders, can rely upon. Make these short, simple, illustrated and readable. Once your creative producers have an easy reference for what kind of lighting, framing, editing, direction, color choice, and font treatment they should be using, the speed and quality of projects will take a noticeable jump in consistency.
8. Review Statement of Work processes.
Long before creative operations has even had a chance to weigh in on a new project, ambiguities in a signed Statement of Work may have already muddled client expectations. This causes pressure to be put on either the account manager or creative operations to allow scope creep to occur, which in turn diminishes profits. Sometimes the person creating the SOW for a client is too far removed from the creative operations side to be aware of critical parameters regarding requested revisions, scheduling, and deliverables for a product. Scheduling 30 minutes to meet with one or all of the client facing managers to explain the key nuances of a product, or even supplying an ideal Statement of Work for them to alter as they please, can do wonders.
9. A master document of past deliverables.
Being able to view all completed projects month over month, year over year, in a single format that contains all key info is critical to detecting growth opportunities, justifying purchasing decisions, and optimizing people’s strengths. This is not the same thing as a project management pipeline, although both documents can certainly be one and the same. Depending on the complexity of your organization, this master document may be difficult to create but might be the only document that links the disparate systems ranging from your video hosting platform to your CMS to your on-site media server. It should contain the obvious (project name, internal stakeholder, external client, creator) to the not-so-obvious (video hosting ID, CMS ID, URL, physical location of the project file). A lot of project management software can be helpful in the creation and maintenance of such a file, but an online Google spreadsheet alone can be powerful.
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