How to Get Your Creative Team’s Credibility Back

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by Bryan Nielson 
 

“I don’t get no respect” is a famous Rodney Dangerfield line. It’s also a sentiment that creative professionals can identify with.

They may not have been handed a sweatshirt with a bull’s-eye on the back, like the one Dangerfield quips his gun-toting son gave him for Christmas, but for the 44% of in-house professionals claiming that gaining respect from internal clients is the greatest challenge in the near future, it can often feel as if their credibility is under constant fire.

Why? Because with heavy workloads and limited resources, they sometimes miss deadlines. That may not seem a big deal, but it is. Even one missed deadline may prompt clients to lose confidence that their projects will be delivered as agreed.

And once trust is lost, a downward spiral begins: Clients begin to outsource the “good” jobs more often, and your team gets less strategic or engaging work, which ultimately leads to many in the organization questioning your team’s overall value.

Considering that 59% of in-house professionals ranked managing heavier workloads as their biggest challenge, and 74% said they work more than 40 hours per week, it may feel as if there’s no good solution to the problem.

However, even if your team is struggling to keep up with an intense workload, there is a way to guarantee your deadlines and get your team’s credibility back: Track all the work.

Track your time

Almost half of creative teams say they don’t use any kind of project tracking software and a quarter say they don’t track projects at all. So it’s no surprise that deadlines are often missed.

You may know your team is working too many hours, but it is also important to know exactly how those hours are spent.

By tracking planned versus actual hours spent, you’ll have the ability to make more accurate estimates and better gauge how long certain tasks take based on previous experience. Rather than blindly agreeing to whatever timeline your client suggests, you can better set deadlines, which your team can then keep without having to work nights and weekends.

Track your resource capacity

In addition to knowing how long things take, you need to know who is working on what and how long individual team members spend on each task.

Visibility into resources is a crucial component of making better estimates, but it’s also an area where many organizations struggle. In fact, in a recent benchmark study on resource management, only 5% of organizations were identified as having optimal resource and capacity planning.

Make your team part of the 5% that is doing it right and reap the rewards. To do so, find a tool that allows you to see in real-time what tasks are assigned to each team member, the estimated time for each task, and what percentage of capacity they have left to take on new projects. Make sure to track not just project work but also ad hoc and lights-on work, as well as personal items such as vacation time that will affect overall workload capacity.

With the ability to see what’s on everyone’s plate and to estimate how long they need to get certain things done, you can set realistic deadlines and assign tasks according to each team member’s workload capacity. The result will be a team that’s as efficient and productive as possible.

Track your work processes

The best way to track your work processes is to use creative briefs and templates. Briefs and templates allow you to define what your processes are for specific types of work.

By identifying what steps need to be taken and in what order they need to be taken, you can improve your workflow and help eliminate unnecessary rework that occurs because steps get done in the wrong order. With an average of 30-35% of project time spent on rework, reducing it can save your team a big chunk of time.

Another advantage is that briefs and templates help set clear expectations about who needs to do what and when, so you get the feedback you need at the right time, from the right people.

It’s not always easy to get everyone to use creative briefs and templates, but if you can stick to your guns on this one and make it a team habit, you’ll find that your team can work more efficiently and effectively—keeping all of you on track to meet deadlines, as promised.

Track your team’s accountability

When deadlines are missed, there can be a lot of finger-pointing or “he said, she said.” But once you start tracking your time and your team’s workloads, as well as setting up templates with a clear set of expectations about who is going to do what and when, it gets much harder for your team to engage in laying blame and much easier to hold everyone accountable to their individual and team deadlines.

Though all projects and tasks won’t track exactly the same, historical data helps ensure that agreed-upon timelines are in the ballpark. In addition, with the ability to see what’s on everyone’s plate and allocate work accordingly to adjust if need be, you can feel confident that team members have the capacity to meet the deadlines and everyone can be held accountable for getting the work done on time.

Track your costs

Now that you’re tracking several components of your work, your credibility should be on the rise. But the truth is, you still need some hard numbers to show your real value. The best way to get those numbers is to track your costs.

By tracking what the cost is to complete specific tasks, what a vendor would charge for the same work, and, if applicable, your client chargeback rate, you’ll be able to show in real dollars the cost efficiencies you provide. As a bonus, you’ll also be able to better justify resources and budgets based on historical data for planned versus actual hours worked.

Track work through its entire lifecycle

You may feel that tracking work is an extra step that adds more time and gets you farther behind, it’s not. It actually gives you time by offering you visibility into the work and providing clear data to justify your decisions with your clients about what is a reasonable deadline. In addition, tracking all work in one tool will give you even bigger productivity gains than juggling each aspect of work in a different tool.

Ultimately, the information you gain through tracking all the work will not only help you set realistic deadlines and keep workloads under control but also give you the data you need to show just how valuable your team is. And that’s the biggest credibility booster of all.