by Kevin Gepford
What This Is: A results-oriented series of steps to flesh out an idea and carry it to the finish line.
Why It’s Important: Winging it is not a business plan.
Let’s take a look at each step from a Product Management perspective, and apply it to Creative Ops.
Step 1: Customer Development
Product Managers Do: Identify target users for the project they have in mind, and observe and talk to them. Stick to areas that are relevant to the project. Who are the customers? How and when might they use the product. What might they want that the product can provide? Is there a fit between the customer’s needs and the product? What’s the market potential?
Creative Ops Does: Our customers already exist — they’re our clients, staffers and team-mates who rely on us to achieve a business objective. In turn, we also depend on them to get our work done. We’ve got to look both up and down the pipeline. Our internal clients may be the people who initiate creative work (such as ad campaigns, marketing pitches, budget presentations, or special events), who sign off on creative concepts, approve budgets and staffing, or have final say over the technology you use. But do we really understand their needs and their view of the role we fill in the organization — and how well we do it? The only way to find out is to interview them, and take serious notes.
Step 2: Testing and Validating Your Idea
Product Managers Do: Figure out if this Great App is something that might actually succeed. Understand what a Minimum Viable Product might be by transforming problem/solution to product/market fit.
Creative Ops Does: It’s not a question of success — it’s about the improving the degree of success. We need to identify things we might do to succeed better, and how to evolve into strategic partners in the business.
Step 3: Market Research
Product Managers Do: Analyze the competition to find an unmet need — is there an opportunity? SWOT analysis has been around since the 1960’s, and it uses a grid to visually document the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of a business or idea.
Creatives Ops Does: Explores the edges of its turf for ways to expand our influence and contribution to the success of the business. What do we do well, and what could be better? Are we threatened by pressure to outsource the work, for example, or by changing business priorities (shifting from print to digital advertising)?
Step 4: Testing the Idea with a Business Model Canvas
Product Managers Do: Develop and express the value proposition of their idea via a compact grid that explains, in a glance, the business opportunity, the solution, activities to get there, customer segments, risks and costs.
Creatives Ops Does: Build a business model to describe its role within the business — showing the problem, solution, value proposition, activities, metrics, and costs. We have less wiggle room than do app developers, but it is simultaneously also more complex because of all the existing factors we have to consider.
Step 5: Product Roadmap/Timeline
Product Managers Do: Develop a timeline for what has to happen in order to launch the product, and the sequence in which things will be done. The timeline shows the entire cycle from conception, planning, development, iterate/refine, launch and review — all the specific activities that must be done to accomplish those steps as the project builds toward the goal. This includes goals and progress, themes, individual projects, broad timelines and priorities.
Creatives Ops Does: Build a 12-month timeline for everything you need to do — internal and external research, tech tools research and proposal, process analysis and optimization, and how we will communicate it with our managers, partners and the team. Everything on the timeline relates to a goal. This roadmap will inform and guide team alignment, resource planning, and help establish our future vision. It also keeps us accountable for our progress, and helps us communicate with our managers our clear goal, and the steps we’ll take to achieve it.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Resources and Inspiration:
What is Customer Development? by Eric Ries
Customer Development by Steve Blank
About the Killer Ops series:
How can creative teams increase their Value Proposition? How can they become better strategic partners in the organization? Following the entrepreneurial model of Product Development, creative teams – and organizations – can learn to think and act like a startup, to develop a framework for continuous innovation, improved operations, and greater success.