April 25, 2016 -

Killer Ops: What Can We Learn from Product Management?

Series - Creative Ops Can Learn from Product Management

(This Article is First in a Series)

by Kevin Gepford

As a Creative Operations leader you see your team struggling on a daily basis to get the work done, in an environment that sorely needs a makeover.

The creative workplace is largely reactive — lurching from crises to crisis, shooting at everything in sight, rushing to meet deadlines, and driven by creative visionaries with their mercurial ways.

We need to make some changes in our approach. As the Grail Knight said to Indiana Jones in “The Last Crusade”: It’s important to choose wisely.

This is where you come in.

Within this chaos lies an opportunity. This environment is ripe for improvement!

Entrepreneurial thinking is needed to revitalize the creative production process – to identify and implement better tools, systems, and workflows that might improve the productivity and happiness of the creative team.

If you were to take stock of your work environment, and imagine a better future for your team, where would you begin? Where might you look for inspiration on how to tackle this challenge? Are there any road maps? What might the steps be, and what would a realistic and achievable plan look like?

A powerful framework can be found in the world of Product Management. This discipline is familiar to app developers, startups, software developers, and even in manufacturing.

What Do Product Managers Do?

Product Managers coordinate and direct the activities that take place in order for the next Killer App, or anything else, to become a marketable product.

Product Managers lead efforts to assess the marketplace, analyze and learn from the competition, identify a potential product’s unique value and how that might translate into a finished app, refine the plan based on research and talking to users, build a solid business case, present that case in clear language to stakeholders, and then proceed to develop, test, and iterate the idea until finally launching something that stands a chance of commercial success.

In Product Management’s terminology:

  • Conceive
  • Plan
  • Develop
  • Launch
  • Iterate/Review

In other words: Discover, Design, Develop… Do It!

But we’re not creating the next Killer App. We’re not envisioning some future, not-yet realized Unicorn. We are building Killer Ops. And this is a much more pragmatic endeavor – to improve operations within our existing teams and organizations.

Model for Creative Ops

The methodology of Product Management applies neatly to the challenges facing Creative Operations. Many creative organizations are still managing their work like they did five or eight years ago — before the rise of social media and The Cloud. They’re burdened by legacy team structures, adjusting to the presence of the millennial generation in their midst, and relying on an outmoded technology and ineffective digital tools.

Creative teams are working more quickly than ever, delivering content across an expanding universe of platforms. Staffing has grown to meet the growing demands placed on marketing organizations. Yet, these teams often remain in silos that produce and deliver content based on format or distribution channels — video promos, web and digital, print deliverables, graphics animation, and social media.

Compartmentalization runs counter to managing campaign and brand consistency across the spectrum of media outlets. Multidisciplinary collaboration is needed more than ever. So more meetings are called. More people are hired. Meanwhile, project managers and creative directors are driven frantic trying to keep everything from falling apart.

The technology side of the equation is equally neglected. When teams adopt a new platform or tool, it may be a random choice, selected via an unsophisticated review process, or provided by the IT or business teams. These systems and tools are often received poorly, fail to live up to their promise, and fail to produce the hoped-for improvements.

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting a series of blogs exploring the path of Product Management as it applies to Creative Ops.

The most important ideas, as they apply to Creative Operations, are found in the Conceive, Plan, and Develop phases. The final product — your very own Killer Ops 3.0 — will be uniquely yours. Nobody but you knows how you define success for your team, what Killers Ops would look like, the form it would take, or the unique structures of your team as well as the technology that works for you.

The series will explain, step by step, how to:

  • Initiate the process of conceiving new ideas
  • Conduct competitive analysis
  • Build a business model
  • Create a roadmap for success
  • Conduct research in your own team and environment
  • Unleash the power of personas and empathy maps
  • Develop storyboards for your current and future workflows
  • Analyze your tech stack, and optimize it
  • Better understand your human stack, and ways to look for improvements

This will be a long journey. But by the end, you’ll see your situation with greater clarity, and have stronger beliefs — based on research and facts — about the path forward to achieve Killer Ops 3.0 for your team.

If you don’t do this, nobody will. Let’s get started!

Bottom Line:

There are few roadmaps for Creative Operations professionals seeking to raise the effectiveness of their teams. Yet, inspiration can come from anywhere — and the Product Management discipline offers a great way forward.

Resources and Inspiration:

General Electric Wants to Act Like a Startup
By Rick Clough for Bloomberg News

The Bike Wars Are Over, and the Bikes Won
By Janette Sadik-Khan for New York Magazine

General Assembly

Hitchhiker’s Guide to Product Management

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.

Published by: Kevin Gepford in Creative Ops, Part of a Series