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Everyone knows that creative people are passionate about their work. From designers to creative directors to copywriters, they've chosen the profession because the creative process excites them, and they enjoy experimenting.

However, for some creatives, the business side of creative work can be a complete buzzkill. Working on "assignments" can feel restrictive and dampen the creative fire. That's one reason for the cliche of the starving artist. Many creatives simply can't manage the business; they just want to create.

Structure and order actually help creativity

But in a business world, when you're employed to produce work, you must have a process to guide and manage creative work. Otherwise, it may never get done. In fact, more than one-third of workers admit that a lack of standard processes and poor prioritization get in the way of productivity.

Though flexibility and freedom sound ideal, creatives actually do their best work when there is structure and order to the system. Structure and order help creatives know exactly what's expected of them and eliminates the time wasted in tracking down information to get started, reworking designs as new players and opinions pop up to interrupt the flow, and chasing down reviewers for approval.

Automating repeat processes can alleviate these bottlenecks and stress points, giving your creative team more time and energy to do what they do best: be creative. However, introducing automation into a laissez-faire environment is not always easy.

"Process change is particularly difficult for a few reasons," says Sharon Roux, COO and partner at Salt Lake City-based full-service agency The Summit Group. "First, some people are just naturally resistant to change. And, second, an ill-devised process is still an ill-devised process. Automating it won't miraculously make it better."

So, how can you create order without sapping your team's creative mojo? Here are some ideas.

1. Question the current process and redesign if necessary

Start by examining how you currently operate.

How does work flow from one point to the next? Who is involved? What challenges, bottlenecks, or roadblocks do you continually encounter?

The reality is that automating a flawed process won't make it better. If you're running a faulty manual system, chances are it will be faulty when automated, too, so nail down the right system first.

2. Give clients a portal to see the status of their project requests in real time

Most employees spend less than half of their workday actually doing work. The rest is wasted on email, busywork, and meetings—including providing updates to stakeholders on where projects stand in the queue.

Eliminate this time-suck and regain productivity by giving stakeholders visibility into the workflow to see how projects are moving without interrupting the flow. This allows the creative employee to spend less time providing status reports and more time creating, which is what adds value to the organization.

3. Automate the approval process

One of the biggest sources of frustration for creatives is trying to sort through multiple stakeholders' feedback, comments, and approvals, especially when there's conflicting input.

Roughly one-quarter of creatives say they spend less than two hours a day actually doing creative work. Give them more time to be creative by automating the proofing process with a work-management solution that lets approvals flow in an orderly way from one approval to the next.

"We have automated the creative routing process within the agency and included outside vendors and clients in the process as well," Roux says. "Our overall routing time has decreased and accountability has increased, which has improved the quality of our deliverables to our clients."

4. Get employees involved

It's extremely difficult to force change.

Real, meaningful change requires buy-in, and that starts by getting the people who will be affected the most on board regarding reasons for the change and its benefits. Engage employees actually doing the work in implementing the automation and let them be ambassadors to others. Once they start to see the benefits, they'll quickly convince others.

5. Set reasonable goals

Don't expect a 100% foolproof solution. Humans, processes, and software simply don't work that way. Many organizations begin an automation initiative with big plans and end up biting off more than they can chew.

Instead, determine your attainable success measurements upfront, set realistic incremental goals, and don't be afraid (or ashamed) to make adjustments along the way if things aren't working out exactly as you'd planned.

* * *

In the fast-paced world of marketing, creative teams are under increasing pressure to create more work faster. Yet, lack of time is now the third biggest challenge for creative teams.

You've hired an incredibly talented team for your organization—now it's time to eliminate roadblocks. The more time you can give them to focus on what they do best, the more (and higher-quality) work they will produce. Automate the busy work and administrative processes, and watch productivity soar.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Joe Staples

Joe Staples is chief marketing officer of Workfront, a Cloud-based enterprise work automation solution that helps marketing, IT, and other teams avoid excessive email, redundant status meetings, and disconnected tools.

LinkedIn: Joe Staples

Twitter: @jstaples21