2022 Q3 Creative Operations Report

Why In-House Brand and Creative Teams are Restructuring

Did you know that three out of four in-house creative teams either restructured in the past year, or plan to do so soon? Maybe it’s not surprising.

Last quarter’s Creative Operations Report revealed that in-house creative teams are growing in size, increasing their influence, and becoming better represented at the strategic table where decisions are made. Coupled with the acceleration of workplace changes driven by the pandemic, the Great Resignation, and flashing economic warning lights, there are plenty of reasons for restructuring that we could speculate about.

We wanted to do more than speculate, though – so we asked. And the community answered.

Man Thinking

Why have teams restructured? The top three reasons are all around the experience of teams and their stakeholders:

45%

Better internal collaboration

39%

Sustainable Workload

36%

Improving customer experience

Becoming More Strategic: Easier for Mid-Sized Teams

Continuing the theme of strategic empowerment from the Q2 Creative Operations Report, 34% of respondents reorganized to better engage with their stakeholders on a strategic level. However, large (21+) and small (1-5) teams have the lowest strategic engagement, with large teams spending less than 4% of their time on strategic work. Mid-size (6-20) teams, in contrast, spend between 19% and 24% of their time involved in strategic services.

Small teams, of course, often start as in-house studios that are focused on production. With large teams, it’s worth asking if there are missed opportunities for further strategic engagement.

The How: Use a Platform? Use the Data!

The inputs used tended to be project-centric (number of requests received, type of projects, type of deliverables) more than people-centric (hours of work, utilization/capacity of team members). This fits with the findings on the reasons for changes, with experience and efficiency being more popular reasons for change than employees. However, many of the efficiency-oriented objectives also benefited team members by freeing up time and improving communication.

Most respondents (91%) had a creative operations platform/workflow in place, or at least a project management solution. Most respondents (81%) used the data from that platform or solution in making their restructuring decisions.

The Result: Acceleration, Quality, and Collaboration

If experience was the biggest reason for a planned restructuring, efficiency was the biggest result, with 37% of teams reporting that their ability to deliver work more rapidly was the top outcome. 19% of teams found the ability to improve their output has improved the most, while 12% found the biggest benefit to be improved collaboration.

37%

Delivering more rapidly

19%

Delivering better quality

12%

Collaborating more effectively

Perhaps you’ve recently been through a restructuring and want to understand how your experience compares to that of your peers. Perhaps you haven’t, and you just want understand why others are working to structure their team for success and improved strategic contribution.

Either way, we hope this report is useful to you, and we’ll continue researching the market and sharing our findings.

 

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Team Changes

Type Of Team
All Current Structures Creative Teams
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Peter Headshot

Peter Skophammer

Manager, Marketing Operations & Creative Services at Children’s Minnesota

Peter has managed teams, departments, and projects across channels in both agency and in-house creative environments. He leads marketing operations and creative services for Children’s Minnesota, leading strategy and creative development while managing projects, resources, and teams across projects and channels. Peter balances adaptability with the reality of hard deadlines and process requirements and is skilled in coaching teams and business partners to achieve success.

Challenging Times Bring Changing Models

Peter started at Children’s by taking an already-strong project management approach and optimizing it. A team of project managers routed the work to the right resources across the channels in the organization. Things were relatively locked down in terms of permissions. “We didn’t want an account person to go in and change dates or anything like that,” says Peter, “so it was a pretty old-school project management-based model.”

What neither Peter nor anyone else had foreseen was the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare, even more so than other industries faced significant challenges. Functions like marketing that weren’t seen as essential to providing healthcare found themselves struggling. “Just about every health care organization went through a workforce reduction,” observed Peter, “and so of course we did.”

Although the existing model had been effective, Peter was no longer staffed effectively for it. He worked to empower the channels by giving them both independence and training, giving the marketing leads from the various teams more flexibility. “Everybody got project manager credentials to accept projects, set up templates, set dates, and more,” explains Peter.

The Right Prescription for Long-Term Health

The team began staffing up as the environment stabilized. Peter had initially envisioned going back to a project management model, but the department leadership saw an opportunity to have the marketing leads functions more like account managers. Peter was open to the change, but knew that the processes, systems, and people would need to operate differently.

“For that work,” says Peter, “You need a really strong kind of triage. The intake process has to be strong, and you need to function a little bit more like a traffic team when the work comes in.” Centralizing the work together, allowing for not just more efficient execution but better brand and message consistency across channels and tactics.

Leading the Team Through Change

The marketing leads were concerned that they’d be overwhelmed with incoming work. Peter made it clear that they were not accountable for managing every project. “It’s not your job to do everything or route everything,” Peter reminded them. The channels should be able to execute most work on their own, but “it’s your job to be the person who has visibility to all of the work happening in support of your accounts.”

The teams soon found the new process empowering rather than overwhelming. “Our leadership is focused on making sure that our work is strategically aligned to the organization,” Peter explains. “Team members are now in a position to see how their work ties to that strategy, and they got fired up about the ability to flex their strategic muscles.”

 

To read Peter’s full story, download the full report

Team Restructuring

Q3 2022 Creative Operations Report Restructuring Process
Q3 2022 Creative Operations Report Drivers Behind Restructuring Chart
Q3 2022 Creative Operations Report Results After Restructuring Chart
Q3 2022 Creative Operations Report Use Of Workflow Chart
Data Input Chart
Nathanheadshot

Nathan Jackson

Executive Vice President at Presentify – A Mediafly Service

With many years of executive and creative leadership experience, Nathan leads the creative teams at Presentify – and, with a recent reorganization, the creative functions across all Mediafly companies globally. The thought process behind the reorganization was simple: a Presentify, Nathan and team were charged with doing groundbreaking visual and interactive design work on behalf of clients. What if that competency was extended to all Mediafly companies.

Drinking Their Own Champagne

The core problems Nathan set out to solve with the reorganization were familiar ones to many creative leaders. “Internal creative teams are typically challenged with not having as much time as they would like to do great work,” says Nathan, “along with not necessarily getting the greatest of briefs. So they’re not able to be creative, and not able to use the skills in which they’ve been trained to create the work.”

“I found the process I used when I was managing our commercial team worked very efficiently, but that was not a process that our internal team used. And it meant that the quality of work being delivered to stakeholders wasn’t necessarily as good as they would like.”

Nathan opened a conversation with incoming CMO Lindsey Tishgart. “She felt it would make more sense for her to have a service rather than for her to own it and have the team.” Nathan and Lindsey called it “Mediafly for Mediafly.”

Aligning On Content Outcomes

The core objective was to provide better service to stakeholders, but defining “better” was, in Nathan’s eyes, something to quantify. “It’s got to fundamentally help them achieve the objective of that asset,” explains Nathan. “The good thing is that our platform hosts the content, so when that content is shared by a salesperson, we have the insights.” That, along with integration with Salesforce, helps understand the ROI that the content is generating.

Aligning on the desired outcomes has created a virtuous circle, driving the right behavior from stakeholders. “They now really think about who the audience is, what’s the purpose of that piece of content,” observes Nathan. “What’s the message? Is there a range of personas to connect and engage with? We look at making sure there’s a cohesive story in the content development.” With more thought around these questions come better briefs. And better briefs deliver better outcomes, happier stakeholders, and business growth.

Overcoming Internal Fears

A change in process always brings concerns from stakeholders, and this process change was no exception. “Team members were afraid we’d lose velocity,” remembers Nathan. “The worry that things are going to take longer.” However, he credits the Mediafly team and culture for making one of common concerns – “we’ve always done it this way” – not a concern. “We are growing and acquisitive, so the team has an open mind to change, and that has helped us roll this out in a positive way quickly.”

Advice for Others

When asked what guidance he’d give to others considering restructuring, Nathan is pragmatic, yet appeals to the idealism of the creative soul in selling the idea. “If creatives don’t feel that they’re empowered, that their skills aren’t being fully utilized, then that gives you opportunity for improvement.” Stakeholders, of course, need to buy into the idea too. “I get a few influential stakeholders on board and say to them that we want to try to do even more for you,” he says. “Try and find a project you can do with the most senior person in your organization and show them what differentiation can really mean. Get them on your side, and they become your greatest advocate.”

 

To read Nathan’s full story, download the full report

Respondents’ Profile

Respondents Chart
Team And Organisation Chart
Respondents Industry
Kyle Hamer

Kyle Hamer

Chief Marketing Officer at Asite

Kyle’s built his career by transforming brand and companies – and, most importantly, cultures. As Chief Marketing Officer at cloud collaboration solution Asite, he helps companies in the construction industry harness their asset and construction project data. Kyle’s focused on transforming the way we build, operate, and live – one project, one enterprise, and one person at a time.

Step One: Reorganizing Asite’s Team for Role Clarity and Market Impact

As an incoming CMO, Kyle saw immediate opportunity to improve delivery by realigning the team. The existing team was fairly flat, all reporting into the Head of Marketing, and primarily focused on thought leadership and sales enablement deliverables.

There was a substantial amount of red tape and bureaucracy, so deliverables sat as work in progress, idle, waiting for approvals. Team members felt lost and disconnected from results. “For lack of better world”, says Kyle, “It was chaos.”

As Kyle revised the marketing organization, his core objective was to bring transparency to the process, so the team focused on two main areas.

  1. Kyle established a design team lead over all visual content, including graphic design, web, and video.
  2. Kyle appointed a content manager in charge of the written elements of content, charged with understanding and finessing the message of all content that would be distributed.

“The team responded really well to different structure, new management, getting their work seen like that,” notes Kyle. But the teams grow and situations change – and Kyle is relentlessly focused on optimizing for the next challenge ahead.

Step Two: Realigning for Strategic Focus

The team gained a lot of ground and more effective coordination within the first reorganization, but the team had grown becoming more global with members in Australia, Europe, and the US. Brand continuity was becoming an issue. The website and the product value were not well aligned, in part because the UI/UX team was not reporting in to or aligned with the marketing team.

Team members saw an opportunity for a further improvement. “People said that we had outgrown that structure, that we had achieved the objectives and reached a point where the structure was actually preventing us from that next step.”

Kyle set about working with the team to “realign” to realize further gains. In communication, he focused on a simple message: “this is about the roles and responsibilities in helping us achieve what we’re really setting out to do.”

The realignment kept many areas of the first reorganization, with Creative and Content as separate areas. But there were changes. A designer who’d taken lead on high-profile projects such as high-level brand work and board presentations was promoted into a Creative Director role. Similarly, the creative team lead was moved into an Art Director role.

Lessons Learned

Kyle advises to remember that organizations have a personnel makeup – almost a persona – in making organizations changes. “I might have made different decisions at the start,” says Kyle. “One of the most complex things when it comes to creatives is that they’re harder to lock down with numbers, and everything can become very subjective, so I try to move the conversation to something that’s objective.”

The other lesson was to begin with an open mind. Kyle’s seen many executives come in and make moves to what they considered the “right” organization structure – and found those moves resisted. He seeks first to understand the team and the rationale for the current structure. “I usually walk in and have an idea of how I want to set it up,” notes Kyle. “But I also believe that making people feel rewarded is the number one job of an executive for a team.” He advocates starting with a clean sheet of paper, listening to the team and assessing the landscape, and making changes based on that assessment.

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Be sure to download the full Creative Operations Report for all the insights and Meet the Experts commentary.

 

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