So, What Exactly IS Creative Operations?

Posted by Krissie Harrigan on June 6, 2014


These are the kind of questions a creative operations manager, director or executive would ask – even if that isn’t their title:


  • Have we delivered approved assets on time?
  • Are we currently delivering approved assets on time?
  • Will we be able to deliver approved assets on time?


  • Did our approved assets follow the required review and approval process?
  • Are we currently following the required review and approval process?
  • Will we be able to follow the required review and approval process in the future?


  • Have we maximized our asset production capacity?
  • Are we currently maximizing our asset production capacity?
  • Will we be able to maximize our asset production capacity in the future?

Creative operations managers, directors, and executives are responsible for the outcomes related to these questions. They add operational efficiency to the creative worfklow process by using tools, measurement, and best practices to streamline and structure the way creative work is produced in their organization.

Creative operations sometimes hides behind other names, like…

  • Creative workflow
  • Work-in-progress

Regardless of what terminology you’re using, if your role is to add efficiency to one of those areas, and you’re working to improve the timeliness, compliance or capacity of these things, you’re working in creative operations.

What industries are focusing on creative operations?

  • Agencies
  • Regulated Industries
  • Broadcasting
  • Enterprise Marketing Teams
  • Gaming and Entertainment Companies

At the end of the day, anyone who is tasked with managing and improving the timeliness, capacity and compliance of the creative production process is working in creative operations, regardless of industry or company size.

Why are so many teams focusing on creative operations?

There are a few reasons that smart marketing and creative teams are focusing on operational efficiency in their creative workflow.

  • “We need more assets – now.” Thanks to trends like Big Data and the ability to better segment customers, marketing teams need to produce more assets to fill all of the opportunities they have available to them. The problem is, there isn’t an unlimited budget, so they have to produce those assets with their existing resources.
  • “We work with external and distributed resources.” More marketing organizations are working with teams that are distributed across the world, and working with external creative production agencies. Since they’re working in a 24/7 global creative production process, these teams need ways to structure, streamline and track their creative workflow that don’t depend on old methods like email or job jackets.
  • “We need more insight into our process.” The creative workflow process can be difficult to track, let alone measure. With emails going back and forth, and teams working in different tools, information can get lost, and time is wasted sorting through emails and file versions. Marketing and creative teams need more visibility into what’s actually happening, in the form of metrics, measurement and project management approaches that suit them.
  • “We need to identify – and fix – bottlenecks.” Everyone might think they know what the problems are in the creative production process, but without data to back up their assumptions, it’s hard to implement any changes.
  • “We need to make sure our review and approval process is structured and recorded.” In regulated industries like pharmaceutical and financial companies, ensuring that each stage of the creative workflow is captured, documented and compliant can save them a huge amount of effort – and potential fines – later on once assets are published. They need an approach that will let them do all of this, without getting in the way of the creative workflow.

Creative operations, and the operational efficiency it can deliver, is the key to increasing your production capacity and delivering more approved assets on time, while remaining compliant with all of your required processes. If you're new to this role, you can connect with others in the field and find resources that can help you here.