Marketing Production in the Cloud
9th Nov 2011
At Creation we face the same challenges that effect so many other businesses in the current climate, inside and outside of our industries. We have demanding customers (and so they should be), we need to work more flexibly yet pull together as a team and always strive to deliver beyond the brief, while remaining compeitive.
For my part I've been working on implementing ever improving processes and a key part of this has been to implement the latest software to allow us to deliver campaigns for our customers and the business intelligence to allow us to run our business. I have to be accountable for the delivery of a project to our clients, and it all has to be delivered on time, on budget and with the right level of quality. With teams spread across different offices, and working with clients globally, we need processes that go beyond a job tracking board and a spreadsheet.
So with that in mind, I though I'd share some of the best tools and systems that we use in the studio to manage traffic and production.
- Google Docs – As a repository to share docs its great, but where Google comes into its own is the ability to have multiple people working on one document at the same time. I love spreadsheets, no i really do, and this gives us the chance work together on one sheet. We can even chat live in the document with anyone that has it open. This is great where you are asking more than one person to give input into a document (i.e our tracking sheets).
- Google Talk and Skype – Internally we use Google Talk, and its great for keeping the conversation strings out of your email, but we also use Skype to connect with our customers. Being available is key, and sometimes email just isnt quick enough. And its all free. We've recently held a huddle in google+ and that worked well so I think we'll do that again.
- Basecamp Project Management (by 37signals) – This is where we manage all of our projects. The advantage of Basecamp is you can add in any team members you want and assign taks and share deadlines. The jobs will activate emails to the team members and email replies will be posted to the project so it keeps a live record of all communications. You can also assign any people to any project and use project and to-do list templates to replicate projects and processes. Because Basecamp is accessible via iPhone, iPad and of course through any web browser so it works really well and is always accessible. No offline version, but connecting everyone in a team out weights that.
- Dropbox File Sharing – You can easily access and share documents between team members using shared externally hosted dropboxes. They can be split into security levels and are easier to work with than the file manager in Basecamp and are free unless you want to upgrade for space. Dropbox appears as an extra folder on your desktop and you simply drag and drop files. When files are added it shows an alert on the screen so you know whats been updated. We use dropbox to share files with our customers as well as internally.
- Harvest Time Tracking and Resource Allocation – Harvest lets us assign designers, copywriters, programmers etc to a job and track time from one integrated application. The team can input in many ways so it fits the different characters in the studio, and managers approve timesheets. It has nice visual reports to see the distribution of the studios resources at a glance and allow us to report on each job.
- ProofHQ Creative Proofing Tool – Our projects typically include print, audio-visual, interactive and web elements. And we used to find it time-consuming and slow to manage feedback across so many different files types. Constantly making proofing sheets and PDF's, and having different mark-up and sign-off processes. With ProofHQ we can create and manage high-quality online proofs from over 50 file types including PDF, Adobe CS, PDF, Word, Powerpoint, GIF, PNG, JPEG as well as audio-visual files such as MPG, AVI and MOV, and both animated and interactive SWF files. It keeps a track of versions and corrections and allows dynamic comparison of versions on screen. It does mean customers adapting to our process, not thiers (ie. paper or PDF mark-up), but it makes everything run much more smoothly, and if a customer doesnt want to use the tool then the account manager can always mark it up for them.
- Creation Marketing Store - Fantastic cloud based marketing template system that we use allows us to put co-branding marketing materials into the cloud and then allow customers and there channels to access, edit, email or print, without needing a designer to add the logo or edit the copy. This speeds up the delivery process and dramatically reduces costs.
I've included links to the sites so if you found that useful and would like to go and have a look for yourself its all there. Many have free trials, but you need to plan any deployment up front or you wont get the buy-in from the lines of business.
I can now hapilly go tick off my 'blog about this' action in my Basecamp to-do's.