The magic of creative operations for your in-house agency. 

How creative project management is just as critical.

By: Shima Carroll

The magic of creative operations for your in-house agency. 

Listen: The magic of creative operations for your in-house agency. 

Both creative operations and project management hold immense importance for in-house agencies. Creative operations involves ensuring that there's a streamlined process in place for ideation, design execution, and delivery of creative assets. It fosters an environment where creativity can flourish without being bogged down by administrative or process complexities. Project management is crucial for organizing tasks, aligning resources, and managing deadlines. It enables creative work to be fully aligned with business objectives and ensures it is delivered on time. Together, creative operations and project management form the backbone of successful in-house agency teams, harmonizing creative brilliance with structured delivery

Read on to learn about the similarities and differences between these critical creative functions and how they fit together to create an environment where in-house teams can perform at the top of their game.

Why is creative operations important for in-house agency teams?

Creative operations refers to the orchestration of people, creative workflows and processes, and technology within an in-house agency or creative department. It's aimed at ensuring the entire creative workflow is seamless, from the inception of creative ideas to their final execution and delivery.

The purpose of creative operations management is multifold. It helps to streamline complex processes, reduce bottlenecks, and enable efficient production of high-quality creative assets. By implementing clear procedures and protocols, it allows the Creative Team to focus on what they do best—creating. Furthermore, it aligns the creative work with business goals, ensuring that every creative endeavor contributes meaningfully to the organization's objectives.

In essence, creative operations provides the structure needed for creativity to thrive in a corporate setting.

Creative operations roles and responsibilities 

Creative operations takes on a range of strategic responsibilities and functions, including:

Creative workflows

Creative Operations Managers are responsible for establishing and maintaining efficient workflows that enable seamless creation, review, and delivery of creative assets. This often involves implementing project management tools, improving existing processes, uncovering and eliminating process inefficiencies, and coordinating with cross-functional teams.

Resource management 

Additionally, they manage resources, ensuring that the Creative Director and their team have the talent and tools they require to produce high-quality work and that every creative professional's time allocation is optimized for maximum output.

Budget management

The function often oversees budgeting, making sure projects stay within agreed financial limits or margins.

Quality assurance

Establishing the review and approval process ensures all deliverables follow the creative briefs, adhere to brand guidelines, and maintain a consistent level of excellence.

Collaboration

Finally, creative operations is incredibly collaborative, acting as a bridge between the in-house Team, Marketing Department, Information Technology (IT), Finance, Legal, Procurement, Recruitment, Human Resources (HR), cross-functional teams, and senior management to make sure creative initiatives are aligned with broader goals and business decisions. It also involves fostering a culture of open dialogue and mutual respect in order to break down silos and develop a cohesive, unified team.

Why is project management important for in-house agency teams?

Project management and creative operations, while closely related, serve distinct purposes within an in-house agency team. Creative project management is primarily concerned with the execution of individual creative projects. Its main purpose is to ensure that each creative project is completed on time, within budget, and fulfills its objectives.

In short, project management uses creative operations frameworks to orchestrate the entire project lifecycle, driving it from concept to completion. This enhances the likelihood of project success, leading to improved delivery and greater efficiency of in-house teams.

Project management roles and responsibilities

Project management shoulders a multitude of responsibilities aimed at the successful execution of creative projects:

Project scoping

Project Managers start by defining the project scope, objectives, and deliverables in collaboration with project owners and other stakeholders. This provides clear direction to the team so everyone is aligned on their mission and working toward a common goal.

Project planning

Setting accurate project forecasts and timelines and creating detailed project plans is another key responsibility, ensuring every task is scheduled and tracked.

Resource allocation

They are also in charge of resource allocation, making certain that the team has the necessary tools, talent, skill set, and time to complete each project effectively.

Monitoring and adapting

Monitoring project progress, managing changes, making data-driven decisions, and mitigating risks are key elements of their roles, too. A proactive approach helps to address potential issues before they escalate so that projects run smoother.

Quality assurance

Quality assurance and approval processes are another critical aspect of their role, ensuring that a project's deliverables align with the creative brief and brand guidelines while meeting the highest quality standards.

Project communication

Lastly, they act as communication conduits, fostering open dialogue between Creative Team members, project stakeholders, and other departments.

The synergy between creative operations and project management

Creative operations and project management, while distinct in their roles, overlap in many ways and share mutual goals in the pursuit of creative excellence.

Both functions are deeply involved in optimizing the creative process. Creative operations takes on a strategic planning mindset to work on establishing efficient creative workflows, processes, and resource management strategies at a broad level, while project management applies these systems to individual projects, ensuring that each task is executed smoothly and effectively.

Quality assurance is another shared area. Both creative operations and project management strive to maintain the highest standards of output. While creative operations establishes creative processes, including enforcing the application of brand guidelines and overall quality norms, project management requires that each project adheres to these standards and meets its specific objectives.

The goal of fostering collaboration and communication is also common to both. Creative operations cultivates an environment conducive to teamwork and open dialogue, whereas project management facilitates collaboration and communication specific to each project, coordinating between Creative Ops Team members, stakeholders, and other departments.

How do the creative operations and project management functions work together?

Effective collaboration between Creative Operations Managers and Project Managers is crucial for the smooth functioning of any Creative Team.

The Creative Operations Manager is responsible for establishing an efficient creative workflow, streamlining processes, managing resources, implementing digital tools, and maintaining quality across all creative outputs. This provides the groundwork on which individual projects can be successfully executed. The Project Manager, on the other hand, applies these creative ops frameworks to specific projects, ensuring they are completed on time, within budget, and meet the desired quality standards.

The two roles need to work in tandem, with the Operations Manager providing the necessary support and infrastructure to deliver projects and the Project Manager communicating the specific needs and progress of individual projects. This collaborative relationship allows for a seamless flow of information, the ability to quickly address issues as they arise, and ensures that all creative initiatives align with the broader business objectives.

Let's explore what this looks like in practice.

During the project intake process, Creative Operations Managers and Project Managers work closely together to define the scope of the project, set clear objectives, and outline deliverables in creative briefs. The Operations Manager ensures there are efficient systems in place for project intake and scoping, while the Project Manager applies these systems to each new project, working with key decision-makers to gather requirements and establish parameters.

Next, Creative Ops is responsible for ensuring that the team has sufficient resources—including people, tools, and budget—to meet its creative production demands. They also oversee the effective utilization of these resources across all projects. The Project Manager, on the other hand, takes these available resources and allocates them to individual projects based on their specific needs. They ensure that each project has the necessary resources to meet its objectives and that these resources are used efficiently and effectively.

As projects progress, the Operations Manager oversees the overall performance of the Creative Team, identifying bottlenecks and opportunities for process improvement. Meanwhile, the Project Manager monitors the progress of individual projects, tracking tasks against timelines and adjusting project workflows as needed to stay on schedule. They communicate any issues or changes to the Operations Manager, who can then make broader adjustments to the team's current creative workflow, if necessary.

The Creative Ops Manager and Project Manager work hand in hand throughout all phases of a project. It's this synergy between creative operations and project management that drives the successful execution of creative projects and maximizes the overall performance of the Creative Team.

Closing thoughts

With new channels and innovative technologies on the horizon, the demand for more creative assets and content only continues to grow. And, as in-house agencies continue to mature and take on more complex projects, the roles of creative operations and project management will become even more crucial. We believe organizations should not only invest in these functions today but also be prepared to continually adapt and evolve them to meet the changing needs of their In-House Agency Teams for tomorrow.

Aquent Studios has completed over 100,000 client projects to date while defining and refining how creative work is delivered. Connect with us to learn more about how we can support your in-house agency with creative operations and project management that enables creativity, speed, and scale.

About the Author

Image of Author

Shima Carroll

Director of Creative Operations - Global, Aquent Studios

Shima Carroll is a Director at Aquent Studios; where she manages Creative Operations, Client Relationships, building and leading creative teams, Solution Implementation, and Creative Workflow Process Optimisation – for offices in Europe, APAC, and North America. Shima has been with Aquent Studios since 2016. Prior to Aquent, Shima worked in Branding, Marketing, Project Management and Operations – in Luxury Retail, Entertainment, and Technology industries. She has also lived and worked in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Spain, and the USA.


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