More companies than ever are using distributed teams to meet their creative needs. But running a global team is not without its challenges. Coordinating tasks across time zones opens up organizational issues that can grind projects to a halt.
Meetings become difficult to coordinate. Feedback gets lost in translation. Assets disappear into a no-man’s-land of personal drives and digital storage spaces.
However, with the right communication tools and processes in place, companies can get a lot of quality work done. And if team members are located in places with lower living costs, money can be saved.
We work with several companies who manage distributed teams successfully. Here are a few of the key lessons we’ve learned from them.
Know who’s on the case.
Not knowing who is working on what causes confusion for everyone. If a designer is waiting on copy but isn’t clear on who is supposed to be writing it, they’re unable to follow up on the status of the work. When there’s a time difference involved, communication becomes even more difficult.
You can use something as straightforward as Google Sheets to build out schedules and keep track of who’s assigned to each project. Project management software with collaboration tools can also help keep everything clear. No matter what you use, the important thing is to promote transparency.
Creative directors and project managers should also be keeping track of who is the most appropriate talent to have on specific projects. This is a huge advantage for having remote workers. You can assign projects based on skill sets rather than locations.
Focus with creative briefs.
Reviews and approvals tend to move faster when creative briefs are used. They accelerate the creative process by putting teams on a more direct path to breakthrough solutions. Successful briefs clarify the purpose of the project and inspire creative thinking, so teams can deliver their best work.
The most frequent brief-related mistakes are providing either unnecessary detail or not enough information. Briefs are meant to propel the creative process forward and focus it on ideas that will deliver the biggest business impact.
Unnecessary detail just slows the process with distracting detours, while a lack of specificity leaves the creative team with too much ground to explore. When teams are spread out, it’s even more important to make sure your briefs are clear because you might not have the opportunity to kick off projects with everyone in the same room.
Project management is essential.
Many organizations manage work with a mix of emails and spreadsheets. Sometimes an old online or on-premise storage solution gets in the mix. If work is produced by multiple regions, it can be a chore to track it all. A good project manager can serve as a touchpoint, but not every team has the head count for that role. That’s where software comes in.
In Workstream, features such as projects and tasks help align and allocate creative resources. Managers are able to easily track progress, view drafts, and manage deadlines from one platform. We often find that creative operations managers and creative directors are surprised at how much work is actually being done once they have visibility.
Stay on top of proofs and approvals.
Proofing tools allow every detail of an asset to be inspected. Reviewers can provide feedback on even the most minute details, ensuring the right language and visual elements are always used. This leads to a more cohesive brand identity and ensures requesters receive high-quality work, no matter where or when it’s produced.
One of our larger clients used Workstream to put processes in place to operate around the world and around the clock. Now, managers can easily prioritize projects, allocate resources, and maintain a transparent development pipeline. Projects no longer slow down because they’re waiting for approval.
Keep assets accessible.
Once your global creative team has done its work, it’s time to get assets into the world. Your operations will become more efficient if you have a central hub for housing, accessing, and distributing creative assets. Digital asset management (DAM) is the key.
Using a DAM system also enables creative workflow automation, metadata-based searches, file backups, usage tracking, e-commerce and more. Integrations with apps like Hootsuite allow marketers to take completed assets and publish them directly to social media platforms.
The best-case scenario is when your project management solution works seamlessly with your DAM. That gives you the ability to follow a project from concept to completion, no matter where it’s being worked on.
The world is yours.
There are always going to be issues that arise with big global teams. Many of them you won’t see coming. Ultimately, transparency will be what saves the day. Know what’s being worked on. Know who’s working on it. Know where it’s going. Get your processes taken care of. Put solid project management in place. With a strong base, you can expand your team across time zones with far less anxiety. Pretty soon, you’ll be taking over the world.