A comprehensive guide to creative operations


By: Amelia Wallace

Does your creative team struggle to make deadlines? Are they working way too many hours, or are they constantly stretched thin by production demands? These are all signs that your team may not be as efficient as they could be, and the answer isn’t necessarily more tech or more people — it’s creative operations.

What is creative operations?

Creative operations (or “creative ops”) is a means of improving the way work is done on creative teams. Think of it as pairing the left brain with your creative right brain, the marriage of Don Draper with Henry Ford. It’s a framework that optimizes productivity and manages deadlines by bringing metrics, process and structure to the creative process. It requires looking at the creative process as a supply chain to figure out where you can optimize each step and produce more with what you currently have.

Creative operations also covers things like:

  • Creative briefs

  • Project management

  • Project intake

  • Communication with clients and project owners

  • Communication within your team

  • Status updates

  • Delivery

  • Distribution

  • Asset storage

Creative ops vs. project management

Although a creative ops position will have some overlap, it involves much more than project management. In the simplest sense, the difference between creative ops and project management is depth: project management requires organizational skills, whereas creative operations management requires a strategic mindset to find better solutions. Creative operations managers need to understand the cross-functional tasks of different creative teams and bring them together to work in collaboration.

Why creative teams are adopting creative ops

The overall goal for creative ops is to reduce costs and eliminate waste, which is why an in-house agency may adopt creative operations. Creative ops management is all about operationalizing the process, which ultimately causes you and your teams to be more productive and efficient. In addition, there are four other major reasons why more businesses are adding creative ops to their management system: the increased demand for creative assets, complex processes, process inefficiencies and marketing compliance.

Benefits of creative operations

Data-driven decisions

Many business decisions made on creative teams have been driven by best guesses based on prior experience or last-minute creative deadlines. Through creative ops, you can collect data that will empower your team to make more accurate projections and more sound decisions about their projects. With this collected data, they can also provide better reasoning behind requests for hiring, new work, budget or additional resources.

Increased collaboration

Creative operations alleviates issues that arise from workers avoiding difficult situations. It will encourage better collaboration in design by gathering data and identifying where issues are stemming from. This will give employees the space to take accountability for their actions and improve.

More accurate project forecasts

Through creative operations, you’ll be able to define project measurements and give stakeholders access to data from past projects to help project the performance of current or future creative work.

How to implement creative operations

1. Hire a creative ops manager

The first step to implementing creative operations is to hire a creative ops manager. You should be looking for someone with a strong creative background along with excellent management skills in addition to the following skills:

  • Strong process-orientation and problem-solving skills

  • Proven experience in providing project solutions across multiple disciplines

  • Conceptual and strategic thinking

  • Experience in developing simple, efficient processes for a set of complex activities

  • Knowledge of all aspects of digital creative and production workflow

  • Understanding of cross-channel marketing and its interdependencies

  • Ability to prepare and present high-impact business cases and recommendations to executive team

Along with other typical management responsibilities, your new creative ops manager will be responsible for:

  • Marketing and creative process innovation

  • Ensuring process optimization and scalability

  • Developing, documenting and maintaining creative and marketing processes

  • Overseeing PM teams to work in conjunction with marketing PM teams

  • Advocating on behalf of creative quality

2. Review creative workflows

Once you hire a creative ops manager, you should review creative workflows and identify common issues like slow turnaround time, too many mundane creative requests, or content getting lost, going unused or needing to be re-created. Weed out the stumbling blocks for your teams in their creative workflows.

3. Develop new processes

When you’ve identified issues in your creative workflows, it’s time to develop new, better processes. If your creative team has been overwhelmed with content requests, a platform like Lucidpress that offers brand templating and digital asset management could be a good solution. Brand templating streamlines the creative process by empowering non-creatives to customize their own content. It also ensures content is easy to find and use by organizing a library of templates connected to a digital asset management system.

Curious about brand templating? Check out how the creative director from Club Pilates uses Lucidpress to avoid marketing mishaps:


 Creative operations is a huge shift in work philosophy, but it shows a commitment to continuously improving the workflow of your creative teams. This new commitment will take time and effort to make sure everyone is on board with a new approach to their work. If you’re looking for extra help in managing your teams, check out our guide to managing creatives.

Free eBook download

How to manage creative teams

Your team is a ragtag group of creative heroes who need a leader that’s fearless. This guide is a great refresher course on all the things the best leaders should be doing: Advocating! Being bold! Being kind! But it also offers practical tips on building good relationships, letting your team shine, and focusing your creative vision.

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Amelia Wallace

Amelia Wallace has been writing content for far too long. Her expertise ranges from home decor to insurance to marketing and beyond. She is an avid movie-goer, retains only the best kinds of useless information, and is the worst to go hiking with since she’s constantly stopping to take photos.

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