If you work on a marketing or creative team, you understand the truth: Some of the best creative ideas never see the light of day thanks to bad processes. We experienced this challenge at our own creative agency, as we tried to manage content production, reviews, and approvals between our team members — and our clients — in multiple cities across the globe.
When we found ourselves working with a client in Boston and their partner in Malaysia to try and complete a video for them using our pieced-together system of apps and communication tools, we couldn’t pretend any longer: Our process was a mess.
We weren’t the only ones in process purgatory, yet no one had a good solution. Everyone else we talked to was also pulling together tools and channels to try and make things work. We knew that wasn’t going to cut it.
The problem we faced was so painful and so detrimental to our team’s creativity that we decided to come up with a solution. We built a new technology and launched Slope, a cloud-based platform that transforms creative workflows, so creative teams can focus more on creating and delivering great content, and less on managing processes.
We spend a lot of time thinking about creative workflows, keeping an eye toward the trends that look to have a meaningful impact on how teams execute on creative work. Here’s a look at our view of how the nature of creative work — and virtually all content creation — is changing, and the role technology can play in that transformation.
1. Volume and velocity of content production increases, moves in-house
In companies of all sizes, the volume and velocity of content creation is increasing. Digital marketing, including social media, online advertising, and email, has given all companies the ability to reach customers directly with a very low budget. Yet digital marketing demands both a volume of content and turn-around times for that content unforeseen in traditional advertising.
In order to meet the demand for all of the content that they need to create, organizations have brought creative teams in-house. And because they're making creative work a core competency, most of our customers have an in-house creative team that is running Agile (two- or three-week sprints) and producing content daily.
We’re seeing upward trends in both volume and agility: the amount of content produced in-house is increasing, and teams need to turn it around quickly, given the fast-paced nature of today’s digital marketing platforms. Brands need an easy way to quickly create content, organize it, send it out, get it approved, and get it out the door.
2. Creative work spans entire organizations
Another trend we’re seeing is that creative, visual content is growing across every facet of a given organization, not just in the marketing department. Across all industries and roles, most types of work involve the production and distribution of some kind of content.
These days, individuals and teams in every department must create and share content. For example:
Human Resources: Create recruiting materials and training materials to attract and retain top talent
Sales: Customize, present, and send pitch decks and proposals to close key deals
Legal: Send out tailored contracts as quickly as possible
As part of their project workflows, each department requires that materials be reviewed and approved quickly. Yet more and more, outdated tools are harming rather than helping this process, resulting in seemingly endless email chains, status-update meetings, and siloed information.
3. A mobile workforce adds complexity to workflows
As the volume and velocity of creative work accelerates, production, review cycles, and approvals need to speed up accordingly. Yet the trend toward remote work can actually slow down the process for reviewing visual work. For example, if you work in different offices, you can’t just print out a comp and walk to someone’s desk to have them sign off on creative.
And now, as we’ve seen above, it’s not just the marketing team that needs to sign off on creative work. Product and technical leads and other subject-matter experts — who may not have access to the cloud-based creative tools that designers use — still need to participate in feedback and review cycles.
This decentralization of work adds complexity to the creative process. Organizations need to be able to create, collaborate, review, give feedback, and approve creative in one place that everyone can easily access. That’s where Smartsheet and Slope come into the picture.
Designing powerful creative workflows
We built Slope in response to these trends and to solve the creative workflow challenges that teams face when producing content. And we’re excited to continue our journey with Smartsheet (which acquired us earlier this year) to solve for these complex creative workflows for customers.
Soon, we’ll build Slope’s content collaboration features into Smartsheet, providing users with innovative, intuitive content review and markup capabilities for providing feedback on images, videos, documents, and other visual content directly within Smartsheet. Efficiency will go through the roof, because people won’t be bouncing between products, looking for things saved in odd places, or trying to remember their logins for a bunch of different tools.
We’re also looking forward to combining Slope’s markup technology with the automation that Smartsheet offers. In our experience, many companies have to go through so many rounds of review and approvals, it’s challenging to keep track of the process. With Smartsheet, you will be able to turn that into an automated workflow. This will add a ton of value for all of our customers.
Content creation is becoming part of all work, and we envision a time in the near future when managing content is just part of the workflow, complete with version control and markup capabilities. We are excited to continue our work toward that vision, and look forward to what we can accomplish here at Smartsheet.