How to Work Effectively with Distributed Creative Teams

by Carlie Hill

posted on 10-07-2019

Today’s creative teams are facing more pressure than ever to deliver large volumes of high-quality content, under budget and on significantly tighter timelines. In fact, from an output standpoint alone, the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts we’ll be creating over 44 trillion gigabytes annually by 2020. That’s a 144% increase from what we were creating in 2018!

This explosion in content can be attributed to consumers’ voracious appetite for extensive product and brand information prior to purchasing. Consumers today want to feel connected to their brands, to fully understand what they’re buying, how it’s made, what it would be like to own, and so on. Meeting these needs requires a ton of content that needs to be constantly refreshed or replaced by brands.

While this is a challenge even for a single, highly-focused creative team located in a central location, it multiplies tenfold when working with distributed teams or individual creatives spread across various locations. With 63% of companies having remote workers on their team, it’s becoming more common to see creatives collaborating with colleagues that aren’t physically present in the same office. In addition to this, they’re working with external photographers, videographers, brand ambassadors, approvers, and more. Due to the distributed nature of teams today, for many the creative production cycle is now 27/7.

The challenge with distributed teams

When you’re working with a creative team that spans floors, buildings, borders, or continents, a unique set of challenges emerge that make it near impossible to ensure projects get executed smoothly from the ideation stage through to final:

First and foremost, files are more difficult to share. When working in a single office with an on-premise server, accessing and sharing multi-gigabyte files is quick and painless. But sharing these files with remote colleagues is extremely difficult, frustrating, and time-consuming, requiring designers to send compressed files to one another via email or a file transfer service. While it may only take a few minutes to upload one file, doing this with multiple files per day and keeping track of everything is simply unproductive and leaves unnecessary room for human error.

Second, there’s a serious gap in visibility and communication. Traditional workspaces, where creatives are working shoulder to shoulder, provide increased visibility into projects and enable team communication. It’s easier to communicate changes or provide updated information on a project and generally stay in sync with each other. But for distributed teams, visibility and communication are significantly more difficult and, in many cases, missing almost entirely. To stay up to date, designers need to constantly upload and download files from various productivity tools and continuously check their email for changes. More often than not, updates are missed and are only addressed when a final file is submitted for approval.

Finally, project continuity becomes a challenge. On large teams, it’s rare that all hands are on deck on any given day — people take vacations, get sick, or quit altogether. And, despite having hand-off processes in place, the designer who picks up the project usually spends their first few hours trying to hunt down the graphics they need to relink to their design file. This issue multiplies when working across time zones, offices, and multiple projects. It not only causes the designer frustration, it can also put your project hours behind schedule, all because a single designer was unavailable and the necessary files couldn’t be found.

Finding a solution that works

While there are platforms available that address many of these challenges individually, like project and file management solutions, distributed creative teams are still lacking a single solution that can address their file management challenges (source + WIP + final) without disrupting existing processes. Even those that have managed to Frankenstein something together (usually a mix of cloud and on-premise platforms) have found that they’ve created more problems than a solution.

At the root of the problem, designers simply feel more productive and comfortable working on their own desktop with processes and workflows they’ve perfected over many years. With this in mind, creative applications need to work with creatives and their existing workflows — not against them.

For any solution to truly be helpful to your creative teams, it needs to:

Conform to workflows

One of the key problems with available solutions is that they usually behave as an isolated tool, separate from your designers’ desktops. This means it’s another tool they have to log in to and manage. Each additional step required to access these platforms equates to less and less time spent ideating and creating.

While isolated solutions may work for a time in some situations, during busy periods it becomes more tempting to bypass these solutions and create temporary workarounds. Designers tell themselves that they’ll do it when they’re less busy, but their production schedules are always crazy, so they never end up having the time. Time and time again, creative leaders find that their teams revert back to storing files on their desktop and only communicating on a need-to-know basis. To be useful, a solution needs to fit seamlessly into a creative team’s existing workflows, without adding extra steps or requiring them to access the cloud.

Maintain speed of production

While a solution needs to address the distributed nature of your teams, it can’t compromise on production speed. If it’s quicker to work from their local drives, your designers will almost always use them instead.

This is one of the main challenges creative teams face when using cloud-based solutions. While they allow files to be easily distributed globally, there’s a lag time that comes with constantly uploading and downloading source and WIP files to the cloud. While it’s usually just a few seconds per file, for high-volume creative teams working with tens to hundreds of images and graphics on any given project, this time adds up and results in a very frustrated team. Not only that, it can also put your project at risk of missing critical deadlines.

A solution for creative teams

Our hybrid, desktop-to-server-to-cloud application, CreativeSPACES™, was built specifically for high-volume creative production teams to address all the challenges and needs listed above. It boosts the performance of local and remote creative teams while continually syncing all source and WIP files with a cloud-based creative library, kept separate from your corporate DAM.

With CreativeSPACES™, your team can:

Visit us at Adobe MAX

Does CreativeSPACES sound interesting to you? Come visit us at booth #341 in the Adobe MAX Community Pavilion! We’d love to learn more about the challenges you face and how you see CreativeSPACES fitting into your creative production cycle.

We’ll also be giving away nine $200 Amazon gift cards over the three days of the show! Winners will be drawn: Day One (2, 4, 6, and 8 p.m.), Day Two (2, 4, 6 p.m.), and Day Three (2 and 4 p.m.).

Topics: News, Adobe MAX