We’ve all heard about workflows and how important they are to DAM. But what actually are they?

Workflows, at their most basic, are the steps required to create and complete a project or assignment. They include both the tasks and the people who must touch them – either by creating the tasks, approving them, saving them or using them. At their ideal, workflows are systems for moving information and job materials from inception to completion in a timely, virtuous circle.

Workflows can be manual, automated, or a mix of the two.

Manual workflows rely on individuals to guide the process. Many, many agencies work this way, using emails or a walk down the hall to gain an approval or make a change, aiming for a deadline that will likely be missed. Printed copies of layouts or images are shuffled around, marked-up, and eventually returned to the designer or copywriter to review and act on. And then the process starts again. This method leaves every opportunity for lost materials, lost time, lost deadlines and redundant work. I used to work for an agency that used huge manila envelopes for job jackets, and every piece of information related to that job was in it. Just finding the part I needed to address took ages, and the only accountability associated with it were notes written on the job jacket, along with a final due date.

Hybrid workflows use the manual process, but under the umbrella of a project management tool to keep track of who has what when (and if that sentence seems confusing, you should try running one of these workflows!). A hybrid is better than a manual workflow, but still requires oversight by an overworked project manager to follow up on each task in each project she is managing. Because creatives!

Automated workflow systems make use of calendars, collaboration tools, and notification tools to allow team members to get out of the details and focus on their actual creative work. Project timelines are defined and attached to each step of the process. Notifications remind team members about due dates and warn project leaders when dates are missed. The best systems offer collaboration tools such as on-asset comments and annotations - nothing falling out of the job jacket and no missing emails. Tracking and enforcing accountability becomes a non-issue as tasks, dates, and assignments are all within the system. A good automated workflow, through built-in reporting, also provides insight into bottlenecks, into under-resourced teams who may be given too much time, or overstretched staff who aren’t given enough.

Clearly, we are in the automated workflow camp here at Freedom Marketing. We consider them vital in building a performance DAM worthy of the time and effort spent developing that DAM. Contact us to talk about your workflow (or lack of one).