Creative Workflows

Creative project management 101

What it is, why you need it, and the creative project management tools to help you along the way.



min read

Sep 25, 2023

Memorable, authentic creative assets bring brands to life, engaging customers and driving sales. But what happens when a creative project stalls or veers off course? Copy writers, graphic designers, video producers and advertisers may have limitless imagination, but strategizing how to move projects down the pipeline may not be what motivates them.

Creative project management 101

Enter creative project management! Whether using creative project management software or upskilling to the role of a creative project manager, defined processes prevent bottlenecks and help ensure successful project delivery so the creative team can focus on what they do best - delivering creative. Let’s take a look at the benefits and challenges of creative project management, as well as some tips and tools for implementing creative project management tools successfully.

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What is creative project management?

The creative project management process gives creative teams the guidance and structure they need to deliver projects as expected and on time. A common mode of project management for creative agencies, creative project management can help any brand or organization maximize efficiency without stifling creativity.  

While traditional project management focuses mainly on objectives, timelines, budgets, and resource allocation, creative project management has the added goal of nurturing innovation. That means creative project management tools, procedures, and metrics must be flexible enough to inspire teams and adapt with every creative breakthrough and project iteration, all while fostering team collaboration.

A creative project manager, therefore, must be skilled not only in moving work forward but also in helping creative teams work together to realize their vision. This role is also sometimes referred to as a “producer” or “interactive producer” and is perfect for someone who is both highly organized and highly creative.

Steps for implementing creative project management

If your organization has come to the realization that your creative projects need a little more structure, here’s how to get started:

  1. Hire a creative project manager with the right skillset. Not every project manager can manage the creative workflow process. You’ll need to find someone who is not just a task master but who relates to your creative team and can inspire them to produce quality work.
  1. Define roles and responsibilities. Collaboration flows much more smoothly when everyone understands what's expected of them. Be sure to document who is responsible for what and at what stage so that team members can work toward shared goals without stepping on any toes.

  2. Build a creative brief template. A brief is your first defense against miscommunication and unclear expectations, so it’s important to include ALL of the nitty-gritty. Creating a creative brief template ensures that you won’t forget to include a single detail from one project to the next.

  3. Set up a workflow. You shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel with each new project. A creative workflow makes processes organized, predictable and – most importantly – repeatable, every step of the way.

Strategies for successful creative project management

Once you have your creative project management processes in place, there are a few things you can do to heighten your chances of success.

Focus on relationships.

A creative project manager needs to have a true understanding of their team to encourage their best work. Engage in team building activities and make use of creative collaboration tools to help build a strong relationship where creatives feel inspired, not held back.

Empower creative PMs.

The organizations that have creative project management down to a science are the ones offering their creative project managers plenty of support. This means providing learning and upskilling opportunities to creative project managers who need to keep up in an ever-changing field. After all, there are plenty of jobs out there for skilled talent, so it’s important to keep creative PMs engaged.

Encourage out-of-the-box thinking (with guardrails).

The best creative project managers are just as creative as the rest of their team. They can inspire new ideas and take projects in unexpected (but brilliant) directions. Of course, they’re also there to refocus the team when things go off the rails.

Challenges to effective creative project management

While the right processes and creative project management tools will certainly ease the path to success in the long run, setting up creative project management systems comes with its own set of challenges.

Creative projects involve many stakeholders.

Because creative assets are so important to brand identity, it seems like everyone wants a say. Managing numerous stakeholders with different working styles and goals is challenging, but defining roles and responsibilities from the start can help.

The creative field is ever-changing.

From VR and the metaverse to new social media platforms, the content landscape is evolving rapidly! Throw AI into the mix, and it’s a full time job for creative project managers just to keep up.

Egos can get in the way.

Creative types often feel deeply connected to their work, which is usually a good thing! But when disagreements arise, feelings can get hurt, no matter how constructive the criticism. Creative project managers need to be able to handle varied personalities, sometimes with kid gloves, to keep resentment at bay.

Brands aren’t always well defined.

At one point or another, creatives and creative project managers may find themselves working for a brand without a clear identity. WIthout guidelines and a base to work from, you may find your creative team floundering to deliver assets that are on-brand. Developing a creative brief with buy-in from stakeholders across departments can help avoid off-target messaging.

Creative projects take a loooong time.

Underestimating the length of time a project will take is one of the most common pitfalls of creative project management. From developing a brief to securing feedback and approvals, each step is like a mini-project in and of itself. Be realistic about  your team’s bandwidth, and develop your timeline from there.

Creative project management tools and techniques

Thankfully, there are creative project management platforms, tools, and approaches that can help solve for these challenges. These are some of the most common methodologies:

  • Waterfall – A traditional approach where one phase of a project follows another linearly

  • Agile – A flexible, iterative approach where projects are broken down into milestones and deliverables are met incrementally

  • Scrum – A form of agile project management where teams meet often and work in short sprints 

  • Kanban – An agile framework that takes a visual approach, where each piece of work is represented by a card on a board visible to all team members

No matter what methodology you choose, creative project management tools will keep everyone organized and on track. StreamWork is the first creative project management software custom-built for creatives. Delegate tasks, assign roles, collaborate on work, and route assets for approval all in one place. Project management for creative agencies – and creative project management processes for anyone – just got a whole lot easier.

Ready to give StreamWork a try to get your creative project management systems in order? Book a demo or sign up for your free trial here.

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Meredith is the Founder and CEO of StreamWork, a creative workflow management platform built for teams who work on creative. Meredith has 12+ years experience working as a marketer at Apple, Google, YouTube and Warner Bros., and has worked on hundreds of creative assets with teams large and small. Her mission is to simplify the way teams work on creative.

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