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Tuesday 2¢: Is Creative Operations a Thing?

Tuesday 2¢: Is Creative Operations a Thing?

Welcome to the Tuesday 2¢ . It’s Tuesday, the weekend is a distant memory and it’s time to let off some steam and give our 2 cents on a hot industry topic. This week Ian Truscott discusses the increasingly popular term 'creative operations' and it's place in the content management industry.


As I’ve explored on this blog a few times, this industry loves its niches and acronyms, and often these are technology silos. But sometimes the business practice of content management and publication becomes a little fragmented, reinforced by the mini-ecosystems of practitioners and solutions which inevitably pop up around these new terms as every industry commentator, consultant and snake oil salesman jumps on the shiny new bandwagon.

One of these terms which seems to be getting a bit of industry airplay recently is ‘creative operations’. There are events dedicated to the topic, by folks like Henry Stewart and IEN , and I am seeing an increase in the number of industry analysts and commentators using this term. So, I thought with this week’s article I’d have a little poke at what this is and why it’s got everyone talking.

Googling does not reveal a great deal, clearly, it’s a young term in the lexicon of content management. Henry Stewart describes it as being “the tools, systems and methods that maximise productivity in the creative process” and in this post on LinkedIn , describing its event last year, it states that:

“..three core elements of the discipline were regularly highlighted as important for transformation – ‘People’, ‘Process’ and ‘Technology’. Although each was championed to varying degrees, both the audience and speakers appeared to agree that no creative operation could succeed without paying careful attention to all three” .

This sounds very familiar and can be applied to any content management practice. Additionally, if you think a little more broadly, you could dip into a number of publications over the last two decades and find a similar descriptions from the likes of Bob Boiko in his Understanding Content Management in 2001 , Lisa Welchman (who in 2007 described this as Web Operations ), or contemporary writers on content marketing such as Robert Rose, who talks about content operations within the best practice of content marketing . So how is this different?

The clue to the differentiation of this specific niche in content management is in the ‘creative’ part of the term, and if you know creatives, they are last to get onboard with anything exuding even a faint whiff of “operations”. I worked at a significant agency, part of McCann that at the time, which just a couple of years ago was using shared drives through which to collaborate.

James Naylor, formerly of Hearst Magazines and now leading publishing system operations at Slimming World, describes this really nicely when he talks about letting creatives create (and you can learn more about that in this webinar ).

But, isn’t managing assets for creative folks just fancy talk for digital asset management(DAM)? Well if you look at the folks who are talking about it, you would certainly think so, as it’s mostly DAM vendors and industry watchers. But I feel that DAM, while it’s certainly a business practice which is closely associated with technology and the management of assets once created, but the term ‘creative operations’ can be applied to the entire creative process.

So, it’s nothing new then. It’s a refinement and repackaging of existing ideas and functions. But why has it become especially relevant today?

Well, it’s simple. Until relatively recently, for most organizations, making content management efficient was, dare I say it, a relatively academic exercise. It was absolutely the right thing to do, but with the volumes of content within these organizations nobody in the C suite really cared. The benefits come first with scale.

But, that scale of content and creative management is now coming to most reasonably large organizations. Perhaps Rahel Anne Bailie , author of “ Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits ” puts it best in this presentation when she describes the digitally disrupted world of personalized, AI powered customer experience, delivered in omnichannel as “Service 4.0”, and puts content operations very much at the centre of how organizations need to get their content shit together.

I’ve digressed a little, but to answer my own question – is ‘creative operations’ a thing? Yes it is, however it is not a new or distinct thing. It is the language which content management professionals use to involve creatives in the optimization of their content machine, to build the efficiency needed to feed the explosion in the consumer’s demand for content.

Ian Truscott Ian Truscott

Ian Truscott has the unofficial and honory title of the “Träger des Firmen-Megaphons” for censhare, bringing 20 years of B2B software experience to our company (surely starting as a child) to lead marketing here. Luckily for us in the Munich office, he’s found the kettle and some tea bags – look at him, he’s happy.

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