Creative workflow refers to the process undertaken by a company's creative team or department and its associated workers to complete a project, ranging from obviously artistic work such as design to more subtly clever projects such as company branding. Miscommunication, inefficiency, and ineffective workflow management of creative projects and creative teams can be costly in terms of time, money, and human resources, particularly if unsatisfied creative people leave a company as a result. An effective creative workflow system will allow all team members to do what they do best rather than become mired in unnecessary procedures. This will help projects to run smoothly and make them more likely to be completed successfully on time and within budget.
The process of developing a creative project from concept to final product includes a number of stages. Generally, at the start of a project, a concept is conceived and expanded on, assets and resources are gathered, and a draft is produced. This draft is then reviewed once or — more likely — multiple times, edited based on that review, and finalized. Only then is the project signed off on as completed. This process requires a great deal of communication and cooperation to execute successfully.
Creative workflow has become a particularly important concept for creative projects as budgetary and time constraints increase. Project management approaches based in mechanical industry may not be effective for the very different kind of tasks facing creative teams and the way that these teams work most effectively. Creative projects have greatly increased in complexity since the time when they were solely paper-based. They now require a dynamic and interactive approach between multiple people and across multiple platforms, usually multiple departments and, sometimes, multiple countries.
There are many software programs available to assist with developing and managing creative workflow. Many creative projects use a number of different software programs, and creative workflow management software can help to integrate work completed in various formats by various people. It can also help ensure that only the most current work is available for team members to use, so work is not duplicated and no one uses old and possibly inaccurate data from someone else to complete his or her own part of the work. Work can also be recorded and issues that arise can be flagged for future discussion or management approval.
Real-time collaboration is key in the creative process, so this is a feature that is emphasized in creative workflow management programs. Creative teams may have members all over the world yet need to communicate with these members in all stages of the project. Many different types of people work on creative project teams, including salespeople, managers, administrators, legal advisers, and financial advisers, as well as designers and content creators. An effective creative workflow helps all of these people to complete their work to the best of their abilities.