Using Data For Outcome-focused Creative Team Management

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Using data for outcome-focused creative team management

Creative hands working together to review data on printed pages.

By Elise Hauser

Posted on 09-14-2021

The top challenges facing creative teams are nothing new. This was the topic of conversation between Russ Somers, CMO at inMotionNow, and Sarah Tinsley, creative manager at American Association of Professional Landmen as they prepared for their Adobe MAX session on Tuesday, October 26 at 3:00 EDT. Creatives often report that they feel that they lack credibility within their organization, and that they struggled to collaborate with stakeholders effectively. These issues are compounded by the additional challenge that the creative team is perceived to be something of a “black box” — many stakeholders are not clear on what exactly it is the creative team does. Sarah emphasized that these challenges are persistent for creative teams. “These are issues that I hear time and time again. Whether I’m in keynote session at a conference or speaking with my peers in breakout sessions, when I’m socializing in creative circles, these are the topics that come up over and over.”

However, creative teams should not despair! Because these challenges are so universal, some enterprising creative teams, like Sarah’s, are finding and sharing innovative ways to overcome them and help their team take their seat at the strategic table. The secret is to find ways to leverage data to tell your team’s story, deeply understand your organization’s work, and collaborate more effectively with stakeholders. As Russ pointed out, “Data is the language of the boardroom. If you want that level of respect, you have to speak the language.”

Focus on outcomes over outputs

Creative teams have the unique experience of working across many departments in their organization. With that kind of reach, teams can choose to have one of two perspectives about their cross-functional work: Either they are a set of hands that work for everyone, or they are the glue that holds the organization together. The difference between those two mindsets is whether the team is focused on the individual outputs they produce, or the impactful outcomes they drive.

This is where data comes in. Creative teams that are strategic partners can leverage data to draw a direct line from the outputs they produce to the outcomes their work drives — how they contribute to organizational goals.

Sarah described how she uses data to support an outcomes-driven mindset. “I recently pulled a report on all the requests my team had received in the first 217 days of 2021. It showed we had received over 250 requests. My initial reaction to the data was to respond to the volume of output. This justified our existence and showed how busy we were. But as I sat with the data, and presented it to organizational leadership, the story that emerged and resonated was not about the volume, but about the impact. It was a story of how many departments in our organization depend on the creative team to help them reach their goals. The creative team is the common denominator across the organization for meeting goals and objectives. This shift in mindset and perception of the creative team was possible because of the data.”

Partner with outside experts to collect data

Data about your work and your process is not the only data that creative teams should be interested in. They should also be keenly intrigued by their target audience — the customer, the industry. What are the challenges your customers (and potential customers) are facing, and how does your organization help solve them?

The creative team should not be siloed. Rather, they should be the driving force behind research and data collection on their customers and their industry. Sarah described how her team partners with outside experts to do this research. “There are two things I love about working with outside experts. First, you get to expand the expertise on your team. You get to level-up your team’s skills by bringing in people that have new areas of knowledge and expertise that we can learn from. Second, you get access to unbiased data, collected by professionals.” Russ expanded on her second point. “An outside researcher is not already steeped in what your organization believes, and so they can provide an unbiased perspective that will help you really understand your customers better.”

Knowledge of your target customer and your industry is key to being a successful strategic partner. You’ll be better equipped to solve the challenges your stakeholders bring to you if you have a strong understanding of your customers, supported by data.

Say “no” with a smile

The hardest thing most creatives have to do on a daily basis is collaborate with stakeholders. Specifically, managing expectations about the work they are requesting. But managing those expectations, setting boundaries, saying “no”, or even offering alternatives is nearly impossible if the creative team is only viewed as a set of hands.

The bottom line is that creatives can’t just say yes to everything that is asked of them. But you also want to come across as an enthusiastic partner, so how do you walk that tightrope? In Sarah’s words, “Say no with a smile. Say ‘no’ and then offer context and an opportunity to collaborate on an alternative idea.” Giving context to your ‘no’ softens the blow for stakeholders and providing a safe space to brainstorm new ideas shows them that you do still care to help them. Your team is a safe space where they can be open and collaborative without fear.

Fear and lack of understanding are what make stakeholders so difficult to work with. They need the work the creative team produces, and when you push back, it scares them. If you give them context and show that you really do want to help them, then they will be more receptive to having a thoughtful conversation where you can take a more strategic role. This won’t be a one-time fix for all your stakeholder problems, but it will begin a new cycle that gives the creative team a more strategic role.

Learn more about how your creative team can make the shift to being outcomes-focused and data driven by joining Russ and Sarah at their Adobe MAX session “Using Data for Outcome-Focused Creative Team Management” at 3:00 PM ET on Tuesday, October 26th. Be sure to register for Adobe MAX and add their session to your schedule!

Topics: Adobe MAX, Insights & Inspiration, Events, Adobe MAX 2021, Creative Cloud,

Products: Creative Cloud,

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