project lifecycles for creative work management

Why Creative Work Needs Project Management Systems: Project Lifecycles

Remember way back when in November when I started this series and definitely thought I would finish it before the year was up? Yeah, me too 😂 Now that we’re halfway through 2021, and I’m settled in my new role (more on that later!) I figured it was time to get back to this topic.

Photo from Unsplash

One of the most important aspects of using a project (or task) management software as a creative is having a defined workflow that reflects every stage of the project, so you know when copy is still in development, or it’s being designed and isn’t quite ready for review. These workflow steps can be as granular or as broad as you’d like; here is an example of a more specific workflow:

  • Assigned
  • Copy in Progress
  • Copy in Review
  • Ready for Design
  • Design in Progress
  • Design in Review
  • Approved
  • Deployed

And a broad workflow:

  • Ready to Start
  • In Progress
  • Ready for Review
  • Complete

I’ve seen both of these work well, but it really depends on what works best for you and your team. To create customized workflow, you (& your team) need to look at the typical flow of a project, and identify the repeatable steps. Even if a project may get tossed back & forth between ‘in design’ and ‘in review’, you don’t necessarily need a step for each revision. Most project management systems will allow you to move between statuses in a non-linear fashion, so it would be very rare to need ‘revision 1, revision 2’ etc as workflow statuses.

Most creative projects follow the below workflow:

StatusWhat It Means
Assigned / Project Kickoff / Ready to Start Project or task has been scoped and has the right information to be able to start work
In Progress / Copy in ProgressTypically Copy or Content will first work on the task/project before it moves to design
Ready for Review / Copy in ReviewThe work that has been performed so far is ready for review by the requester and/or stakeholders
[Back to] In Progress / Design in Progress / Ready for DesignIf you don’t have a status specific to ‘design is ready to start,’ or similar, putting it back to In Progress and alerting the designer it is ready works just as well
[Back to] Ready for Review / Design in ReviewThe design work is ready for review by requester and/or stakeholders
Approved / Complete / Ready to LaunchEveryone involved has approved and your task/project is complete!
(Optional) DeployedIf you want to have a status for if the task/project has actually gone out the door and been appropriately deployed or put in the right places

Make sure to see what your system will allow – some systems have a limit on the number of statuses in a workflow.

Once you have the workflow steps outlined, make sure to socialize it with your team and get them on board. Does this way of thinking work for them? Will they remember to move a task to the next step? Who will be responsible for making sure the traffic is kept moving?

Once everyone is onboard, put your new workflow steps in your system, and make sure everyone who will be using this workflow knows what status should be used when. And you’re done! 🎉