Internal Design Team versus Multiple stakeholders. And the winner is…

The University of New South Wales (now branded UNSW Sydney) was established circa 1960 and is one of the largest universities in Australia. A member of the Group of Eight – a coalition of research intensive Australian universities – UNSW is ranked 4th nationally and within the top 50 universities worldwide. The University has nine Faculties and numerous Divisions and is located in Kensington – around 7kms from the Sydney CBD.

With multiple stakeholders (located throughout the Faculties and individual Divisions) all needing to create content for a variety of audiences, a decision was taken by the University to establish ‘Creative Services’ – an internal design/production team that would achieve consistency of production and support the users in the network. This centralised internal design team produced a range of work including a variety of major, university-wide communication pieces together with meeting ad-hoc design requests submitted by each of the Faculties and Divisions throughout the year.

Click to download the UNSW case study as a PDF.

“The idea of centralised Internal Design is good … but the reality is very different.”

The issues the UNSW Creative Services team faced are not that dissimilar to those faced by any internal design team we tend to encounter in the corporate sector. What seems like a great idea of having your own team available to handle a myriad of internal design briefs quickly unravels when waves of minor requests come flooding in from the network. Requests like:

“Can I get you to change the copy on this Faculty invite?”
“Can you change the headline on this eDM header for the VC’s Office?”
“Could you include these sponsor logos on this flier for the Law School?“
“We’ll need a different location for the Open Day wayfinding poster – can you draw up a map?”

The challenges of handling the spectrum of requests that come through invariably become a traffic nightmare for these internal design teams and more often than not, there is no budget for a Traffic Manager (as there often is in an Ad Agency). The result is that the production workflow tends to become semi-chaotic – understandable given the variation in briefing quality, levels of communication, the inevitable rounds of author’s corrections and the lack of transparency around timelines/deadlines.

For the Creative Services team at UNSW, these challenges were absorbing considerable amounts of time. The pipeline of smaller job requests from Faculties and Divisions and endless rounds of changes therein were getting in the way of their creative design work (the work that most design teams would rather be doing). This had a detrimental effect on team morale and also on the Team Leader, who was juggling the logistics of managing the workflow and the people resources and making sure the bigger projects kept moving in amongst the sea of Faculty work. Then there’s the ‘Scope Creep’ that typically comes with handling these smaller tasks – where what appear to be minor revisions and change requests organically expand into bigger projects that soak up many more design hours. Suddenly the afternoon is gone completely on something that should have taken half an hour to punch out.

Looking at the production workflow from the perspective of the Faculties and Divisions, it’s easy to see how frustrated they would have been too. Apart from a lack of clarity around production timelines there was little or no capacity for this internal production model to accommodate the odd ‘rush’ job (and there’s inevitably a rush job that pops up every now and then in marketing) in amongst such a heavy and scattered workload.

Production issues aside, there’s another serious loss of time and energy suffered by almost every internal design team in the world (and most marketing teams too) – and that’s the inevitable ‘Hunt for Assets’ that happens around the clock, throughout the year. It’s a little-known fact (https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/technology-media-and-telecommunications/our-insights/the-social-economy) that without a formal Digital Asset Management platform, nearly 20% of an internal design team’s time is lost searching for digital assets (for their own use and for the use of others in the network). Then there’s the need to balance the Rights Managements issues around these assets, saving/filing these assets with protocols that enable speedy recall, finding a central place to store them securely and working out which assets can be distributed to which users in the network.

...without a formal Digital Asset Management platform, nearly 20% of an internal design team’s time is lost searching for digital assets

Digital Asset Management is not a static challenge. With the explosion of permutations of images/video assets/logos required for the growing horizon of new media comes a serious need for sophisticated sorting and searching systems that harness assets and save time. With UNSW, the plethora of imagery generated for each Faculty and Division was significant and growing fast, with an ever-expanding list of random image banks located on different systems throughout the university and no way of being able to centrally search all assets.

Furthermore, a significant proportion of these assets varied considerably in file size and resolution with little process around their application. This resulted in the situation that end users were creating their own content using images that simply weren’t big enough (physical size and resolution) for the medium without knowing this until the files had been produced/printed.

Finally, a significant amount of UNSW photographic assets featured ‘talent’ with strict usage rights and specific usage timelines. Contravening arrangements around using these assets represented a whole host of financial and legal risks. By contrast, there was the conflicting aim to provide greater access to images to alleviate the pressure on the UNSW Internal Design team. How do you do ensure correct asset use if you loosen the controls around usage?

“There’s got to be a better solution.”

In 2018, UNSW approached MyAdbox to explore solutions to the pain points they were experiencing. Much as we will do for any production/marketing operation, we began by listening a lot and discovering the context around those problems. Sometimes the issues don’t emerge until you’ve had the chance to talk with the team and get them to discuss the way they’re working. With UNSW we held a thorough scoping session. Not just with the Creative Services team, but also with Faculty and Divisional representatives so that we had a clear picture of what the production model looked like and where we could add value.

In these talks, we elicited the major issues, deriving quality information around what a more efficient model might look like – approval processes, streamlined workflow, brand consistency, access to assets, how to minimise turnaround times etc.

We returned to UNSW with a MyAdbox automated Brand Management proposal that introduced the power of sophisticated Digital Asset Management software combined with an automated content creation platform. This proposal completely changed the University’s production workflow model, placing the Brand Management system at the centre of the equation and liberating the Creative Services team from the daily grind of asset hunting and run-of-the mill content production.

The Digital Asset Management (DAM) software instantly solved UNSW’s growing digital asset management nightmare by providing a system that dealt completely with the management, secure access and streamlined distribution of digital assets at all levels.

The DAM put the power of sophisticated asset management in the hands of the UNSW Creative Services team for their own internal use and provided the University’s Faculty and Divisional users with the ability to search, download and distribute assets for their own purposes, with clear process around permissions and rights management. In so doing, it has saved the Creative Services team an enormous amount of time in answering requests for assets and making sure the right asset at the right size is despatched to an authorised user.

Next, we introduced the UNSW team to a dynamic content creation platform capable of automating content production. Using coded templates and an intuitive content creation system, this platform has put the power of content creation into the hands of the University’s Faculties and Divisions, ensuring complete brand compliance and content production in minutes.

Long lead times on producing material from scratch and frustratingly long delays on simple author’s corrections to these pieces are a thing of the past. The time savings for the UNSW network are enormous.

The content creation platform has tremendous flexibility to accommodate an endless variety of workflow permissions and this is precisely how we introduced it into the UNSW production workflow model. To avoid cross-divisional confusion, the content in system was arranged by Faculty, thereby preventing the possibility that users would ‘accidentally’ build content for a faculty they didn’t belong to. The system empowers all users, but at the same time eliminates the chance that users could create material that they shouldn’t or approve something that they shouldn’t.

Conclusion

The UNSW Creative Services team are no longer drowning in a sea of jobs requested by Faculties and Divisions across the campus – and they’ve completely regained the time they were wasting hunting for assets (nearly 20% of their working week). They are now able to focus their efforts on bigger picture design projects (such as Student Recruitment) and can rest easy in the knowledge that their DAM and content creation platform are working behind the scenes to keep the network happy with more straightforward content creation and hassle-free access to approved assets.

For UNSW Faculties and Divisions – the benefits are tangible. They are now able to create all their frequently requested materials quickly - on brand - and without the frustrations associated with time consuming author’s corrections. It has reduced interdepartmental conflict and has given the network complete confidence that they are using assets that are approved for use. With the smarts of the content creation system, inconsistencies in faculty colours/logos/typefaces etc are a thing of the past as they are now pre-set into system templates. Finally, the streamlined approval workflow within the MyAdbox solution has meant that every role was accountable for each step of the process with rigour around approvals and compliance.

The UNSW/MyAdbox solution proves that when it comes to Internal Design team versus Multiple Stakeholders, it’s possible that everyone wins. For more information around introducing MyAdbox Brand Management software into your business, contact Andrew Baker - abaker@myadbox.com

Click to download the UNSW case study as a PDF.