Workflows in the Real World

January 17, 2017 Marcus Varner

by Marcus Varner

We sat down with Adam Messano, digital product manager at Advanced Auto Parts, to find out how he has improved his team’s workflows over time, with help from Workfront’s enterprise work management solution.

Q: What struggles have you and your team at Advanced Auto Parts had in regards to using workflows?

Messano: The team had difficulty with worfklows due to a steady stream of projects always coming in, which prevented them from being able to simply stop and assess what was needed to better organize and prioritize work.

It became a horrible Catch-22 situation where you want to call a “timeout” and just spend a week refining processes, but in online marketing? You don’t get that luxury. New projects pop up or edits to existing ones occur every day, and we have to stay agile. It came down to trying to document them, to review and edit them, on the fly daily.


Q: How did these struggles affect your team's work (e.g., missed deadlines, conflict, or compliance issues)?

Messano: Resource management was hugely impacted by this, as we would have resources either over-allocated or under-allocated due to the lack of true oversight into our workflows. As a result of that, deadlines were being missed. We ended up with the true team “workhorses” having to get work done on an incredibly short timeline along with the regular projects they had, so we risked burnout very greatly.


Q: What events or experiences motivated you to improve your workflows?

Messano: Having good people on both sides—the resources who did the work as well as the business owners—raising the flag consistently about deadlines being missed or moved without them knowing. When team members we trust say there is a problem, we take action on it, because as we run a relatively small team, it has to be responsive. Even though Operations is more or less two people, we started the steps to get things on track.


Q: What steps did you take to map out your workflows? What challenges, if any, did you find in this process? What benefits?

Messano: Initially all the work was done in Powerpoint, just to visually see how things were flowing at that point, what we wanted to see in a revised workflow, and give us a chance to compare the two. Part of this process went quickly, as we’re a small group, so we each know how things work. But we set up a short series of meetings to review what we had documented to get a confirmation on “current state” and then worked to outline “ideal state.”

The main challenge there was that everyone had an opinion of what was best, and as some of those team members were Directors, and yet in conflict with each other, we had to find the best path forward to drive improvement and make everyone happy, more or less. But there were great benefits just in the documentation of it all. That had never been done so formally, and when something is documented, it’s far easier to review and discuss.


Q: In what way, if any, does your team continue to streamline and improve your workflows? How has this benefitted your team?

Messano: Currently the main focus, in regards to workflows, is what we call the “omni-channel” creative brief. This allows us to get our arms around one project brief that covers both digital and print without having stakeholders/ business owners be confused on which briefs to fill out and when. Plus the team can read one brief and get all details from one, central source of truth. The benefits impact both print teams and digital ones, as well as having the business owners go to a single document for starting their work; so it’s a great benefit to the workflow overall.

Here are a few more insights from Messano, as recorded at Workfront’s 2016 user conference in Florida.


About the Author

Marcus Varner

Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.

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