You’ve probably read countless articles about the importance of standardization in digital media and how you need it to be successful. However, implementing a standardized process that results in standardized data, metrics, benchmarks and expectations is not a simple task. There are numerous challenges to overcome and plans to set in place for standardization to truly set you up for success.
In addition, it’s important to be aware that standardization is not always about the present. Commitment to a single data structure may only provide small wins in the short term, and may only bear true results months or years down the road.
Here are some key takeaways we’ve learned in going through a standardization process:
Everyone has to be on-board.
Everyone who is going to be impacted by changes needs to be included in the development of the new process. Standardization is not created by a “data or process person” tucked away in the back of the office. It requires true buy-in from all stakeholders. Anyone within an organization who touches the workflow must be on the same page; or at least reading the same book. Without this, there will be late adopters who ignore changes and continue to follow the old methods that have worked in the past. You will also need everyone on the same page in order to receive valuable feedback in areas that may have been overlooked. While this might not seem like a huge deal upfront, everyone down the funnel, as well as your final output will suffer and cause significant delays to achieving your final goal.
Typically, the people who are forced to change their day-to-day process are not the ones who see the benefits first. Make sure they know this and be ready to explain the need for change as many times as necessary. Positivity and professionalism are huge here. When I ask a colleague to change his/her process, I need to respect that I am effectively forcing them to re-learn the job on the fly. Even if standardization will benefit someone in the long run, a little empathy in the present goes a long way!
Know your end goal:
Try telling someone to change the way they have been doing their job – maybe for years – without giving them a good reason why. Without being able to clearly justify the benefit of standardization you will only be met with push-back. And reasonably so. Why should someone change their workflow if there is no tangible benefit in sight? Being able to clearly explain why you’re making changes is key and will keep you on track. Prepare a list of both short term and long-term benefits so you can have an educated discussion with all the stakeholders and help them understand the needs.
Be confident about what you’re asking people to do/change:
In order to establish the best process, you will need to have a deep understanding of all the different technologies you are working with and how they work together – and more importantly how they don’t. This may require a lot of self-sufficiency and guidance from in-house platform experts to learn new platforms and how they could speak to each other. Be careful to exclusively rely on existing knowledge as platforms and technologies update their capabilities all the time.
Take time to meet with each team and stakeholder to understand their existing workflow. Focus on achieving your end goal while minimizing changes to a functioning work product. A common error is to over-complicate a new process – often to the point where it negatively affects the team’s efficiency. Sometimes the most accurate or efficient process doesn’t provide enough benefit to make the lives of the team that much more difficult. As much as this is about data and accuracy, it is more about sustainability and scalability. The more rigorous standards serve no purpose if nobody is able to follow it.
Another thing to consider during this phase is that you should not ignore smaller pain points just because they do not appear to immediately impact your larger objective. For example, if your working to standardize all the performance data coming from your media platforms, ignoring an inefficiency in the way display media is booked will eventually come back to bite you when they need to update their process again to solve for that teams’ specific needs. Remember, keeping each channel / team functioning at their best works in your favor.
Be strict – it’s necessary.
Remember, whatever process you put in place, you’re the one who needs to police it. Without strict oversight and training you will not succeed. Documentation will help but will not solve everything. Be ready to assist others with the transition and continually check the work to make sure it is being done correctly. Make sure you or others have dedicated time to continue to support and train those who need it.
When you’re ready, pick a date and stick with it. Once you have all your ducks in a line and know the process that is needed, a firm date must be agreed upon. Without this you will find it difficult to show any results.
As mentioned before, there will always be stragglers to adopt a new process. While it’s understandable for a few delays, do not be a push over.
Efficiency + Scale
While freedom to work the way you want is great, it can be highly inefficient across any team. Picture yourself as a manager proofing your teams work if each team member provides you a deliverable that looks nothing like anyone else’s. Or if all the deliverables you receive all look exactly the same, but the process to get there was completely different. As you can imagine, this makes it tough for you to be able to confidently do your job, and even more difficult to back track if you find an error. This is why using the same process across a team is necessary. Not only that, but it allows your team to start to share the workload. In media everyone knows there are ups and downs in workloads. Being able to pick up your peer’s work without learning an entirely new and unique process can help distribute the workloads and open the door to take full advantage of your vacation.
In addition to gaining better support from your peers, I promise that as everyone gets used to a standardized process, the accuracy of your work will increase. In addition, you will start to see others on the team step up and provide guidance for those who are struggling.
In case you missed it: data is the future of Media. Having clean structured data will open the doors for what you can do in the future. As media gets more diverse across all channels, data will pave the road to what actually works. Being able to forecast, predict, visualize and purchase media with preexisting knowledge will put you ahead of your competitors. Plus, you will gain access to powerful new tools that will only help further capabilities and shape new goals.
K E V I N A S H W O R T H
Associate Director, Business Intelligence