2011-03-04

Future Design Software: Studio+ Project Workflow Tools

Our current software enables us to work at the level of documents but has very little to help with the wider issues of managing a project and the associated work flows. While there is software that solves parts of this problem the real power comes when the pieces come together as an integrated whole. What might such a piece of software look like? Let’s call this hypothetical software Studio+.

At the beginning of a project client details and project details could be input into Studio+. Projects can be based on project templates from a library (or an existing project). Once all deliverables, deadlines and other parameters are known then a full contract can be generated for the client and briefs for the design teams. Studio+ will track the status of such project and alert if something is taking too long. Studio+ will also create appropriate disk directories for projects and schedule appropriate backups.

Studio+ can also create briefs for outsourcing parts of the work to freelancers. Briefs can be sent to certain people or published to an online marketplace for bids. Studio+ has tools to help project managers select from freelance bids, send out briefs, send out source files and integrate completed files into the overall project. Freelancers can temporarily be given shared access to project files.

Once the project is underway Studio+ can automatically associate files and folders with a project. This means that time-based billing can occur automatically when a designer opens a file for work – of course this can be manually modified if the designer leaves the file open while they go for lunch. While time-based billing might not be in use, studio managers will want to know how long designers are spending on tasks to better plan their future human resource needs.

Studio+ has knowledge of the files necessary to create milestone outputs. Once the project reaches a milestone then the files can be assembled and converted for delivery to the client for sign off. Perhaps a studio manager will want to do a final approval before the milestone material is sent to the client. The signoff process can be fully automated via return email.

Studio+ can also communicate status updates to clients and report both the overall progress of a project and when the client is expected to do something (sign off approval or provide content). By integrating project management tools Studio+ is able to estimate the expected finish date of a project. Perhaps clients can engage better with the design process when their role is known.

Studio+ also knows the relationship between a rendered file and the source file that created it. When a source file is changed the designer is asked if they would automatically like to update the rendered file. This applies to JPEGs, Videos, Animations and PDFs.

Once a project is completed Studio+ can archive files for the future and change the file backup policy. Internal reflective reviews can be incorporated to help designers feedback process improvement ideas to management. The account managers will also be signalled to suggest when to do follow up calls to the client.

Better project management and workflow tools can help make the studio more efficient and provide valuable metrics for the proper allocation of resources.

(This is the third article in Future Design Software series.)