Collecting Critical Data Begins at Project Intake

This is a guest post contributed by Cella Consulting, the leading expert in in-house creative agency management and operations

Creative leaders are most effective in implementing operational changes when their decision-making is data driven. Quantitative data enables confident and swift decision-making and enables them to justify their decisions to their staff, their clients and executive leadership. Unfortunately, too few creative leaders have access to this level of data.

The mission-critical data that creative departments generate fall into two main categories: project intake and time tracking data. While I believe both are imperative, we’ll focus on project intake data see (check out this earlier blog about the importance of time tracking whether you are a chargeback department or not).

The Critical Data to Collect at Project Intake

While each department will have some unique requirements and its own nomenclature for these categories, I would strongly recommend collecting the following information at project intake:

Project Name

While you aren’t going to report against this, it’s how you’ll refer to a project now and in the future. Don’t worry if the actual deliverable title changes over time, what’s more important is that you understand the purpose of the deliverable. For example “Campus Recruiting Brochure” or “Product XYZ Launch Landing Page” are fine titles.

Project Start Date and End Date

This will allow you to report on project timelines. At the close-out stage, the end date should be updated to reflect the actual end date. Some departments choose to input “Estimated End Date” at Project Intake and then at close-out have a new field entitled “Actual End Date”—this allows the department to learn how often and by how much end dates are moved and in what direction (“I need it sooner” or “I need four more revisions” which may back up the project).

Project Type

You will need to create a standardized list of project types your department creates—this list may be quite long (maybe up to 50 and in some cases more). If you have more than 10­–20% of your projects falling into a miscellaneous category, it’s time to review the project titles of those miscellaneous projects to identify new project types. Project types may include things such as brochure, merchandiser, stationery, fact page, postcard, micro site, landing page, HTML email, video, etc. When the percentage of any given project type gets high, you should review those projects with your team to understand if it would be meaningful to break out the project type further. For example, there is significant difference in a “talking head, 60-second video” and a “five-minute, script-based video.” A junior team member could possibly manage one of those videos, and the other requires a senior team member and knowing how the total video work splits across the two allows you to hire and train appropriately.

Client Name and Business Unit/Account

It’s important to understand who is bringing you work and how often. In addition, you may want to cut your data by account. For example, Business Unit A brings 300 projects per year, and x% are fact sheets. If your department is a chargeback department, a chargeback account number should also be requested at this time.

Client Location

If your internal clients are in multiple locations, you may find it helpful to track their location so that you can determine when it might make sense to hire a team in that location versus serve those clients remotely. And if you already have teams in multiple locations, this will help reinforce your staff to location ratio.


Each project should be identified with a tier, in which Tier 1 projects are those that are complex and require original concepting, Tier 2 projects are implementation of the approved concepts, and Tier 3 are production design/refinement of established work. Tiering work allows for creative leaders to hire and coach team members to most effectively and efficiently meet the business needs of the department’s clients.

Catalog/Reference Number

If your company or department uses a standard identification system to reference projects, that identifier should be established and attached to the project at intake.

This list is not all-inclusive, as your reporting requirements/business needs may require additional data to be collected. Regardless of your chargeback status, you should be keeping a master list of every project that enters your department and collecting key pieces of information about each of those projects. Collecting this data will allow you to report on, such as:

  • Who your customers are
  • Where your customers are located
  • What projects your team creates most often
  • What percentage of your work is Tier 1 versus Tier 2 versus Tier 3
  • The average timeline for projects (by project type)

All of these are key data points to help you better understand your department’s operations and opportunities to provide more effective and efficient creative services for your company, which in turn increases your department’s value to the organization.

Tip From Function Point

Having a single integrated system to organize projects into smaller jobs, input time against those tasks, and issue financial reports are key in helping your creative agency focus on producing successful creative work. An online project management software like Function Point have a robust list of features to help your agency take care of the details.

Cella Consulting is the leading expert in in-house creative agency management and operations. They work with many of the world’s leading creative teams and defines industry best practices for efficient and effective operations. Visit Cella Consulting for information about how they can add value to your business through consulting, coaching, and training.

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