As part of our countdown to year-end projects, we thought we’d share a few of the ways we have been able to speed up our processes in ways that can help our clients meet their important goals and deadlines.

At Hammock, we have spent the past 25 years developing and managing media that our clients use to communicate directly with their customers—rather than through intermediaries like “paid media” advertising, or “earned media” public relations.

Because the media we produce is always tied to specific release dates and often depends on a wide array of creators, vendors and team members from both Hammock and our clients, we’ve found it necessary to refine the processes, resources, and mindset necessary to get jobs done on time and on budget.

Here are five tips to ensure a collaborative customer media or content project can be completed on time.

  1. Develop a timeline that is realistic, agreed upon by all parties, and stick to it. Any revisions to timelines should be rare. Timelines for projects should be like train schedules. Once the train has left the station, or once final approvals have been granted, consider it gone. While digital media makes it possible and tempting to continue revising content well past deadlines, holding off doesn’t usually make it better, but it does make it late, and it has a cascading effect, causing the next piece to be late, and so on.
  2. Use project management software such as Basecamp so that all involved know precisely where the project is along the journey. Project management software does several great things, but one of the most important functions is group accountability. To-dos on your private calendar can sometimes slide, but when they’re tied specifically to a project involving other people, missing one of your assignments can start a cascade of events that lead to a train wreck. Project management software also allows you to keep all of the elements of a project in a common space, for all team members to access or update when necessary.
  3. Develop timelines based on experience and long-term relationships with independent contributors or vendors. Don’t assume that printers, illustrators, writers or web developers have no other jobs but yours.
  4. Identify those with the ability to stop the process at critical steps and plan accordingly. These people can be logjams (you know who we’re talking about), so look for ways to accommodate their needs for control—or tendency toward procrastination. Allow time in your process for them to review whatever it is they need to review, as early in the process as possible, and use an agreement that assumes approval if they have not responded by a specific date. Be sure such a deadline is not arbitrary but is tied to critical delivery and budgetary repercussions.
  5. Communicate constantly using project management software, particularly one that tracks email and text messages. Even if it seems like a small project, the number of different people who want to participate will be far more than you imagine. Make sure that your process for getting things done isn’t always about “command and control,” but is also about communication and collaboration.