Following Adobe's acquisition of Workfront at the turn of the year, executives at last week's Adobe Summit talked up Workfront as a marketing system of record, as my colleague Jon Reed has outlined. Much of that messaging revolves around the value of digitizing repeatable processes for speed and efficiency, as illustrated in the story of Yellow Shoes, the Disney organization's internal advertising agency. But a system of record is nothing without data. To understand that angle, the story told by Lincoln Financial, another longstanding Workfront customer, is instructive.
Lincoln Financial Group is a Fortune 500 business that operates a variety of insurance and investment management businesses, offering life insurance, annuities, retirement plans, group benefits, income protection and the like. Four separate marketing groups adopted Workfront in 2018 as a replacement for an existing system based on FileMaker. The initial goal was to improve efficiency by putting in place a more robust set of standardized processes on a system that had better integrations, faster uploads, and greater reliability than what it replaced. The new system has proved its worth — Lincoln has measured a 40% increase in output as a result of adopting Workfront, says Liz Tarter, AVP Marketing Operations at Lincoln.
Documenting and evolving processes
A primary goal was to get a better handle on what work was being done and to enhance processes. Documenting processes was a key part of the implementation phase, making sure that when Workfront went live, people knew what to do and that they had everything they would need at their fingertips. Subsequently, Lincoln has been able to evolve its processes within Workfront to make them more robust and efficient.
For example, it has baked in processes around quality control and asset consistency. The Workfront templates now include a build phase and a quality control phase that every project has to go through. Tarter explains:
If something's designed by a designer, it has to go through brand approval to make sure that anything that we're creating, it can be a brochure or a social media post, everything is on brand. If it's not then it has to be iterated and changed. So that's at the top of the schedule. Then towards the end, when we're about to release something, we have a quality control phase, and that's where the lead designer, and the person who ultimately submitted the work, they have to sign off on it.
We record all those approvals, just to make sure that everybody stacks hands and is in agreement that, before we release this, everybody has checked it, it's on brand, there's no errors, and we feel confident that the deliverable that we're releasing is at the highest quality.
The initial roll-out was carefully prepared, with a lot of attention paid to involving a cohort of early adopters in testing the design, who would later become ambassadors for the system during the roll-out. Lincoln developed a series of personas for different types of users and how they would experience the system. This recognized that people who completed tasks, such as creative designers, proofreaders and coders, would have different priorities and actions than, for example, those who submitted work requests, or managers who would be more interested in viewing performance metrics and resource allocation. More recently, the Workfront system has extended its reach into new groups and activities. Tarter recounts:
Always our intention was to continue to grow the system and bring in more types of work and different departments within the tool. Since our launch, we have increased the types of work — now we're tracking social media and webinars and those digital types of work. We still track traditional types of work, but we have moved more into the digital space.
Then last year, at this time, we brought in our corporate advertising and our corporate social media teams into the tool. That helps us to continue to grow the platform as the central source of truth, so we can get all the information and the data that we need to run the reports for the teams and the individuals that need it.
Making use of the data
Initially, the data collected in the Workfront system established baselines that showed what work the four marketing teams were accomplishing — the number of active, current and completed projects, which divisions were requesting the most work, and what type of work was each organization doing? Over time, other data points were added, such as the timelines from when a work request is submitted to when it's due to be completed, the split between traditional and digital projects, and the ratio of new projects versus updates of existing pieces. Tarter explains:
This is really valuable information, especially to senior executives. It also gave us a good look at trends and patterns of behaviors, and where the work is fleshing out. In the descriptive analytics bucket, this has been a homerun for us using Workfront, to be able to get those reports and dashboards in a timely basis, and to get the fields that we want in the system and being able to report on the things that matter to us.
The system was put to the test at the onset of the pandemic, when the organization let go of a couple dozen contractors. Tarter kept a close eye on project volumes to make sure the remaining staff were not overwhelmed. In the prior two years, the Workfront data had shown that 65% of projects were completed on time. That benchmark stayed the same in 2020, despite having fewer resources. Tarter comments:
The fact that we stayed consistent with the on-time rates, even through that loss of consultants, to me was a big win for us — and being able to share that with our senior management.
It's also important to note that individual users as well as managers are able to look at the metrics and suggest improvements to how processes operate. With the adjustment to working from home, more than 50 enhancements were suggested by users during 2020, a 225% increase on the prior year. Tarter concludes:
The data and the reporting and the dashboards is so important, you're really providing value to your organization. Not just for senior management to make strategic decisions, but the end user, the individuals — the personas I talked about earlier — to help them to do their work more efficiently and more effectively.