How do they manage a lot of little projects where you work?
April 3, 2008 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Graphic design department question: How do they manage a lot of little projects where you work?

Where I work, we have "job tickets" that are printed out and spray-mounted onto big envelopes, and one person who's entire job is to run around with these. If a client needs something done, an account rep writes it down, then they go to her, she prints out a ticket, glues it to an envelope, stuffs the note inside, and then at some point in the next few days, carries to to a designer. Who then completes the project, and walks the envelope back to her desk.

The whole process seems archaic, and is prone to having her walking around from desk to desk looking for lost tickets. And it seems really poorly suited for very small jobs, that sometimes take two minutes to actually do, since a lot of time goes into running these tickets around.

I've seen web based project management software for managing big projects with teams of people, but I would have to think there is something out there where you could say "make the logo bigger on this by tomorrow" and add it to a designer's queue, and they could work through that list, just checking off jobs as they're done. Since this tends to be a lot of little projects going to a few individuals, rather than a group of individuals working as a team on one big project.
posted by andrewzipp to Work & Money (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I used to work at a film post-production house here in Chicago. Our graphics producer had a list of all the active jobs in his department. He would separate the jobs based on complexity and assign each small job to a junior designer. The more complex jobs would each be assigned to a senior designer. It is the producer's responsibility to track those jobs through to completion.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 2:41 PM on April 3, 2008

You need an online ticketing system, which basically does what your current system does, but better, more efficiently and with no leg power. You log in, raise a ticket, assign it to the developer/designer required, add milestones, end dates etc, and it gets queued. When dealt with the assignee registers completion, the assigner is prompted to check, and when satisfied that the work is done, closes the ticket. There are many other options (check with me, needs discussion, further files here etc) but that's basically it.

We have a wicked one at work which I can't for the life of me recall the name of right now, but there's lots about. This came from a random googling and gives an overview of what I mean.

If there's any way you can get this kind of thing implemented (not just installed but with all workers trained and supported in using) your work place will love you long time.

Unless the current system means people can slack happily, in which case they'll probably chase you from the building with pitchforks. Efficiency is not everyone's raison d'etre ;)
posted by freya_lamb at 3:12 PM on April 3, 2008

Are you familiar with Basecamp? Some people swear by it.

We do something to you guys. We just print out a job ticket and all subsequent revisions/notes/etc are just stapled to the original, so we have a paper trail. We're a small department, so it works for us.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:15 PM on April 3, 2008

We tried basecamp and hated it. Their "your feature request is stupid and you are too" attitude doesn't help.

We have been organizing some web design using zendesk and are favorably impressed. The fact that they add features to improve the product is a huge plus over basecamp.
posted by mrbugsentry at 3:31 PM on April 3, 2008

We used Jira at a previous job of mine and I liked it quite a bit.
posted by GeekAnimator at 3:49 PM on April 3, 2008

I worked in a screen printing company as the art director for 4 years. When I came aboard, jobs were managed with large craft folders (which held the films for the job) that had a printed sheet of paper with all the job details stapled to it. Sounds like your place.

Over the course of my time there, what evolved was this:

1. A separation of jobs between what was short-term/disposable and what was long term/archival. "Jobs" were long term. Proof requests (which may or may not turn into jobs) were short term.

2. I eventually wound up writing a custom built php/mysql workflow system to manage all our jobs (long term). (Search for workflow applications on the internet to find any freely available systems, I don't have any specific recommendations) This provided scheduling and job details with a commenting system to allow users to build a chronological story of the job's life through our systems. I had an alert system built in to notify everyone if there was an issue with a job. This turned out to be awesome - the web-based nature of it meant everyone was always on the same page, in every department.

These days, it's very much the scaffolding that holds the entire business up.

3. For the short term jobs I never got away from paper. It was too much effort to record every minutiae about something that may wind up trashed anyway. I modified David Seah's "Task Up" This was mainly used for proofs, so it stayed with the designer til it was passed off to a sales rep to complete the order (As a designer, I always liked the idea of a physical representation of volume to hold and touch). Change requests were generally submitted via email and got handled with outlook's task management features.

At that point, it either turned into an order (and was put into the system) or wound up in the trash.
posted by finitejest at 3:51 PM on April 3, 2008

We use custom Applescripts and Filemaker to do job tracking. Jobs are entered into the system and tracked as they move in and out of departments. Jobs are numbered, and every part of the job uses the number (Quark, Word, PDF and Powerpoint files) The AppleScripts basically pull files or place files on servers and the tracking is accomplished when the scripts update Filemaker with the answers provided by the designers, writers, etc. when the scripts run.
posted by Gungho at 7:38 PM on April 3, 2008

We use a system called Roundhouse here. It does many things well; other things, not so well. What it does well is tracks the status of ads and also acts as an electronic container for everything associated with the ad. Ads are placed in clear plastic jackets that will keep everything associated with the ad, including past proof, printed out copy, and the current proofs, as well as an ad ticket. Here's how we do it:

1. Sales brings a ticket, and a layout, or a printed copy of the client supplied PDF. They will tell us where we can acqquire the copy and art or PDF.
2. Ad gets logged in by the traffic/proofreading department (which is my old job). They make sure all elements are lined up for the artist, such as placing emailed copy into a folder on the server. The ad is routed in the Roundhouse system according to type and workflow status.
3. Artist (my current job) builds the ad or placed client supplied PDF into Roundhouse. Then they print the ad. All art is placed into the electronic jacket in Roundhouse, so that anyone who works on the ad has access to it and all links in the Quark document point to this jacket. Artist routes status in Roundhouse system to proofreaders.
4. Traffic department proofreads ads. If OK, the proof goes to sales and the ad is set to proof status in Roundhouse. If not, it is set to correction status and it goes back to the artists.
5. Sales marks corrections on proof or OKs it, and returns it to the traffic department. Traffic sets appropriate status in Roundhouse. If OK, the ad is released to prepress. If not, it is sent for corrections. Lather, rinse, repeat. (This system is how we handle hundreds of ads a week.)

The traffic department is key. They are the firewall between the sales staff and the artist. They gather everything up for the artist and are the point of contact for the sales staff. This way sales has one place to go to where they get everything gets done. The artists can get straight to work and get anything they need from a single contact. This saves the mess of numerous artists trying to coordinate with an even larger number of sales reps. It also means someone can find where an ad went very quickly.

As far as the clear jackets, as I mentioned, we keep everything in them. The latest proof goes on top. If there is anything new, it is placed in the jacket on top of the stack. It's a system that takes a bit to learn, but it works very well.
posted by azpenguin at 8:34 PM on April 3, 2008

I've heard good things about ActiveCollab, which is a more featureful opensource clone of BaseCamp.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:30 AM on April 4, 2008

I loved Tasks Pro at my last job, after trying to write my own php/mysql solution. IME, it worked well with both big & tiny tasks, and I was even able to write a submission for our clients that they could use w/out having an account.
posted by epersonae at 2:00 PM on April 4, 2008

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