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Improve your KPIs to Supercharge Your High-Volume eCommerce Studio

3 Key Takeaways from Episode 1 of the Creative Operations Podcast

In the debut episode of the Creative Operations Podcast, American Apparel and Levi’s veteran Adam Parker joins host Daniel Jester to discuss key performance indicators (KPIs) in the studio world. Parker delves into his new book, “KPIs, Reporting, and Dashboards for eCommerce Photo Studios”

Screenshot 2022-10-03 at 10.19.10 AMAdam Parker

Want to listen to the full chat? Stream the episode on the web or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Amazon Music. But read on to get a few main points Adam and Daniel made on using KPIs effectively in your studio.

No Stats for Stats’ Sake

In the age of towering tech stacks and advanced analytics, there’s no shortage of metrics you can use to measure your studio’s performance. But that’s not the case for setting as many KPIs as possible, Adam says. Instead of succumbing to stat overload or using a metric just because other studios do, establish goals specific to your studio and support those goals with only relevant KPIs.

“Different studios are going to have different goals,” Adam says. “Some may be trying to produce highly branded editorial content and may be fine with shooting eight shots in a day, so long as it looks incredibly pretty. Others may want to shoot 150 items in a day.”

Establish goals specific to your studio and support those goals with only relevant KPIs.
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Adam Parker

Push KPIs Your Team Can Act On

Again, it’s not just about having goals—it’s about having specific ones that are actionable, not just nebulous leadership-speak directives.

“Leadership likes to have goals like ‘improve operational efficiency,’” Adam says. “OK, what does that look like in the real world?” That’s why Adam contends for translating leadership goals into studio ones.

“‘Improve operational efficiency.’ Your marketing department hands you that on your yearly report; now this is what you’re supposed to do. How do you measure that? I’d start by making a more specific studio goal that ladders up into that leadership goal.” Adam suggests measuring the percentage of total projects delivered on or before their deadline. “It gets kind of dry, but that’s where we get into talking about things that can actually be measured,” Adam says.

Don’t Club People with Your Fancy Math

One of the KPI dangers Daniel and Adam bemoaned is when studio leaders or higher-ups bring in metrics as a way to control or scare team members. “We have to take a great deal of care to make sure we’re not creating a culture of fear,” Daniel says.

Want to make sure you’re not a number-crunching, soul-crushing fearmonger weaponing KPIs against your team? Start by making sure there’s a clear message about the relationship between quality and quantity in your studio’s throughput and in employee expectations. Daniel lamented the studio where quantity is preached through emphasized KPIs, but then performance reviews take an abrupt turn toward quality-first concerns.

Adam agreed, saying that, while productivity always matters, “there needs to be a quality metric as well—something that’s going to engage [employees] creatively and excite them creatively. Or you’re going to become a place that’s burning through people, and no one wants to work there.”

While productivity always matters, there needs to be a quality metric as well—something that’s going to engage [employees] creatively and excite them creatively.
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Adam Parker

To get the full discussion, including Daniel and Adam’s take on teamwide pizza parties, studio team versus web team squabbles, and Adam’s favorite KPI, stream the episode online or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Amazon Music.

And check out the comprehensive guide Adam has written that he wishes someone had given to him while he was managing the in-house photo studio at Levi’s: “KPIs, Reporting, and Dashboards for eCommerce Photo Studios”