Studios rely on technology throughout their teams' production processes, and technology is of course meant to simplify life for your creative team. But when you consider endless competitive choices for technology solutions, myriad editions for each piece of software, and the new features and click-paths offered by those editions, technology can seem far from simple.
That's why we want to have a good Creative Operations Podcast chat about lean technology in your studio. And who better to join us for it than Curren Calhoun? Curren, a senior director of photo production and technology for Gap Inc., is an industry veteran who's seen how studio teams across all sorts of business models use technology, so he's learned from successes as well as a few cautionary tales.
Want to hear all of Curren's chat with Daniel? Stream the full episode on our website, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Amazon Music, and more. But if it's just a few lean technology tips you want, read on for the highlights.
Evaluate Before You Implement
Curren points out that the four organizations he's been with use technology in very different ways, due to having different business models with different challenges. And it's there-with the challenges-that Curren recommends starting with an internal assessment before technology appraisement. "It's about more than evaluating tech, it's about evaluating the problem," Curren says.
Daniel is all in on this point, adding, "One of the tenets of continuous improvement is root cause analysis." Get your stakeholders together and evaluate your organization before you judge technology offerings, he explains.
"You may need to determine, 'What are the ways we're working now that need to be able to fit into this operations solution?'" Daniel points out. "And alternatively, are there non-value-add steps we tend to hold onto that we're able to remove?"
Without that needs-based assessment, you risk missing a chance to add helpful tools or remove counter-productive processes.
So assess your organization before you add to your tech stack.
Make Technology Your Enhancer
By taking an organization-first approach to technology, you caution yourself from getting lured by technology that boasts fun features but doesn't necessarily address your team's day-to-day challenges.
Ask yourself, will this technology dictate that my team acts in new specific ways or will it help them go about their preferred workflow in an easier fashion?
"Technology, to me, should be an enhancer," Curren says. "It needs to enhance the process you're doing and allow creatives to focus on using their skillset and not doing repetitive tasks." Lean technology doesn't provide cool solutions to problems you've never had, it meets the challenges you encounter most and boosts your performance in your everyday tasks.
Translate the Need for Lean Technology Within Your Organization
Once you know which technology tools help your team meet everyday challenges, you need to build requisite consensus from decision-makers to move forward with a purchase.
To that end, Curren sees himself in the role of translator, turning the workflow objectives and technology requests of his creative teams into numbers, "a universal language," that he communicates with other departments at Gap Inc., like the finance team. At times he has to translate in the other direction, turning spreadsheets back into plain-spoken language for a creative team that doesn't care to sift through columns of spreadsheets. The goal in all of it? Agreement and action.
By putting your team's everyday challenges and a technology solution's helpfulness into numbers, or turning the concerns of a finance team back into a conversational tone, you can help your creative team get the lean technology needed to make their work more purposeful and fun.
You're likely feeling ready to bring a lean technology approach to your studio. But if you want to hear more tips from Curren, as well as the story behind the "What Would Curren Do?" mantra in his studio and some classic PC-versus-Mac banter, check out the full episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or the website.