Or: This data doesn’t look like a blonde?
Knowing the stage that every element of a production is at is extremely important for a production manager. The use of digital asset management tools has become essential. You need to be careful though, it can be very easy to rely on the digital data alone to judge the progress of any given department and this can result in surprising failures. The data is only as good as the user that inputs it and the interpretation of the user viewing it.
Some years ago I was involved in a production where studio “A” had spent much time and money developing a very robust asset management tool that allowed for each element in a production to be tracked from department to department. There was even the ability for a production manager to print out compiled information on where any given department was at and show against the schedule as to whether they were on time or not.
I was part of an outsourced team that was using studio “A’s” site in order to complete animation for one of studio “A’s” shows. The tracker had indicated that design had been completed on the episode we were slated to start on. The tracker had a “thumbnail” of the approved art asset along with notes from the director. All indicating things were on schedule. My team then went to download the assets only to discover that the only element that was there was the “thumbnail” and the note that it was completed. No useful elements for doing our part of the job was there. So the “data” showed that things were on track but in reality they were not. The system was flawed but how does one avoid this sort of thing from happening?
I think the first step is an understanding that any digital tracking system is only one aspect to tracking the data. Realizing that it is people that are inputting the data is paramount to your success as a production manager. Looking at numbers on a screen is only part of it. You need to take it one step further and meet with the individuals that are responsible for inputting the information. Weekly or even daily meetings with your production staff are necessary in order to get to the intimate details of any process. Get confirmation that what you are seeing is what is reality. If it isn’t find out why and adjust your reporting accordingly. This doesn’t mean not trusting your team. It means clarifying the trends that you see in the data.
Meet with other team members as often as you can. Find out what they think as well. Is there an issue that one person is having but has not relayed this issue to anyone else? Does someone have an idea as to how to streamline a process that hasn’t been thought of before? Information is power.
Use the tool for what it is meant to be. It is one of many tools in your arsenal for seeing a successful completion to a project, not the only tool.