Introducing the Creative Operations Technology Reference Model

by Chris Ransick

The Creative Operations Technology Reference Model (COTRM) is the body of software capability categories and tools used by creative professionals to store, manage, create, and deliver print, video, and digital experiences.

The COTRM is an amalgamation of all the Domains, Sub Domains, and Capabilities which make up the creative stack. The COTRM is made up of three core domains: Input, Execution, and Output, which follow the process all creative goes through. There are five sub domains areas: Data, Engagement and Operations management, Creation, Delivery, and Channels. Each capability area is broken into capability categories. The COTRM is a growing, developing entity and is current thinking. It is neither right nor wrong, but a best guess based on the knowledge and input from other creative technologists.

Why Do We Need This?

The Creative Operations Technology Reference Model (COTRM) was developed to provide a catalog of all the software tools used specifically by creatives. The reason developed the COTRM model and catalog is to provide creative operations professionals a complete listing of all tools and applications upon which they can draw to facilitate creative development. According to the publisher, it is amazing to see how often people are asking which tools to use, and what tools are available.


The genesis of the COTRM is a desire to have a model which outlines all tools a creative organization may need access when producing work. While the Real Story Omnichannel Technology Stack Model and MARTECH do an excellent job documenting marketing technology, the COTRM aim is to document the unique needs of creative and content creation organizations. There are so many options; wants to create a resource that professionals can access without having to hire a consultant.

Creative Operations Technology Reference Model Description

Inputs: Data

Inputs: Data tools are solutions which house the data used in the creative process to execute. The Inputs: Data capability categories are: Digital Asset Management, Project Repositories, Content Repositories, Product Information Management, Recipe Management, Font Management, and Creative Ops Data & Marketing Data

Execution: Engagement and Operations

Execution: Engagement and Operations are tools used to manage creative processes and resources. The Execution: Engagement and Operations capabilities categories are: Work/Project Management, Collaboration, Review and Approval, Financial Management, Video Management, Freelance Management, Development Management, Content Marketing Management, Translation Management, Sample Management, and Rights and Royalty Management

Execution: Creation

Execution: Creation tools are the software used to create the images, video, content and layouts. The creation capability categories are: Photography Tools, Illustration Tools, UX Tools, Video Tools, Page Layout Tools, CGI Tools, Augmented Reality Tools, 3D Modeling Tools, and Structured Content Tools.

Execution: Delivery

Execution: Delivery tools are the software used to deliver the materials created in the Creation domain. The delivery capability categories are: Localization, Versioning & Distribution Tools, Creative Management Platforms, Pre-Press Tools, Dynamic Publishing Tools, Social Engagement Tools, CDN & OVP Tools, Content Management Tools, Mobile Development Tools, Email Management Tools, and Fabrication/3D Printing Tools.

Output: Channels

Outputs are the channels creative materials are presented in. The dimensions shown here are a broad swipe at all the possible channels. The Output Channels are: Print, Packaging, Point-of-Sale, Broadcast/Video, Event, Mobile, Web, Digital Radio, Social Media, and Email.

Input Please

As said earlier, this is a developing reference model, and will only get better with input from the creative operations community and application and tool vendors. If your tool or apps is missing, or if you think we need another category, please reach out to us, to offer suggestions. We can be reached at: