If you’ve ever seen a project through the review and approval process before, you know how frustrating it can be. It doesn’t matter whether you’re approaching it as a client, designer or third party, the roadblocks and hurdles you and your team need to leap over simply to get even a single aspect of a project okayed can seem endless.
However, it’s entirely possible that many of these obstacles are being thrown up by the absence of a workflow optimized for getting projects approved. Disorganized processes create more space for human error, which can end up costing everyone involved valuable time and money.
Where you current workflow might be going wrong
A lot of people are making one of two significant mistakes: either the document is printed out and marked up, or it is emailed to all project participants for review. Does your approval workflow look anything like this? If the answer is yes, you could be creating additional barriers that don’t need to be there.
Imagine there are four people in an email thread, all of whom need to review project files. As each person goes through individually, making comments and contributing their comments to the discussion, the information piles up. By the time the fourth reviewer looks at the email thread, their job is made all the more complicated as they need to sift through what all the others have said to figure out what is left to contribute.
Meanwhile, the designer or marketer must keep track of all comments being made, creating ample opportunity for key information to be completely overlooked. On average, it can take anywhere from 14 to 20 emails for a single project file to get approved.
As for printing out documents for review? Not only is this more than a bit old fashioned and more difficult to share between multiple participants, but it has all the same obstacles as email threads – with the added bonus of printing costs.
This really is as time-consuming as it sounds, which amounts to a costlier process on all ends. Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take that can substantially improve your approval workflows for a faster, more cost-effective and failsafe process.
Map out your approval process
There’s no better weapon against disorganization than good planning, and this goes for your review and approval workflows too. Once you sit down and map out your business process, you can gain a better understanding of how it is, or more likely how it isn’t, working.
Streamlining your routes towards approval comes with added benefits of its own. Most teams never think about exception in their workflows, and therefore don’t create wiggle room for more complex cases. A more pragmatic reviewing process allows you to juggle this complexity without it derailing the project.
Additionally, a more tightly managed plan gives you the ability to work within trickier compliance and legal systems with any of your clients, significantly cutting down the risks of incorrect information being delivered to the customer.
Centralize your data and make it compliant
How you and your team goes about sharing documents and information is often one of the biggest stumbling blocks that projects will run into. This is particularly true of larger projects that are more difficult to send back and forth over email in their original format without corrupting the quality of the document. People may find that they’re looking at different versions of the same file, with differences in file size and resolution coming into play.
Using a centralized online system, all project participants can be sure that they’re viewing the same document without it flowing between reviewers. Such a system is usually made possible through the use of secure cloud-based technology, which is independent of your internal systems.
This centralized approach also makes it easier to resolve the issue of miscommunication, by holding all comments, mark-ups and notes on a single server available for everyone to view.
Find the right workflow management software
Completely overhauling your business process to make approval simpler and more straightforward is no small undertaking, and it’s one that is extremely difficult for managers and company owners to do on their own with a pen and paper. For this reason, the market for approval workflow software is booming, with more options available than ever before.
That being said, there are a lot of systems that can make things even harder for teams by forcing you to implement ineffective workflow management strategies that don’t suit the kind of work you’re doing. But if you choose the right software for your company, you can save both time and money, while making your clients happier.
There are a few key features that set great approval workflow software systems apart from the rest:
- Cloud based platforms: Any good software will know that teams often handle large files in the approval process, and will need a server that can handle this without messing with the document’s quality.
- Allows teams to work in real time: Speedier approvals happen by recreating the time-effectiveness of in-person meetings in a digital space. A system that facilitates online collaboration is essential.
- Tools to manage your workflows: These can vary widely between systems, but the ability to customize your approval routes to suit your business can be the determining factor between the success and failure of approval workflow software for your company.
You may have heard more than a few people say that productivity is the key to unlocking higher revenues for your company. In the approval process, this can be the difference between a smooth and successful project and one that makes you want to tear your hair out. But boosted productivity doesn’t happen on its own: it’s the result of carefully managed workflows that allow your team to power through with what they do best.