Revamp Your Proofing and Approval Workflows

by Ashley Tartaglia, on June 17, 2019

How do you get your reviews and approvals on track?
How do you get your reviews and approvals on track?

There are numerous pressure points and potential bottlenecks throughout the design, proofing and approval of new product components. For example, artwork management often involves multiple employees with authority over the finished product, each making important input based on design choices, branding guidelines, regulatory compliance and version control across regions and markets. It's easy for these processes to spiral out of control if companies don't have the proper workflows and processes in place.

It's always a good time to determine whether your review and approval processes can be streamlined beyond their current state. If your company is still trading versions of artwork via email or manually updating spreadsheets based on the latest changes, you likely have significant room for improvement. The following are a few helpful suggestions to get your business on the right track via new artwork management investments.

Consider Current Process Weaknesses

What are the biggest weak spots in a given approval process? This is an important question to ask, because just one hold-up at one of these vulnerable points can throw a project's entire timetable off. Sometimes, issues will be tied to stakeholders not responding in a timely manner, or in information getting lost, confused or duplicated as emails and spreadsheets pass between members of a team.

When there is no centralized way to shepherd a product toward completion, informal practices may hold up approvals for days at a time. For instance, an individual may give their thoughts on a new piece of artwork in person. If the spreadsheet tracking the project isn't updated to reflect that conversation, other team members' feedback may be contradictory or redundant. There are numerous opportunities for human error to derail such an informal workflow.

Adopt a Better Approach

Creative approval processes can improve in many ways, often having to do with simplifying and cutting out any step that isn't absolutely necessary. MarTech Advisor contributor Joe Staples gave several examples of quick fixes to approval processes, some involving new tech and others consisting of workflow changes that can go along with a new IT deployment.

For example, organizations should cut down on the number of approvers in their review processes wherever possible. When someone is required to give feedback, he or she will feel compelled to make suggestions, even if their input isn't necessary. Anyone who is too busy to contribute, or who doesn't have a distinctive role to play - such as ensuring compliance - can be removed from review and approval duty.

Beyond simplifying the team as much as possible, companies can and should have high visibility into everyone who is contributing to the approval process, and whether each individual has registered his or her feedback yet. Spreadsheets that need manual updates aren't ideal for this purpose, even when they are shared through an online service such as Google Documents. It's better to have automated, purpose-built solutions as part of the workflow which offers needed visibility into each person's distinctive role and encourages accountability.

An employee checks a computer at his desk.What's your company's approval workflow?

Reject Outdated Tech Solutions

One of the most important enabling factors in making a review and approval workflow more efficient and streamlined is picking the right tech tools for the job. Contemporary Artwork Management systems, designed to enable real-time collaboration from multiple employee groups and locations and track the work as it happens, play a huge role in this modernization process. To get to optimal use of these technologies however, leaders may have to break employees of current habits and remove less useful tools from their day-to-day activities.

Considering how committed some workplaces are to email, that may be an especially tough element to remove. This step is important, however, as trading emails leaves a less effective chain of approvals and feedback than working with purpose-built collaborative tools. CMS Wire contributor Ajay Kaul recommended that companies have mandatory email shut-off times to encourage engagement with new software tools that create better chains of custody and records. Collaboration through these approved channels is valuable to prove compliance, to keep versions up to date and to effectively move ahead with approvals.

Choose The Right Replacement IT

Today's advanced Artwork Management options are better than email and spreadsheets at keeping projects on track because they have been specifically designed for this purpose. Email chains and Excel documents were never meant to document the back-and-forth of a complex approval process, leaving them full of potential weak points where human error can cause confusion or slowdowns.

From the initial concept behind a piece of packaging through all of the internal art approvals - for both design and compliance - dedicated Artwork Management Solutions will keep track of who needs to view content next and what notes each individual has left and the overall status of the project. When these tools are deployed in the cloud on a software-as-a-service model, the data is accessible to employees at all locations, without duplication or inconsistency.

If your team's approval workflows are being held back by outdated practices or the tech that comes along, it's time to look for better options. To find out more about optimizing your packaging artwork processes check out our recent paper "From Chaos to Calm - How to Digitally Transform Your Artwork Management Processes."

Chaos to Calm