How to Improve Your Project Review and Approval Process_

How to Improve Your Project Review and Approval Process?

Okay, listen: we’ve been here multiple times already, but never actually discussed it in detail.

And it is important to pay attention to as many details of your project review and approval process as you can – if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here talking to you. See, when you’re managing a creative project, it is this underwater iceberg part that hits your ship right when you expect it least of all, and if you do not have any life jackets and lifeboats prepared beforehand, things might turn out real nasty, and you might as well sink.

Approval Studio does not want you to sink.

In fact, we do not want you to hit this damned iceberg at all. More so, our main goal is not even letting you see it in advance; it is about directing you to the right waters straight away where there are no icebergs. We believe you do not have to waste more hours proofing an asset than actually creating it. How many times have you found yourself in a situation when there were still things to edit, but you had to drop it because someone was snoring all their shift through louder than a freight train and did not see your “plz proof” request coming in? Not the most pleasant experience. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.

Hence, here we are with the top 6 ways to improve project approval process and fix the devastating effects of on-shift snoring. Ready to rumble? We are, but first…

What Is an Approval Process?

The content approval process is a post-production part of a project workflow that involves multiple parties reviewing the given version of an asset within their field of work. That being said, these parties might be colorists, planning department, legislation department, printers, and, basically, anyone else including or representing the client themselves. All parties usually focus on certain norms established in their spheres and/or set in the countries where the company’s target audience comes from.

Provided your pre-production market analysis was on point and all your reviewers are familiar with all the details, building a correct workflow is the next important step. In case you fail to do it – because some proofing parties neglect their duties, the process gets rushed due to tight deadline, or any of the 1001 other excuses – the result will be a huge disappointment. It can cause considerable financial and time expenses, resulting in a lost contract. Surely, you might get lucky and get past the iceberg. But, more likely, you will fail the project and sink.

Types of Approval Processes

There are more than you can initially think of, so let me give you some examples.

  • Design project approval process. Basically, it’s the main thing we focus on here. Whatever you do in terms of your marketing campaign for your company or goods, you have to optimize an approval process. The spectrum might vary from logo design to packages, from blog posts to billboards. Mostly involves all visual image file types except for JPEG. No one likes JPEG. JPEG is forever alone.
  • Document review. A teeny tiny bit more complicated matter, since documentation proofreading involves analysis of textual, not visual info. DOC, PDF, or anything else, it is necessary to have strict workflow to avoid any issues in the future, especially if the documents are some important contracts, policies, and etc.
  • Publication review and approval process. Combines the previous two into one. Huge publishers – magazines, newspapers, and even comic book studios – need to agree on how the panels and columns with the texts look. If the publisher issues their products periodically, proofing workflow might become a serious game-changer.
  • Video project proofing. Next step after graphics, might be a video presentation, commercial, teaser trailer, or etc. Videos are a complicated matter in terms of production, and every camera angle, lightning, colour scheme, shadow, and the rest of this ridiculously long list should be considered. Even such titans as HBO could use some proofing workflow to avoid the Starbucks cups in the frame.
  • Audio asset review. Uhm, this might be a relatively weird thing for some, but it would make a huge difference for musicians regardless of their music’s purpose – it might be a new band album, a movie score, or a rehearsal recording. The important thing is to point out mistakes at specific sections and discuss with producers how to avoid them.

We could go on with the list, but I guess you see the point. The content approval workflow is present everywhere from homework checks at school to sprint tasks coordination at a huge enterprise. The question is: how to make your approval process better?

Top 6 Ways To Improve Your Review and Approval Process

Make a Schedule Beforehand

Opened paper calendar

Good approval process cannot be spontaneous, it should stick to a proposed template. Don’t get me wrong, spontaneity might be a good thing in terms of creative work, but not when it comes to such technicalities as workflow organization. If it’s not the first project you are up to, if you’ve been analysing your previous experience and trying to make the best out of it, you should know your strong and weak spots.

Think carefully which workflow part will take the most time, how many iterations the project might need, how much time will it take for all the parties to approve their bits of work, and create a plan. I would recommend paying a lot of attention to a post-production part of the workflow, especially if you’re working with video content. And, by the way, about the parties…

Make Different People Responsible for Different Areas

A man's hand joining pins on the wall with a thread

Assigning one person to approve an artwork within several different fields is not cool. I mean, your colourist cannot be the same person who checks that all elements of your packaging have a correct size to them and are in line with all requirements. The bigger your project is, the more approvers you will need to examine your asset from the most different angles possible. I know that “one man in his time plays many parts”, but it should not be the case with your approvers roles. Checking everything at once is confusing and difficult for a single person as it is very hard to concentrate on something specific when you have to pay attention to literally everything. And it is easier to assign different tasks to different reviewers when you…

Use Specific Proofing Software

As clear as daylight, it is much better to use a tool than to inform all the parties that they have a task pending via email, messenger, or even a phone call. Software is much faster and more convenient for approval workflow implementation since you keep all the project info in one place. Besides, when you have a specifically designed mark-up tool that can highlight elements you want to discuss and comment on, the chances of being misunderstood are significantly lower.

Not sure which software to try first?

Also, proper proofing software enables you to track the whole project since its very beginning and analyse your performance. Might be useful to fulfil step one of your next project. And if your client claims it was you who delayed the delivery, you can always show them some auditing strings, reports, and etc. Precise numbers are very useful to…

Exclude Subjective Opinions

A cup with a caption saying "Everyone is entitled to my opinion"

This refers more to preliminary market analysis, though. Naturally, all approvers must possess certain data gained as a result of succinct market analysis that shows which products appeal more to the people and which sell better. If your project management approval process is based on subjective opinions of approvers, it means that the iceberg is right in front of you and is patiently waiting until you get enough speed. You’ll hit it inevitably because the chances are that your creative team’s personal opinions do not align with those of a target market. It is even more crucial in terms of legislation – without proper research, there are dozens of laws you might break. Besides, when you are not opinionated, it helps you to…

Establish Healthy Communication

Contact made of letters from Scrabble game

Discussions are not only normal of project development, they are necessary to get the best result. You have to brainstorm and think of ways to make your product better, but if often happens that people become overprotective of their ideas, and when someone criticizes them, they cannot accept it. This is the moment when something snaps, and all the quarrels begin. Be respectful to other people’s ideas and try to find a compromise to achieve the best productivity. Never blame others for whatever happens; concentrate on finding solutions to problems instead. It is much easier to do when you…

Do Not Overthink

Rubik's Cube near the laptop

Developer always wants to make their product perfect, but having a million iterations usually does more harm than good. Sitting on one idea for too long and rejecting it constantly because you find some new fallacies every time only means that you have to chill for a bit and ask yourself: is it really that bad or am I just picking on it for the sake of picking on it? Such an approach will not be helpful at all and might make matters worse. Planning the number of iterations beforehand is a good idea; this way, even before the project starts, you know exactly when the moment to stop comes.

Final Thoughts

Generally, there are many ways to improve the content review and approval process, but it is not a simple thing, especially in the creative industry. Creativity and art are very subjective entities, but following precise patterns and using certain concepts will help you to use it for your advantage and not against you. And, of course, we wouldn’t be called Approval Studio if we didn’t know a thing or two about proofing! Our main focus is visual assets, and if you need a helping hand with their final approval – you know whom you should contact. We have offers for every budget.

All the best!

Matthew Roberts

Matthew Roberts

A guy with wide spheres of interest — from project management to board games and to spicy guitar riffs. Has a solid experience in marketing, creative team management, translation, teaching, and occasional freelancing masochism. Big and bald.
Matthew Roberts

Matthew Roberts

A guy with wide spheres of interest — from project management to board games and to spicy guitar riffs. Has a solid experience in marketing, creative team management, translation, teaching, and occasional freelancing masochism. Big and bald.

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