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On Managing Workflow Effectively During the Approval Process

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“Workflow” is one of those business buzzwords that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. The rational organization of work, of creating a deliberate and repeatable process, is the secret to scaling your activities and growing your business. Everyone has their own workflow, their own process for doing things, and every process has steps that must be followed. 

To optimize your time and resources, you need to establish a workflow. Luckily, it’s human nature to devise a routine and system for completing tasks. The challenge is effectively managing workflow procedures in an easy, straightforward way. In just the same way we like to establish patterns and habits, we also tend to become disorganized as our workloads grow. This is especially true during the proofing process when multiple people are asked to work together to review materials and deliver feedback. 

Whether your workflow during the review and approval process involves other members of your team or a rotating cast of clients, managing workflow productively in this day and age requires automation, documentation and communication. 

Managing Your Proof Approval Workflow

What does your proof approval workflow entail? Well, the process requires two things: a proof and an approver. Your proofs can come in many different forms: PDFs, audio files, video files, images or a combination of all of these. Your approvers are the individuals who are tasked with reviewing your proof, providing feedback on changes and ultimately, giving you approval. 

With your proofs and your approvers, creating an approval workflow is pretty easy. Simply share your proofs with approvers and await their feedback. If you want to develop a productive, organized workflow though, it requires a little more work. 

Establish Workflow Stages

In cases where a proof needs to be reviewed by several groups of people, or if there is an established hierarchy among your approvers, you should establish multiple workflow stages. By staging review and approval in several stages, you’re able to control the amount of feedback you receive at one time as well as the nature of feedback. A graphic designer will have different concerns than a CEO, a photographer will have different concerns than a marketer. 

Create staging by determining the goal of each stage. Those in your first stage can focus on layout and style, those in the next stage can focus on content and subject matter and so on. Figure out which roles your approvers are best suited to fill and organize them accordingly. Whoever is responsible for giving final approval should obviously receive a proof last after everyone else has had a turn with it. 

Depending on the nature of the projects you have and whether or not you work with external clients, you may require more than a single workflow process. Proofing an internal company newsletter calls for input from different departments than an external customer newsletter. A brochure advertising your own services and a video created for one of your clients each have a different group of stakeholders you need to please. Instead of reinventing the wheel every time, simply establish different workflow templates you can utilize as needed. 

Document the Process

Not only does a workflow need to be deliberate and repeatable, but it needs to be verifiable. In order to have effective mechanisms in place managing workflow processes, sufficient documentation is a necessity. Reviewing and approving proofs requires a lot of back-and-forth communication and relaying of information. It benefits you to not only track this activity, but organize and save it for reference in the future. 

What exactly should you be keeping tabs on? In essence, everything. You should have a project timeline where all activities are recorded: when you sent a proof, who you sent it to, when they reviewed and provided feedback, when you sent a new revision for proofing and so on. You can even get really thorough and record details such as email correspondence and how many times you followed up with each approver. 

Documenting your workflow won’t only help you better manage your time and resources, it will also be useful to prove due diligence. If necessary, you’ll be able to audit your activities and ensure you responded to all approver feedback and received approval from all stakeholders. 

Utilize Templates

Templates have the ability to save you significant time and energy over time and are key to effective workflows. They take the idea of creating repeatable processes and package it into a nifty, reusable tool. By creating a repository of templates to aid in faster, clearer communication, you’re ensuring that your approval workflows move forward smoothly and everyone is receiving the same information on your end. 

Email templates are especially important in managing workflow communication. With each approver you want to remain consistent, but you don’t want to waste time drafting the same messages over and over. Develop a sequence of email templates that are appropriate for each workflow and even each stage of a workflow. 

Embrace Automation

Managing workflow cycles used to require a lot of manual labor for those involved in the project, but workflow automation has swept the business world, and we’re all the better because of it. Automation takes the onus off of us to ensure that a project is moving through the necessary steps, that specific actions are being carried out and that all activities are being adequately tracked. 

Implementing workflow management tools that automate your review and approval processes comes with several attractive benefits. You eliminate the inefficiency of back-and-forth asynchronous communication via email or phone. You also no longer need to waste time and money on manual tasks like sending follow-up reminders or collating approver feedback. Additionally, you give everyone on your team more visibility into the process, and you can assess at a glance how projects are moving forward and which have been stalled during the proofing process. 

Managing Workflow Effectively With Ashore

With the level of customization and automation Ashore has cooked into our workflow management capabilities for users, the proofing process will basically run itself. Create and save as many workflows as necessary, and add as many stages and as many approvers as the process calls for. You even have control over additional details such as the name of each workflow stage and who on your team will appear as the sender. 

Email templates allow you to customize the message your approvers see when it’s their turn to review a proof. Once set up, Ashore automatically sends them out when the next workflow stage is triggered. Even your automated reminder emails can be customized, so you don’t have to worry about following up with each approver who hasn’t yet reviewed and provided feedback on a proof. 

All activity – from the very first file you send to the hundredth revision – will be saved in your proof timeline in Ashore. You’ll easily be able to look back and see when emails were sent and when decisions were made by approvers. This information can also be exported and saved with your own records. 

Reviewing and approving proofs goes much smoother with effective workflow management. In fact, Ashore’s users have seen their approval rates improve by 50%. If you want a piece of that action, you can start using Ashore for yourself today by signing up for a 14-day free trial.