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Before the Proof: The Prologue of the Project Approval Process

December 19, 2018 | Productivity

We’re all about helping creative agencies manage the project approval process at Ashore. However, we will also be the first to say that the actions a creative team takes before the proofing process begins – or even before a proof exists – is undoubtedly important.

They say if you don’t plan then you plan to fail. We’ve found that to be true, too. Properly planning your projects is just as important as tracking their progress. When creating a rock solid plan, there are a number of things to consider to make your creative team’s workflow and the project itself ready to withstand anything.

First, Define the Parameters

Every project should begin the same: with a clearly-defined proposal. Proposals are invaluable to creating a smooth project approval process. How? They get everyone on the same page by laying out clear expectations from all parties, and by defining the scope of work as much as possible. A well-constructed proposal should address:

  • The What: Define the project, what it is, and what it should look like.
  • The Why: The goals of the project and how they align with the goals of the customer or client.
  • The How: The procedure that will be followed for completing the project including the steps that will be followed and technical aspects, such as the budget for the project.

With these things clearly laid out to both the creative team and their future project approvers, the project can begin on a stable foundation.

Try Some Bite-Sized Goals

Major key: set internal goals and milestones for your team. Do this with the intention of modulating the process, breaking it up into achievable parts that make the process feel less daunting. The goals you set should be smaller and more specific but should ultimately contribute to the overall goal(s) of the project.

Then, Manage the Hell Out of This Project

I know you’ve probably heard this one a hundred times. Allow me to say it one more time: make a timeline! Of course, making the timeline is the easy part. Getting everyone to follow it is another story.

For the proposal, you likely included at least a rough timeline for the stakeholders’ benefit, but you should create a more precise timeline for the creative team working on the project. Deadlines are invaluable because they allow you and others to more accurately budget time to get tasks completed. No matter how detailed you choose to make your project timeline, make sure to at least include:

    • Each stage of the project and the tasks that need completion within them
    • Deadlines for tasks and stages
    • How long each task is expected to take
    • Any dependencies that exist between tasks

Once you have a timeline set up to your satisfaction, assign roles and dole out responsibilities to the team. Doing this from the get-go will help reduce confusion and the tendency of people to work over one another when an environment is too unstructured. Decreasing confusion and redundancies in the process will lead to a fluid team workflow.

You can assign roles with as much rigidity or flexibility as you would like your team to have throughout the project. A nice medium to these two management styles could be assigning someone to be the primary person on each task or stage, and they have the freedom to recruit people to help them with specific details.

Set up a Rock Solid Approval Workflow

You’ll be seeing the benefits reaped from setting up and following a workflow all the way into the project approval process. Throughout a project, there will be materials and documents that need review and approval by stakeholders before the project can commence to the next stage. Having a workflow ready to go for these instances will dramatically shorten the amount of time it will take to surpass these milestones.

A workflow makes it clear who the stakeholders are, whether they will be approving or just viewing the proof, and in what order they should receive the materials and give their feedback. With all of these details, it can become a complicated process, especially if done manually, to get the approvals your project needs. Setting up a workflow beforehand can expedite this process for you and your team, and you’ll be able to more efficiently communicate with the client or customer when the time comes.

A workflow will also set up more clear lines of communication between the team and the approvers. They’ll have no doubt about who they need to reach out to and how to go about delivering proofs to approvers. Along with that, an established workflow will go a long way towards maintaining a strong line of communication. It allows an organized way to communicate with stakeholders at each point in the process where their input is required and sought after.

One Last Bit of Advice…

Embrace an adaptable project management style. No matter how much set up and organizing you do beforehand to make a project succeed, you just never know what’s going to come your way. Perhaps some feedback you receive during the project approval process will cause you to return to the drawing board. Your timeline will also more than likely need adjustments made throughout the process. These sort of things will happen.

Despite this entire blog expositing on the needs and benefits of having a plan, don’t be so determined to stick to the plan you’ve created that you don’t allow yourself some flexibility. Projects evolve and change as they mature. Any plans you make at the onset should have some built-in malleability so you can make adjustments as you go. The ability to add new tasks, adjust stages, reassign roles and modify workflows will serve any creative design team well as they come upon the project approval process.

Establish Workflows in Ashore

Establishing stable workflows is an important initial step to a seamless project approval process. Ashore has the tools you need to make sure every workflow created saves you time and energy during the project’s lifespan.

Ashore allows creative teams to create, save and modify workflows for use again and again. Within each workflow, you have the ability to choose who to add as approvers and non-approvers. You also can assign an order in which they will receive proofs, or for a truly collaborative experience, all approvers can review the proof at once and at their own leisure. Of course, if you would rather they not take a leisurely approach, Ashore will send them reminders automatically as often as you stipulate.

This project approval software aims to provide creatives with contextual feedback. Approvers can pinpoint exactly where the issue lies on the proof and leave annotations with arrows and rectangles for further context. These comments can be replied to, keeping the whole conversation in Ashore. Approvers each have the opportunity to review the proof, give feedback, and either approve it, not approve it, or approve it with changes.

With a proper plan for your projects and an established workflow structure, your project approval process will be a breeze. Let Ashore get your projects to port – sign up for free today!

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