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5 critical features for creative teams when using review and approval software

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by Katie Oberthaler

1 September 2021

When you’re working with multiple types of content that require feedback and approval, your creative workflow can become unmanageable. Creative project managers may find they’re spending significant time chasing down and communicating feedback to team members. Project timelines that were once on track can come to an abrupt halt, as you wait for stakeholders to review and approve content. 

If this is the reality you’re experiencing, you may be ready to try approval software.

In this post, we’ll look at the benefits of approval software and what to look for when choosing a solution for your company. Then we’ll cover the top five approval software platforms for brands and agencies.

What is approval software?

Approval software is designed specifically for creative processes. It helps creative teams stay organized with features like version control, automated notifications, and permission controls. With approval software, everyone assigned to a project can see its status, what the next steps are, and whether items are awaiting feedback. 

Benefits of approval software for agencies and brands

Approval software supports every step of the creative process. Teams can count on automated feedback and approval tasks to keep projects moving along at the right cadence, and project managers can easily see the status of every asset and project.

Benefits of approval workflow software include: 

Better team collaboration

With remote work now in the mainstream, creative teams may be collaborating on projects from different locations. Approval software helps team members collaborate from wherever they may be. Users can tag others in a comment, communicate in real-time within the platform and directly on creative assets, and see the status of all their files and projects--no email needed.

Ziflow users can collaborate directly on creative content with markup tools, and engage in real-time discussion threads that allow commenting, replies, file sharing and more. 

Another advantage of approval workflow software is that it brings transparency to creative processes. It reduces the likelihood of duplicate tasks and confusion, enabling team members can see who is assigned to and working on specific tasks or phases of the creative process. 

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Shortened feedback loops

In some creative processes, such as video production, creatives may need feedback at several stages. In a recent survey, 42% of marketing leaders said not getting feedback & comments from internal stakeholders in a timely fashion is the top cause of project delays.

Approval software ensures creative teams are getting the feedback they need in order to proceed to the next phase — and automated notifications can alert clients and other team members when their feedback is overdue.

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Fewer mistakes and rework

Approval software offers annotation and markup tools that help stakeholders provide specific, actionable feedback. That reduces the risk of misunderstandings and the number of revisions required to complete a project. 26% of marketing leaders said they are looking for more accurate feedback tools to review content  for color accuracy, version comparisons, timestamps, and other quality issues (2020 Ziflow Creative Production Benchmark Survey.)

Markup tools let users pinpoint a specific section of a file when they make a comment, leaving little room for misinterpretation. That means less back-and-forth between team members and clients.

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Streamlined review and approval

Some creative teams are still relying on email to share content and request feedback. It’s not an efficient way to work. In fact, 30% of marketing leaders said they need to put review steps into clearer and more well- defined stages. (2020 Ziflow Creative Production Benchmark Survey)

Approval software lets you model, automate and manage the entire review and approval process in a single platform — no more lengthy email chains with multiple recipients and large file attachments. Creative projects that utilize workflow automation tend to have more comments, more versions, more approval decisions, but also significantly shorter project turnaround timelines.  (internal ZIflow benchmark data analysis, May 2020)

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High-quality content

Improved collaboration and better, more consistent feedback generally results in high-quality content. For example, when teams create assets that contain text, images, branded colors, and other page elements, multiple layers of review and approval occur before the piece is finalized.

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Faster project completions

When you don’t have to spend time chasing down feedback or waiting on clarification, projects can move forward more quickly. Projects that use approval software like Ziflow require on average only 2 versions to complete, compared to 4-6 versions to completion without a formal approval software or process in place. 

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Reduced compliance risks

Aside from being inefficient, sharing content via email can introduce an unnecessary element of risk, because the security of email accounts has a lot to do with the strength of user passwords. Approval software offers a secure, cloud-based way to share content, reducing marketing and brand compliance risks.

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What Features to Look for in Approval Software

In addition to cost, scalability, and ease of use, you’ll want to consider whether an approval software platform includes all of the features your team needs. Some features and functionality to look for include.

Support for many file types

Creative teams may work with hundreds of different file types, including audio and video. Approval software should allow you to store, share, and mark up creative assets in a variety of formats.

 

Ziflow’s approval software supports 1,200+ different media types. 

File Access and retrieval

One of the benefits of approval software is that it can help team members locate assets in seconds. This capability depends on the degree to which you can filter searches, so look for a platform that offers several levels of custom filtering. 

 

Ziflow allows users to create custom filters that can be saved and reused for quick file retrieval.

Collaboration and feedback management

Approval software should be useful throughout the creative production process, not just when it’s time for approvals. The best platforms include features that support collaboration, such as tagging and notifications, markup tools, and real-time chats attached to specific assets. These features are beneficial for internal teams and for improving communication with external freelancers and stakeholders.

Version history and controls

When you have multiple versions of a file, you need a way to make sure teams are working on the correct file. Approval software lets you control access to past versions. It also lets you see a complete version history for files, so you can track when changes were made, who made them, and who approved them. 

An administrator has locked access to versions 1 and 2 of this asset in Ziflow. 

Automated approval workflows

The best approval software lets you automate workflows so that assets continue moving through the pipeline, and handoffs from one person to the next are effortless. These automated steps can be customized by project or file. 

Ziflow’s workflow automation features let users specify actions that trigger notifications for assignees.

Comprehensive Project and Approval Status 

Approval software lets internal teams and any external stakeholders who have access quickly see the status of approvals, along with requested changes. This level of transparency ensures accountability for teams and clients and helps keep project timelines on track.

Ziflow’s progress-tracking view shows who has reviewed, commented on, approved, or requested changes to an asset.

Security and permissions 

When you’re storing confidential information in the cloud, you want some assurance that your files are protected. Approval software should include features like data encryption on file transfer, and SOC 1- and SOC 2-certified hosting. The ability to set custom permissions for users and files further enhances security. 

Integrations with existing Design, Video, and Project Management Tools

Approval software might not include project management or design tools, but it should integrate with the software you use every day.. If it doesn’t mesh well with other essential software, teams will lose time switching back and forth between platforms.

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Lost files, missed deadlines, and delinquent feedback don't need to be a part of the content creation process. These problems occur because creative teams don’t have the right processes in place to streamline their workflows. Approval software includes all the functionality you need to put processes in place and dramatically increase efficiency. 

Creative review and approval software helps you focus on production, instead of endless administrative tasks and feedback management. See how Ziflow can improve your workflow. Start your free trial today!

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