In a recent webinar, Kelly Santina, senior digital marketing strategist and director of operations at Convince & Convert and Ashley Spurlock, solutions marketing manager at Workfront, shared three ways you can streamline reviews and approvals.
Ashley Spurlock: Alright, so number three: "Is this the final final?"
Oh my gosh, how many marketers can relate to this?
Quick story about this. We just released an asset maybe a few months ago on our team, and it was titled “Version 22_final_final: how to get your versions under control,” something like that. The subhead was something similar to that.
Anyway, every time we would send it out for review, we had several people review it in copy format. And then of course once it went to layout, we had another review round.
Download our executive brief, "The 3 Keys to Reducing Review Rounds in Your Marketing Department," for more tips on making review processes simpler.
Every single time, it would come back to me with the "Version 22_final_final" crossed out or deleted. I can see that and track changes. When we got it back from creative, the layout just said "how to get your versions under control." It didn’t have "V22_final_final."
And every single time I had to say, "No, I’m not really saying this is version 22." This is a joke. And marketers will think this is hilarious.
It was just hilarious to see that in that experience of me working with a graphic designer or with another reviewer, that they also were just so keyed into the fact that yep, that’s what we do with marketers; we have 22 versions and we name things "final, final" and that’s normal.
They’re like, "Oh yeah, we’ve just got to make sure we take that off." They didn’t even make a comment about it. Not like, "Oh my gosh, 22 versions."
So anyway, I just think that we’re all so used to the fact that we have multiple final versions, and that creates chaos.
If you’ve ever had a publishing deadline but weren’t 100 percent sure that the file you’re about to upload is the final version, you also have felt the stress of version chaos.
You’re probably looking at maybe a final 2.0, or a final, final and you can’t tell which one is the actual final version, so maybe you’re looking at the date but they’re just an hour different, so is that really a change or did someone just re-upload that?
You might have to chase down those approvers and compare the documents to one another. That is the absolute worst, if you’ve ever had to do that. You know you’re in a bad situation if you’re doing that.
Once you finally press "enter" and hope for the best, you’re just left wishing there was a better way.
"Is there a better way to just have one, final version and how can I get everybody in the review process, and everybody in the approval process, to follow a standardized plan of once it says 'final,' this is final?"
That’s difficult. That’s hard to get everyone on the same page.
Workers spend about 30 percent of their workdays searching for information.
So along with finding that final version, it’s just where is it?
Where is it housed? Where is your final resting place for assets? Do you have a DAM? Is it just stuck in your inbox? Is it on your desktop, or is it on the graphic designer’s desktop? Or maybe it’s on the server that the graphic designer has access to and you don’t.
That just adds a whole layer of extra chaos and extra time like we talked about at the beginning. I think we used this stat at the beginning, as well—that 30 percent—when we were talking about the full 50 percent of your day is spent on reviews and approvals.
Just searching for the document; what a waste of time.
Alright, so Kelly, give us—wait, we have one more set here; sorry.
Eighty percent of the time it takes up to eight searches to find the right document.
Oh my gosh, isn’t that the truth?
If you don’t have a standardized naming convention, or you maybe don’t know what you’re looking for, you don’t know the name of it; that of course adds another layer.
So alright, now let’s get to the fix, Kelly, tell us how we can implement some strategies, some easy strategies to fix that today.
Kelly Santina: Stop the madness!
Do yourself a favor and find a central repository for all revisions and feedback.
I see this fix as really a combination of finding the right tech and staying organized. Let’s look at some practical applications here.
Designate one location for all saved drafts and final content. This is the key. Even when a project is complete for our team, time and time again the system has increased efficiency when we go in and need to update a few key items or something changes.
What we’ve done is put two key things in place. One, we’ve dedicated the file location and all team members working on the project know.
Secondly, we have dedicated one person in each project to be in charge of making sure the final version gets uploaded.
So to Ashley’s point of, "Did the graphic designer make the last change, or the one that was uploaded an hour ago is the last version?" We have a systemic rule that if it’s not marked by, frankly, myself as the head of operations for Convince & Convert, it’s not the final.
So consider that. Have a champion who can manage the assets throughout and make sure that if their name is on it, you know that’s the one going to print.
Track versions properly is another practical application here. We talked about staying organized with the naming convention.
What we’ve done is we’ve also added just a "midgey step," we call it, to our digital asset management system here at Convince & Convert, where about three or four weeks after a project has gone to a client as finished, or has gone to the printer, we go back in and actually trim out all our previous versions except the last two.
So all of those early-on details, all of those half-baked graphic design files that we were working on as we were getting ready for feedback or what have you; we clear those out of the system once we know the most ready file has gone on.
It not only saves space on our system; it still gives us one or two versions should we have to go back a couple of steps.
New information comes in, or we need to make a change systemically, but it’s been such a lifesaver not to have those 22 versions held on the digital asset management system and just have those final two or three, making it very simple to find the most relevant and the most recent ones that need final changes if at all.
Third practical application here is keep the number of versions to a minimum.
Once you’re past version three, four, five, take a step back. Have we shifted strategies? Do we have too many people in the process here? Have the right people seen these versions?
Think about who has entered the review process and who should enter the review process. Perhaps you need to break this project up, or call a timeout and restart with the right people at the right time, looking at the right asset.
So once you’re past three, four, five different versions and you’re seeing incredible feedback come through, give yourself a timeout and just consider your strategic move next. You can make your life easier going forward.
Use an online proofing system; can’t say it enough.
We too use Workfront's digital proofing. To be able to pass a file to a client when they perhaps don’t have Illustrator, or they don’t have WordPress on their machine; with a system like Workfront, they can view that right on their screen without having the native file, make comments back to us, and we can keep the review process going.
It has elevated our client relationships and our finished presentation, even on a working file with a client, to such a degree.
It’s a small tech implementation that I would encourage everyone to take a look at and even do the demo and the free trial to see how it can improve your staff relationships and also your client relationships.
Twenty-five percent of B2B content marketing budgets get wasted on inefficient content operations. Isn’t that the truth! "We need this written, we need that written."
So as you consider all of our tips today to streamline review and approval—get your time back, look for the right tech, put some simple roadblocks and guardrails in place—and you’ll get out of that office on time in no time.
Ashley Spurlock: I love it. Since you mentioned Workfront's digital proofing, I have two slides here that talk about some of the benefits and results that customers have shown that they’ve received from Workfront.
Fifty-six percent reduction in project delivery time, so getting projects out the door 56 percent faster; that’s incredible.
Just by putting all of your proofing and reviewing and approving in one tool; that’s a pretty easy change to get things out the door faster to meet those deadlines. Stop wasting some of that budget on wasted content.
We don’t have a slide to talk about this, but automated workflow, which is pretty great in Workfront where you can predetermine who your reviewers are, who your approvers are, and once a certain decision has been made, the proof or the asset moves to that next stage with the designated approvers or reviewers.
That eliminates that walking to the desk, or emailing, or catching up on where the asset is. There’s a digital footprint of it; there’s an audit trail.
Twenty-nine percent fewer revisions. You want to cut down the number of versions, online proofing is definitely the way to go.
Everyone can collect feedback in the same document at the same time. If they have a change that needs to be made that someone disagrees with, then they can have a discussion in that proof. Then you have to be the one to go ask and say, "Is this the right version, or is this the right feedback?"
And then 29 percent reduction in proof management effort; man, that is going to help me and Kelly, right? Since we’re the ones maybe routing those or following up on those; that reduces the effort on our part so more time back to work on projects that are going to move the needle.
And then just this last one: one tool means 56 percent faster reviews and approvals. We have an asset that talks about this on our website, on the Workfront website, actually, about why an online proofing solution can actually help you get things out the door faster.
To watch "Project Manage Like a Pro: 3 Expert Tips to Streamline Reviews & Approvals" with Kelly Santina and Ashley Spurlock, click here.
About the Author
Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.Follow on Twitter More Content by Marcus Varner