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Selecting the Right Online Proofing Solution

Securing approval on marketing, advertising, and promotional content is a constant challenge for professionals in any industry. Businesses who adopt an online proofing solution to help manage the review and approval process can reduce costs while improving job turnaround time, eliminate expensive and embarrassing errors or “make-goods,” and gain better control of their creative workflow.

When determining which online proofing solution is best for your organization, consider these questions:

What is your current review and approval process?
Sketch out the workflow for your typical content review. Determine who is involved and if they review simultaneously or in sequence. You may need to include reviewers from various departments (like branding, account services, or legal) or have different teams of reviewers depending on the project, or some combination of both. Your review process may also vary by the type of content being reviewed – video projects may need different sign-offs than printed pieces; press releases may require different signoffs than email blasts.

What quantity and type of content do you have?
Make a list of all the different types of content that your creative team produces. In addition to design files, you may be creating web pages, animations, and videos. There’s also the issue of quantity – do you have a few pieces of content a week that need approval or dozens? Is your workload steady or do you have periods of increased volume? Keep in mind that the volume of content you produce today may grow, and that the type of content your producing could also change as interactive and mobile content continues to gain prominence.

How will versions and approved content be managed?
Think about how you want to manage the content once it has been shared in your online proofing application. Version control is a common challenge or creative departments, and one that an online proofing solution can help address, and even help reduce the numbers of iterations. You’ll also need to decide what happens to content in the system once it’s approved, and if you need an archive of completed projects.

How will reviewers communicate feedback?
Often, a simple approved/rejected choice of approval status will suffice, but some teams need a wider variety of statuses such as “approved with changes” or “not relevant”. You may also find it useful to have the ability to do opinion reviews, where content is ranked or rated. Also consider if and how you want your reviewers to provide feedback. Will reviewer comments attached to a piece of content be easier for your creative team to interpret, or would having the ability to make markups on the content – like highlighting or circling – be more clear? Do your reviewers need to be able to comment on previous reviewers’ feedback?

What is involved in implementing the solution?
Any new solution is going take time and resources to get set-up but it’s important to have a clear picture of just how much. You will want to know who will be involved in the rollout of the solution and how long it is expected to take. Will you need to change some of your existing processes in order to use the solution? Getting staff to change the way they work can delay adoption of the solution. An important consideration before adopting an online proofing solution is how quickly you can leverage the solution and notice a return on your investment. What kind of training and support does your team prefer? Don’t discount the importance of support – adoption is critical to the successful implementation of any solution. You will want to make sure that your team is available for training as soon as you rollout the application, before inertia is lost and especially if the training offer expires. Also factor in if support is included or if there is a cost for support and if your budget addresses that. You may also want to consider what kind of support resources are offered. Is it limited to online help menus and user guides or are there support personnel available
to offer assistance?

What are your organization’s IT and security requirements?
Like many organizations, your IT department is probably closely involved when implementing any new technology. The level of their involvement may depend on whether you choose an installed solution or a cloud-based platform. Your IT department will generally be concerned with what type of storage the solution provides, and what measures are in place to keep your company’s creative assets secure. What are your projected costs and ROI? First, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples – some solutions charge a one-time fee, some solutions have an annual or monthly subscription cost. There may be training fees and, for an installed solution, up-front investments in hardware or software upgrades. You may also need to consider how many team members will be using the solution, as many solution providers charge per user fee. Your return can be calculated by setting benchmarks for your team’s current performance. How long does your approval process take without an implemented solution? How many rounds of review do projects go through? How long does it take to get feedback returned? What are you spending on rush orders and make goods? Solution providers should be able to tell you what sort of improvements you can expect for these key performance indicators.

Does the solution provide tracking and reporting capabilities?
You will want to know how easy it is to keep track of the status of your content that’s being routed for approval. Are there status dashboards, reports, and notifications? What information is provided? Think about the kind of status reports you are using today and look for a solution that can provide something comparable. In addition to just reporting on status, you may want a solution that can provide metrics on your team’s productivity, such as project volume, review duration, number of versions, and time to approval.

How does the solution fit into your greater production process?
The review and approval of creative content is just one part of the production process. Think about how you will use the solution in the context of the entire production process. Will you be able to extract status reports for project management? Can you tie projects or reviews to your work
orders and billing systems? If your team uses other technology solutions, you may want to find out how your review and approval solutions could be integrated with them.

Having a clear understanding of your organization’s needs and carefully considering the factors in this document should make it easier for you to evaluate online proofing solutions.

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