Skip navigation

4 steps to automate your review and approval process.


4 steps to automate your review and approval process. 4 steps to automate your review and approval process.

Key Takeaways

  • Delays in project review and approval are a common issue in marketing and creative teams, but clear workflows can help.
  • The first step is to define and establish a review and approval process that is shared throughout the organization.
  • It's important to set clear guidelines and establish accountability to avoid redundant edits and delays.
  • Reminding stakeholders regularly and using project management tools can help speed up the process, but personal reminders are more effective.

Delay in a project's review and approval are among the most common problems for marketing and creative services teams. Some stakeholders want to micromanage every aspect of a creative project, while others seem to disappear from the face of the earth when you need them to sign off on something. For other teams, it's the process in general that creates problems. In any case, you need to establish clear procedures to efficiently move projects through the pipeline to completion. Here are four simple steps you can take to speed up the content review and approval process.

1. Define a process

The most important thing you can do to avoid delays is to create an established review and approval process that is known and shared throughout your organization. This means making sure both your internal team and your external stakeholders know exactly what is expected of them at each phase of the review process—who to send their feedback to, what format it should be in, and what constitutes final approval.

Your internal team in particular should understand how all content moves from start to finish beyond just their role.

Everyone under your domain needs to be confident in how work should be getting done.

If you're already using project management software, you can create workflows and define different processes for various project types. This will automate the review process and create clarity for anyone using the tool.

If you're not using a creative approval software solution, you'll need to eliminate confusion either with a quick training, or a process document that explicitly says what the next step is in the process. It doesn't have to be much, just enough to give reviewers clear direction on what to do next.

2. Establish a review and approval process

Within your process, you should establish single accountability. That means that only one department should be reviewing a project at any one time before moving it to the next step in your workflow. This helps avoid confusion about who is reviewing what and eliminates redundant edits and rework that delay project delivery.

To create single accountability, you will need to establish a hierarchy or order for who reviews things first. Those who may have strategic feedback or have more input on the overall direction of the project should review projects first, as this feedback can have the most dramatic effect on the final deliverable. Team members who will review projects for granular details, such as copyeditors, should go later in the process. By establishing single accountability and being intentional in how you set up the order of reviews, you can create a streamlined system that ultimately speeds up the review process.

Some project management solutions offer sequential reviews that assign specific departments review times based on the hierarchy that is set within a template, project, or review and approval software. Sequential reviews automate the entire process so the creators know who is reviewing what and at what phase.

3. Set clear guidelines

Project reviews can often get bogged down when stakeholders start unpacking all kinds of issues they were never supposed to weigh in on in the first place. For example, a sales manager may start suggesting new color palettes or fonts for a sales sheet, when really they were just supposed to validate the accuracy of the information it contained. When people get outside their realm of expertise, not only will the quality of the final deliverable suffer, but the project will take longer to complete.

To avoid these delays, make sure anyone who will be reviewing creative projects knows exactly what's expected of them.

Set clear guidelines for the exact kind of feedback you want from them. This will give them direction and eliminate the “too many cooks in the kitchen” problems that can sometimes plague creative projects.

This is especially true when getting approvals from C-suite personnel. Establish up front that their approval is only needed to validate that the asset is in keeping with the company mission. You can also plant the seed that the entire review process is beneath them and their time is only necessary for unique projects or new project types; this will help to transition them out of the review process down the road to keep things moving quickly. While they may want input on projects, and justifiably so, both the speed of delivery and the project itself will benefit if you can limit the scope of these reviews.

4. Remind your team

Sometimes to get the approvals you need, you have to be persistent. Creating a process and a cadence for reminding stakeholders when an item needs their review is essential for breaking up the bottleneck and moving projects forward.

If you have a project management tool that shows tasks and alerts in an easy-to-use format, you won't need reminders. The information and prompts they need will be right in front of them. Many tools will send automated reminders when a review is overdue, and can help you identify your worst offenders with reports that show who is creating the most frequent, or longest delays. You can use these types of data insights to tailor your approach for unique situations while optimizing your review process as a whole.

If you don't have project management software, or if your stakeholders are reluctant to use your preferred tools, you'll need to create a more manual process. Consider sending reminders once a day. Although this can seem like it'd be annoying, remember that most people receive dozens of emails every day. One more isn't going to hurt. Also, consistent reminders will convey a sense of urgency to stakeholders and show them that you care about your work and take your projects seriously. Hopefully that will make them take their review more seriously as well. Personal reminders, such as an email or direct message, will always be more effective than automated messaging.

Despite your best efforts, stakeholders may still be slow in getting projects reviewed and approved. But establishing clear expectations and a defined review process will still help you be more efficient and speed up the process. If some stakeholders are slow, sometimes the best thing you can do is make sure the rest of your process moves as quickly as possible.

Image of Daniel Perez
Daniel Perez

Dan heads up Aquent's Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) division that produces RoboHead, a leading project management solution for in-house marketing and creative. Dan started as a web developer at the University of Georgia, working on one of the first web-based course registration systems in the U.S. He then worked as a consultant for Lotus and IBM, overseeing the design and architecture of applications for numerous Fortune 500 companies. He joined Aquent as the director of research and development, helping the company transition from client/server to a multi-tiered web architecture. Dan's mission with Aquent Cloud is to produce software that helps in-house marketing and creative teams maximize their productivity and quantify the value they bring to their organizations. Dan holds a BA and MA in English literature from the University of Georgia. Caught up in the exciting possibilities ushered in by the birth of the internet, he was never able to finish that dissertation and emerge as a leading authority on British Romanticism.


Read more by this author