Identifying and Fixing Bottlenecks in your Approval Workflow Process
By Jodie Byass
Everybody wants to achieve more, but in reality marketers are still not hitting the mark when it comes to producing more content. And while it looks like a simple case of not enough hours (or resources) in the day, the issue often has more to do with how marketers are managing their approval workflow.
According to Marketing Insider Group , For both agency and non-agency marketers, staying timely and relevant with the long, clunky marketing approval processes they need to go through with content creation is one of the biggest challenges that's keeping them up at night.
Because, typically, clunky processes lead to bottlenecks.
This might also interest you: Is time really the problem? Break the bottlenecks in content production.
What is a bottleneck?
Bottleneck is a term that is regularly used to describe an obstruction at one or many touch points in approval workflow. If left unattended, bottlenecks can greatly affect the production of your marketing content.
What are the signs of bottlenecks in your marketing approval workflow process?
- You often miss deadlines because approvals drag out longer than they should.
- Collating feedback is a nightmare and changes are regularly missed.
- High artwork revisions are commonplace.
- Your resources are nearly always overloaded with work.
- You can't seem to hit your budget targets.
- Your great ideas are not translating across to your campaigns.
- Your customers/department heads are unhappy with the quality and quantity of output.
- You have a high turnover of staff.
- You're not achieving the ROI on your marketing that you should be.
How to identify your bottlenecks in your approval workflow process and ways to fix them.
If bottlenecks are impacting your department's performance, it's time to do a review of your approval workflow to see exactly where work is getting stalled. Let's take a look at the common issues that scream bottleneck and we'll show you ways to fix them in order to improve your overall marketing process.
Issue #1: Poorly briefed projects
A brief comes in but as you read through it you see that pertinent information is missing. And then there are those occasions where you have a casual conversation with someone that apparently was the brief. Whichever way, you now have to chase up the missing information, which can take several days. Alternatively, assumptions are made and when the artwork is sent for approval it's found to have multiple errors. Cue another round of changes.
Fix: Create comprehensive briefing templates
To avoid bottlenecks at the briefing stage, create failsafe briefing templates for each type of collateral you produce. Each template should provide fields that capture all the information your team needs to produce the artwork properly. It would also be worth citing on the templates that incomplete briefs will not be processed which will affect the deadline date.
Issue #2: Ineffectual approval pathways
Perhaps you have too many stakeholders in your approval process that aren't required, making it more drawn out than it needs to be. On the other hand, you might have important stakeholders who get overlooked in your approvals, which means that your projects get delayed at the eleventh hour when the oversight is discovered.
Fix: Review and re-map your approval pathways
Now is the time to off load any superfluous stakeholders who are creating bottlenecks in your approval pathways. You also need to carefully map out the sequence of your approvals to avoid further delays. Are there two groups of approvers who can review artwork in parallel to save time? Are you placing stakeholders in the right order to avoid double handling approvals? Are you certain that every vital stakeholder/department are included on your approval pathway? These are all questions that should help with refining and fixing the process.
Issue #3: Briefing changes to your creative team is chaotic
The sooner you get changes to your creative team, the faster you'll turn around your approvals. Right? Wrong. It actually takes longer for your designer to go back and forth on a file to keep making changes. This way of working also increases your error margin which means it's likely you're heading for more artwork changes down the track.
Fix: Batch your feedback
In terms of efficiency, it makes more sense to wait until you have all the feedback for, say, round one of approvals before you send it on to your team. This way you can sort out any conflicting feedback before artwork changes are made. Additionally, it's much easier and less error-prone to make multiple changes at the one time.
Issue #4: Feedback is incoherent
You know the kind we're talking about. You've just been emailed a scanned copy of someone's mark ups which are illegible. So now you'll have to email the stakeholder or put in a phone call to try to decipher the changes.
Fix: Be clear on how feedback is to be provided
Too much valuable time is wasted on trying to decipher handwritten feedback. With this, outline to your stakeholders how artwork is to be provided and edited. For example, it's okay to mark up artwork as long as it is accompanied by typed text that explains what the changes are.
Issue#5: Poor resource management
When supply doesn't meet demand, one or more of your creative projects are bound to grind to a halt. Still, it's not necessarily a case of not having enough resources. Perhaps you're scheduling resources on a spreadsheet and lack the visibility to optimise their capacity. Likewise, other stakeholders might not be able to ascertain your department's capacity and are mandating deadlines that can't be met.
Fix: Achieve more visibility over your resources
For greater visibility, chart your resource allocations on a live, shared calendar. This way, not only can you get a better picture of what's been scheduled, so can other stakeholders. In addition, you eliminate the risk of someone looking at an outdated spreadsheet which could potentially lead to resource clashes.
Download our free whitepaper 'Understanding Approval Workflow Solutions' to learn how a marketing approval workflow software can benefit your team and remove these bottlenecks.