Guide to Evaluating Online Proofing Tools
Guide to Evaluating Online Proofing Tools Ambiguous, complicated, tedious and inefficient: do these words sound familiar? If you’ve ever been involved in the review and approval process of a creative asset, then we know your answer. You can streamline your process and reduce your headaches with online proofing and review and approval (R&A) solutions.
But choosing the right tool is a tedious and complicated task all on its own - but we’re here to help. This guide will help you to discover the features that best match your organization’s needs and evaluate vendor offerings.
Before understanding if an online proofing solution is right for you, it is important to determine current processes and where the software can optimize existing workflows and increase operational flexibility. Review and approval processes can be informal and ad-hoc to formalized and rigid; knowing about your processes is the first step. What type of asset workflow processes does your company operate in? (Routine, Complex/High profile, High-risk?) How are projects initiated? Which groups, departments and individuals are involved in the process? You can read the detailed guide to Assessing your Creative Review and Approval Process here.
VOLUME AND TYPES OF CONTENT BEING PRODUCED
Teams usually use a variety of file formats for print, web and video production, ensure your tools support your needs. Additionally, make sure that they will work with your native formats, without forcing you to convert file types. Assess your scalability needs by determining benchmark production values. What assets need to be reviewed and approved? What file formats are most commonly used? (PDF, Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Office, SWF?) How many assets are be delivered per week? Per month?
SCALE OF SHARING AND COLLABORATION
Regardless of whether you operate in-house or outsource production, there are obvious challenges with collaboration: delays and lack of clarity in feedback; dead-time spent waiting for reviews and approvals; and overall, more iterations and email chains. Knowing the number of individuals involved in an asset’s production can shine a light on the scale of your operations. How many individuals initiate a review, comment and/or an approval? Where are assets created? (Agencies, Freelancers, in-house or all?)
PROVIDING FEEDBACK AND SIMPLIFYING REVIEWS
Email and photoshop make clear and actionable feedback difficult to decipher. Reduce deadtime spent waiting for assets to be reviewed and feedback to be delivered. Visual assets require a tool that facilitates precise and centralized feedback. Do you require detailed feedback, simple yes-or-no approvals, both? What type of feedback do you require? (Text, drawing and mark-up tools) Does feedback need to be in a centralized, interactive thread that enhances collaboration? Is mobile access essential?
INTEGRATION WITH EXISTING PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND PRODUCTION TOOLS
Integrating an online proofing solution with your existing systems and processes will ensure workflow remains uninterrupted. When determining a suitable online proofing tool, look for software that can seamlessly become part of your larger production process, with APIs that allow for future integrations. Are there existing systems that your new online review and proofing tool needs to integrate with? (eg. DAM, MRM, project management systems?)Are there legacy systems that need integration? Can the solution software be scaled to match your growing operations?
SYSTEM CONTROL AND SECURITY CAPABILITIES
Assets need to be securely stored with a software solution that matches your organization’s level of security. Determining how assets are secured and hosted will ensure the level of security is acceptable for your creative operations and safe housing of valuable assets. Ensure that only those directly involved in a review have access to those assets. What level of security does your organization require with regards to assets? What type of storage solution does the software offer? Who ultimately hosts the asset storage? How granular is the R&A process? Who is allowed to see which assets?
COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS OF AN ONLINE PROOFING SOLUTION
Analyzing initial investment costs against both the immediate and potential gains from using an online proofing software will determine realistic expectations of positive changes in production capacity, asset duration, R&A time and management responsibilities. How much does the solution software cost? Is there room to expand storage or users? Are there any additional costs associated with training, support, installation? What level of improvement (in terms of production, R&A time, etc.) can be realized once the solution has been implemented?
STEPS OF IMPLEMENTATION
The solution should be adjusted to your current workflows; employees should spend less time adapting to the new software and more time producing assets. Selecting a solution that can be implemented quickly and adopted into current operations will help to supercharge your productivity faster. What resources and who is needed to implement the online proofing solution? What changes must be made to existing workflows? How long will implementation take? Has the vendor worked with companies of a similar operations to yours?
TRAINING AND SUPPORT RESOURCES
Understanding the learning curve of the solution can help determine what level of training will be required and ease of implementation. Ask what training programs and resources are available; ideally the software should be simple enough to operate with basic training. Investing in the education of internal trainers can help to provide additional support once the initial implementation and training has been completed. What type of training and resources are made available? Is the cost of training included when the software is purchased? Is training limited to selected individuals that will internally train other members or will all employees be simultaneously trained? Will all members be available for training the implementation stage?
TRACKING, REPORTING AND METRICS
Knowing your numbers is the first step to further improving operations. Determine what metrics mean the most to your operations and see if the solution you choose can extract and compile that information for you. Ensuring that assets can be effectively tracked through the R&A process is also important to consider when selecting a software solution. Look for the ability to personalize the user experience and reporting metrics to further validate your final decision. How is R&A currently being tracked? Can it be simplified and more intuitive? What metrics matter most to your creative operations and asset output? Is there a dashboard that conglomerates workflow information and metrics? Do you require customized metrics? How do you want you reports and metrics to be accessed?
ADHERING TO REGULATIONS AND COMPLIANCE
The online proofing solution you decide on should adhere to the regulation and compliance requirements that you have. If you require detailed R&A process notes, look for a software solution that will automatically track process compliance and approval steps. Is your R&A process subject to regulatory concerns? What are the specific compliance requirements you have? Do you need detailed records of the R&A process? (ie. When the proof was finalized, who provided feedback, what changes were made)