Document Review and Approval: How to Get It Right

The review and approval process can make or break your project. To get the best possible results, every stakeholder must be able to efficiently and clearly give their feedback. As a marketing project manager, it’s up to you to find the right method.

Here’s a look at how to optimize your document review and approval process.

Document Review and Approval Process in Digital Projects

Before we look at what makes a great review and approval tool, let’s explore what the process behind actually looks like.

1. The team submits project proposals.

The project begins when the project manager submits the project proposal to the management team, who then approves or denies the proposal.

2. The manager assigns the tasks.

After the project has been confirmed, the project manager assigns each member of the team certain tasks, according to the approach outlined in the project proposal.

3. The team receives these tasks.

It’s now up to the team to interpret these tasks, and address any doubts  they have with them.

4. The team submits their first drafts.

Once the team has finished working, each member will submit their first drafts and pull the project together.

5. Stakeholders request changes.

The collateral is shared with internal and external stakeholders, in order to collect their feedback and direct changes toward the team.

6. Changes are implemented.

The team receives the requested changes, and they try to accurately implement them while they maintain a high standard of quality.

7. The team polishes the project.

After each team member completes his or her assignment, they collaborate to seamlessly complete the overall project.

8. The submission is reviewed one final time.

Finally, the collateral is sent to the relevant stakeholders, who are given one last opportunity to approve or reject the project.

9. The project manager wraps up the project.

Once the project has been approved, it’s time for the project manager to end the project. If you need to expedite the review and approval process, be sure to read our piece on how to speed it up.

6 Tips for Streamlining Your Document Review and Approval Process

So that’s what the process looks like. But how can you make it as efficient and effective as possible (while preserving your own sanity)?

Here’s a look at some key tips.

#1 Use the best tools.

The days of printouts and handwritten annotations are over. This process is inefficient and frustrating. And the guesswork involved means that the success of your project is jeopardized.

Today, there are countless tools out there that can speed up your review and approval process while they help you monitor and implement every change you’ve been asked to make.

Quality tools for review and approval can solve many of your headaches, and they help make the process exponentially faster and more accurate.

#2 Avoid large changes

It’s important to make sure that your review and approval process is focused on the details. Now isn’t the time for your stakeholders to make vast, sweeping changes that will completely alter your work.

To make sure you avoid these charges, you’ll need to develop a robust project scope statement and a clear project outline. These documents can help you accurately establish the goals of a project, so your team will hit the mark the first time round.

Before the project begins, you should get all of the key stakeholders to read and agree to the project scope statement and project outline. This tactic will help you avoid confusion during the review and approval process.

#3 Establish a clear language

Throughout the review and approval process, it’s important for you to collect the clearest feedback possible. A big part of achieving this goal involves ensuring that your team uses the clearest language possible.

Unclear language can confuse your team members and make it difficult for them to implement the desired changes. It can also make the review and approval process longer than it needs to be.

You should make sure that any technical language is clarified, and that you act as a go-between for your team and the stakeholders. To make sure that feedback is effective, you should also clarify any doubts among your team.

#4 Think about the review order

It’s important for you to think about the order in which your stakeholders will review your project collaterals. It often makes the most sense to work your way up the ranks of seniority, and only request final approval from the most senior stakeholders.

As a project manager, you should use your discretion and read the dynamics of the project. Does your client want to be involved at each stage, or is he or she short on time? You should cater the review and approval process each time.

You should also think about what makes sense, in terms of your project. Do you need to secure approval from a particular stakeholder before the project can move forward? If you take a closer look, a natural order could organically appear.

#5 Create standards for feedback

As a marketing project manager, the review and approval stage is your time to shine. You can take hold of the process and demonstrate your value, then seamlessly and harmoniously bring your team together.  

To make sure you gather your team properly, try to establish clear standards about the delivery of feedback. Your stakeholders will appreciate the guidance and attention, while your team will love the consistent and comprehensive feedback.

The right tool makes it easy for you to automatically create these standards. Platforms like Filestage empower your stakeholders to leave in-context feedback that’s clear and easy to understand.

#6Foster a sense of collaboration

Throughout the review and approval process, it’s also important for you to foster a sense of collaboration. While everyone is technically on the same team, it could be challenging for everybody to keep sight of this comradery during the review and approval process.

Use your energy and people skills to protect your team. On one hand, you should give them constructive criticism. But on the other hand, you should  show them your flexibility and desire to please to your stakeholders.

As the project manager, you really do have a critical role throughout the entire review and approval process.

The Most Important Features of Software for Document Review and Approval

As you’ve seen, the right tool is essential to the success of the product. But  when it comes to choosing the best review and approval software, how should you judge the various options out there?

1. Document Annotation and Markup Features

It’s important to make sure your chosen review and approval tool makes it simple to annotate documents in any format. The most powerful tools empower your stakeholders to leave in-context comments on a range of media types, including PDFs, images, and videos. Then your team will be able to more easily understand feedback.

2. Process Builder

As we explored earlier, it’s important for your review and approval process to have a distinct, deliberate, logical structure. The best tools are able to help you cater to your particular needs, which makes it easy for you to adjust permissions and build a strong, effective process.

3. Easy-to-Use Interface

Nobody enjoys wrestling with a new tool, particularly during the critical stage of a project. Your chosen tool should offer a clean user interface and an equally pleasant user experience. The best tools give you a plug-and-play experience that can be briefly mastered without any friction.

4. Versioning Features

While managing the different versions of specific collateral is never easy, it’s critical to the success of your project. If your team gets lost between versions, you’ll experience lots of confusion that can derail your project. So it’s important to make sure your chosen tool helps you and your team stay on top of different versions.

5. Simple Process for Inviting and Communicating

As a marketing project manager, you want to make everyone’s life as easy as possible, and help them focus on the main priority: the project. If you choose the right tool, you’ll be able to quickly and easily invite everybody involved, and you can help them start communicating right away. Then everybody will appreciate how seamless the  experience is and focus on the task at hand.

6. Tracking Project Performance

During the review and approval process, you can’t afford to miss a single comment or piece of feedback. Not only will it impact the quality of the final collateral, it will also make you look bad in front of your stakeholders. So you need a tool that makes it easier to generate and track tasks.

7. Sharing Files Without Signing Up

Depending on your project, there’s a good chance you’ll have to communicate with external stakeholders. They’ll often have an entirely different setup, in terms of tech and tools. So you want a review and approval tool that’s cooperative. The best options make life easy by allowing you to share files, without your stakeholders having to create an account.

Document Review and Approval Software


Filestage PDF Annotate

Filestage offers you a better way to manage your digital projects. The tool helps the fastest-growing agencies around the world make the review and approval process as effective and clear as possible.

This tool delivers all of the criteria above. Project managers rely on the tool for  simplifying the review and approval process while they delight their team members and impress their stakeholders.

Over the years, Filestage has been lovingly refined. Today, its UI and UX are unparalleled, which makes life better for everyone and helps your stakeholders get up and running without barriers.


Smartsheet Screenshot

Smartsheet is a work-execution platform that helps teams move from idea to impact. This tool has been around since 2006, and it has a set of loyal users. It helps teams assign tasks, track the progress of a project, and share documents.

The platform has a spreadsheet-like user interface, which is now a little dated and difficult to access. Therefore, it can be difficult for your stakeholders to get started and deliver the clear feedback your team needs.


Ziflow Screenshot

Ziflow is a piece of online proofing software aimed at agencies and brands that want to simplify the review and approval process, in order to deliver projects more quickly.

This tool places a strong emphasis on usability, but many users complain that it’s difficult to configure. Furthermore, the process is cumbersome and lacks clear parameters, which makes it difficult to offer the seamless experience that your team members and stakeholders need.

Looking for more? Be sure to explore our article about the best software for document review and approval.


We hope this closer look at the best review and approval software has been useful for you. By now, your stakeholders and team members will expect you to implement these sophisticated tools. So it’s important for you to really deliver.  

We wish you all the best with your projects.

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