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September 12, 2008

Zapproved – Approve It, Track It, Store It

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When it comes to decision-making – whether that decision is for the prom committee, the PTA, or the marketing department of a large corporation – two heads are better than one, and a group often trumps a pair. Still, collaboration can be tough, especially when it must happen electronically. Email conversations are difficult to track – and making decisions via email with a group of any size can be even tougher, as you try to keep track of who agrees, who disagrees, and how to keep the process in motion. A new web application, Zapproved, integrates with your email to help organize and encourage firm decision-making, taking the mess out of email approvals. There’s no more need to tally email responses, collect messages in electronic folders, or print out a batch of responses to keep track of who said what. Zapproved tracks the decision for you.

Zapproved is easy to use. To start, just click the button for a new proposal. Then, create a note and attach any files needed. Enter the email addresses of the approvers, select a due date and priority level, and hit send. Everyone will get an email with your proposal and three options to choose from: they can approve your proposal, reject your proposal, or just leave a comment. After the proposal is sent, all the action takes place within each email, so approvers don’t have to visit or register with Zapproved to participate. As these steps take place, everyone in the group can see how decisions are being made, who has replied, and who is still considering a proposal. When deadlines approach, Zapproved will remind everyone to keep the decision-making process moving on schedule. Zapproved even stores all past decisions for future reference, in case there’s ever any question. The process of coming to consensus has never been more decisive.

Practical Uses:

  • Plan fewer meetings without sacrificing team participation
  • Allow space for colleagues to review the budget carefully, without being pressured to come to a decision right after your presentation
  • Create a forum for employees in your start-up to collaborate on new ideas and innovations – while getting clear feedback from supervisors
  • Get your boss’s approval to move forward on the group project you’ve prepared without having to call a formal meeting
  • Vote on small or immediate initiatives in your community organization, PTA, or church committees without meeting each week

Insider Tips:

  • Zapproved’s motto includes transparency in all decision-making, so be aware that every approver will see the decisions and comments of others
  • In some states, Zapproved will provide legally-binding evidence of an agreement. In other states, additional, old-school documentation may be necessary

What we liked:

  • All decision-making with Zapproved takes place within email, so anyone with an e-mail address can receive and respond to a proposal
  • Because Zapproved only gives users the option to accept, reject, or comment on proposals, decisions are pushed toward a clear yes or no
  • The dashboard includes handy icons, showing how many people you’re waiting to hear from and whether anyone is waiting to hear from you for approval
  • When you send a proposal, recipients will see your name in the “from” field of a Zapproved email, so it will be clear that a proposal is coming from you, rather than a website

What we didn’t like:

  • Although emails to approvers will look like they’re coming from you, they are actually sent by [email protected], which means that proposals may accidentally get routed to spam folders
  • Zapproved is free while it’s in beta, but there’s no news yet on how much the finished product will cost subscribers

Alternatives:

There are no services similar to Zapproved at this time, but here are some web-based collaboration tools:

Company Info:

  • Launched: August 2008
  • Privately Held and operated by Enand Ventures, LLC
  • Headquarters: Portland, Oregon
  • Founded by Monica Enand
  • Web site: http://www.zapproved.com

Costs:

  • Zapproved is free while it’s in beta, but there may be a subscription fee in the future