Review & Approval: When the Status Quo is Your Biggest Competitor

I first wrote about Review and Approval apps back in 2014; here’s an excerpt of some of the things I discussed in my post back then. I share these thoughts again because they still ring true and apply today:

Collaborative review and approval apps aren’t necessarily a new concept. In fact, my first experience working with them was back in 2006 when I began working with a startup called syncVUE. It was a great product – it was ahead of its time in so many ways. And that was the problem. It was ahead of its time.

Facebook was 2 years old; Twitter was an infant that people didn’t quite understand. Social Media Gurus didn’t exist, and clouds were something that just ruined your summer day.

And along came syncVUE – a “collaborative review and approval” application for post production artists who were sick of traveling, sitting in traffic, just to have to their client or team look over their shoulders as they reviewed a clip. It was novel. It was innovative. It was based on Skype. ‘What the hell is Skype?’

Oddly, that was one of the biggest barriers to adoption. No one wanted to embrace a web-based communication tool that they either never heard of, didn’t understand, or weren’t comfortable with implementing. Some enterprise clients refused to install it for security reasons – they weren’t allowed to bring it inside the firewall. So the big clients and the studios weren’t allowed to use it,  they would never experience syncVUE.

It was ahead of its time.

syncVUE was acquired by a big teleconferencing company. They absorbed it, buried it, and now it’s gone.  Over the years I continued to work with a companies in the space – companies who took the concept of R&A and significantly raised the bar. In terms of elegance, simplicity and workflow, these guys elevated the category into a new strata in a way that I’d hoped would put the category on the map again.

But I’m not sure it has.

The introduction of Frame.io and Wipster have succeeded in raising the standards for the category, challenging competitors to up their game as well. But an important question lingers. Is R&A on its own a viable and valuable category?  Does the market need more review and approval applications when they all basically do the same thing, but with slightly different skin? Or, is the status quo – the cobbled together, albeit free, workflow – simply good enough?

Frame and Wipster are both gorgeous, very well executed apps. They’ve tackled well the problem of review and approval. But the question still goes unanswered.

And it’s a fair question.

Do we need yet another review and approval application? Is the status quo ‘good enough?’

Or do we need something more? Something that takes a broader look at how we, as creatives and content creators, actually work, collaborate, communicate and essentially, get things done. The issue is, in fact, beyond review and approval.

It’s an issue that requires more than a single, isolated application. It requires an ecosystem, a platform. A platform that weaves itself into the fabric of how we like to work. And the common thread – and critical attribute to this platform – is a review and approval architecture that ties it all together.

Enter Arc 9.

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Arc 9 is a platform, not exactly an application. It’s well integrated with so many of the tools and applications we all work with everyday. But what it is and why do I need it? Let me explain.

Arc 9 is a messaging and collaboration platform for the creative community, design teams, digital media artists and filmmakers. It’s simply designed to help teams get things done.

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It is a place where creative teams and their clients can connect, share, review and present visual content – from video projects and films, to animations, photographs, illustrations and documents. All the assets of a creative project — created by teams, reviewed by colleagues and clients — are all stored and shared in an accessible, single, clean platform.

Arc 9 is messaging and collaboration software designed with creatives in mind. They seem to understand that collaboration on creative content is about more than reviewing documents. It’s more than reviewing video clips. It’s about having meaningful, actionable conversations around videos, animations, artwork, logos – and sure, documents too.

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Is it Slack for creatives? No, because they also know that creatives love Slack. So they partnered up and integrated with Slack. Arc 9 also understands what people love about Slack. Simplicity.

Arc 9 integrated with Slack adds the ability to have deeper discussions using the content as a canvas, with all content and interactions on that content recorded and accessible in your existing Slack channels.

Arc 9 also takes integration much much further. Because the founders of Arc 9 come from the post production industry, they have a good handle on all the tools, applications and eating platforms that the community has embraced. To that end, they’ve integrated with a ton of other applications that creatives love and use everyday, like Dropbox, Box, FTP, Vimeo and YouTube.

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Recognizing that creative teams are not just small boutiques taking up shop in funky SoHo lofts, but they’re sometimes part of a larger corporate enterprise that don’t always have a say on what platform they’re collaborating on. So they partnered with Microsoft and integrated with Office 365. Arc 9 also has a unique social calendaring that lets teams share to their favorite social media platforms right from Arc 9. And the editorial/post production departments loves Arc 9 because it integrates nicely with Adobe Creative Cloud, Final Cut Pro X and Avid Media Composer.

Getting stuff done is hard, especially when collaborating with teams of people whose experience and roles run the gamut from creative directors to copy writers, to video editors to animators and illustrators. Now add clients to the process. It’s kind of a nightmare. And coming full circle, it’s this experience that was the motivation for review and approval apps to begin with. And maybe that’s why the smaller category of R&A hasn’t really taken off yet. They only solve a small portion of the problem. But Arc 9 has taken a different approach. A much more holistic approach. They looked at the bigger problem, from many different perspectives. Not just the editor’s viewpoint.

Frustrations exist on both sides of the table. And the fact is, the table for content creators has many, many sides. And they all need to be taken into consideration. The filmmaker, videographer, the graphic designer, the ad agency, the client, the editor, the VFX artist. Everyone has an opinion, a voice, a role and say in the final product.

At the end of the day, creative teams crave simplicity and efficiency. They want to focus on their art, not the process of delivering their art.  And that’s what Arc 9 is all about.

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