Back last year at the Office 2.0 conference I was struck by the volume and overlap of web 2.0 products that have come on to the market in the last couple of years. Amongst the ones that stand out are applications which address a specific, real world problem that most businesses have, but with an elegant and cost effective web service that is easy to use. FreshBooks and BaseCamp are good examples. The former tackles the invoicing and collection problem that all businesses have, and BaseCamp tackles project management. Both can be used by a very small business to tackle one of their crucial issues and help them look as professional as a large enterprise.
My friend Mat Atkinson is a few weeks away from starting the "beta" of an excellent new web service that fits in to the same mould - Approvr. The problem he is attacking is document and proof sign off. Whether it is collaboration over a contract, or approval of a complex design, most companies have to deal with circulating documents and designs for comments and eventual agreement. Mat's recent background has been heavily involved with marketing processes. He was the founder of Mtivity, a SaaS based marketing resource management solution that we still partner with. Consequently he's made sure his new service can work well for the kind of documents and proofs that go back and forth between marketing and designers and service providers every day.
First you drag and drop the document or proof to Approvr. Then you tell it the e-mail addresses of the people that need to review and sign off, with a covering note, and the date/time they need to complete by. The approvers get the mail with a link to the file, which they can download, so that avoids e-mailing big files and hitting mailbox limits. The approver can add date/time/name stamped comments overlaid on the design or document, but everyone sees all of the comments in real time to avoid any conflicts or duplication. You get a dashboard that helps you track the various documents and proofs you've sent for approval, so that you can easily chase to get the job done. The system even handles comments in PDFs, which can be imported and exported by Approvr to make it easy to work alongside existing tools like Adobe Acrobat.
Obviously this works on both Mac and PC - in the design environment that is essential.
The beta release is only a few weeks away. I've signed up, so I'll give a further report once I've used it myself. If Mat gets the pricing right, I predict he's on to a winner here. Mat's back blogging again, which is also great.
Disclosure: We've both been a client of each other before now, and Mat's bent my ear for advice on some of his planned launch activities, but there is no commercial relationship between us currently.