Snap decisions

Monica Enand, CEO and Founder at Zapproved, was able to get up early one Saturday in 2008 to show me her new software. It was 8 AM on the Pacific Coast and she didn’t sound like she was in her pajamas at her computer. It was the weekend before launch so she was likely up anyway, figuring out any last-minute issues before you press the button to send your project out into all the world.
Zapproved, she explained to me, is the “first free, cloud-based application that manages decision making, approval and compliance.” Basex research shows that we will receive 228 new emails per day by 2010 and that 30% of the messages reach our inbox are corporate spam. This is a lot of information for your project sponsor. She will have to sort through it all before she gets to the one that asks six people their opinions and aims to facilitate a decision.
Zapproved will not allow chatter, even if it does not stop the email from being sent. You create a proposal that people can accept or reject. Then they click ‘Accept, ‘Deny, or ‘Comment’ to accept the proposal. This forces people to not sit on the fence. Zapproved has been growing by word of mouth since August’s beta release and now has 1500 members. This was before I signed up to see the hype and before the final version was released yesterday.

Is it going to take off? Cloud computing, which is the use of web-hosted applications to manage your day-today life, isn’t yet a fully corporate concept. LinkedIn and Flickr are cloud apps. They’re software that is accessible online and doesn’t reside on your computer. This software is used by many people, but it’s not widely available in large offices.
Enand says that cloud computing was a problem two years ago. “As the economy slows down, people will be more interested hosting apps that can be used immediately without a large IT budget.”
It’s true. Zapproved offers a free version, but it won’t save your archived decisions longer than 60 days. If you feel someone is going to query what Zapproved signed off months ago, you will need to upgrade or keep a decision log elsewhere.
Still, Zapproved and tools like it are a step in a direction that will make the lives of project managers easier. Do you need a signed document? Zapprove it. Scope change is making the rounds? Zapprove it. Enand doesn’t use ‘zapprove’ as a verb. That’s just me.
Enand and her team are working on more plans. Outlook integration – A toolbar-style Zapproved plugin for Outlook, an iPhone app, electronic signatures, and verification. There is a whole industry that revolves around making decisions. However, Zapproved will not eliminate the need for consensus building. You’ll still need people to engage with your ideas and help them understand why the decision is important.
It will be most useful at the ‘but, you said you were okay with it’ stage. You can get your stakeholders to click a button, and voila! A centrally-mediated decision log in an instant. It is up to you to decide if they are making the right decisions. No software can help.
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