A startup called Zapproved recently launched the public “beta” test of a new web application that should cut a lot of the confusion and ambiguity out of the decision-making process.

Okay, so you still have to deal with passionate disagreements and little things like that. But Portland, Oregon-based Zapproved handles the infrastructure, so you don’t have to worry about the little headaches — like wondering, “Hey, has everyone responded yet?” or “Okay, after reading all of your comments I have no idea if you gave me a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,'” — just the big ones. It provides an easy interface to ask people to comment on a proposal, vote “yea” or “nay” and to track all of the votes. ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick described Zapproved as an “Evite for approval processes,” which sounds about right. As with event-planning on Evite, you could probably just send out a regular email, but when enough people are involved, it’s easier to manage everything through Zapproved.

There are two aspects in particular that I like about Zapproved. First of all, it’s wonderfully simple to use. Both setting up an proposal and responding are basically like writing emails — I was able to send and respond to a proposal in less than a minute. And while Zapproved allows for comments, it also clearly and explicitly asks respondees for a definite “yes” or a “no.” At the end of the process, the proposer can just glance at the list of respondees and see if they’re good to go.

Even more importantly, Zapproved’s email-driven interface means that you can bring anyone into the process, not just Zapproved users. In other words, unlike most collaboration or workflow-management services, Zapproved doesn’t require a certain level of adoption within a company to be useful; it’s useful right out of the gate.

Chief executive Monica Enand tells me the company is working a bunch of other features, including RSS feeds, a Zapproved widget, a mobile version with speech-to-text capability and compatibility with Outlook and eFax. All of that should come in the next few months, she says. Beyond that, Enand says the company will release application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow third-party developers to integrate Zapproved with other services. In this testing phase, Zapproved is free, but the company is working out pricing plans to start charging for some features with the official launch. For example, Zapproved could charge companies to use a branded version of the service.

Enand also says the current tool is just the first of a number of office applications she wants to develop. She didn’t offer any details, except to say they’ll be linked by a common vision of simplicity and accessibility.

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