PleaseTech blog

We aim to provide useful, pertinent and sometimes fun insights into the world of document collaboration and the workings of a technology company

PleaseTech Becomes Part of Ideagen Plc

Posted by David Cornwell on 27. March 2017 09:55

Founder/CEO of PleaseTech Ltd - collaborative document review and co-authoring for the enterprise.

Passing the baton from Dave to David

You may have learnt by now that on 23rd March 2017, Ideagen Plc announced its acquisition of PleaseTech Ltd.

Ideagen are not just acquiring an outstanding product in PleaseReview, they are also acquiring a superb team which has created PleaseReview and marketed, sold and supported it across the globe - underpinned by a highly organized and professional administrative function. No company can be successful without a dedicated team behind it. At PleaseTech we have such a team. 

PleaseReview is a globally unique leading edge software product for which our clients regularly express ‘love’. Coupled by our commitment to customer service it was a rare month when we didn’t receive a client email thanking the support team for their exceptional dedication to duty.

My personal philosophy has always been that ‘if anyone who works for us couldn’t walk out the door and get another job tomorrow, why were we employing them?’. Needless to say, I believe that everyone who worked at PleaseTech would be a massive asset to another company. The lucky company which inherits them and their exceptional talents and standards is Ideagen.

You may be thinking why now? Why Ideagen? What does it mean for me? I’ll try and answer those questions below.

When the founders (Clare and myself, and then rapidly joined by Tim and Jason) embarked upon PleaseTech, we hardly dared believe that we’d create a product and company which would be as successful as PleaseReview and PleaseTech. PleaseReview is in use by over 70% of the largest global Pharmaceutical and Biotech companies, as well as a number of major Defense companies, the US Navy, the United Nations and many other very large and not so large companies and organizations. Many of these clients consider PleaseReview as ‘mission critical’ and PleaseTech as a strategic supplier. PleaseTech has remained profitable with a positive cash flow. All this from a small British software company. Trust me, as entrepreneurs, it doesn’t get much better! 

During the company’s growth, we have recruited an outstanding team (both in the UK and Malaysia) and had a lot of fun on the way. The UK Christmas parties (held in January) are legendary.

However, as the company grows, it moves out of the start-up phase and into a growth phase. This means it needs different management skills and approaches and that’s not necessarily something a start-up team has. We needed to recognize and accept that the founders are not necessarily the best people to move the business forward to its next phase of growth.  

So, as we move into a global growth phase, now seems like a good time to pass the baton.

We therefore pass the baton proudly onto David Hornsby and his team at Ideagen. We have worked with them over the last few months and been impressed with their ambition, organization and potential. Ideagen is a complementary business (we have many similar and even common clients in different areas), is British (this helps with the cultural fit and therefore helps our staff assimilate) and Ideagen’s size and growth trajectory provides our team with career opportunities that PleaseTech as a standalone, organic growth business couldn’t possibly hope to offer. 

Ideagen is growing rapidly and putting together a great product portfolio. The company has great plans for PleaseReview and, I’ve no doubt, they will continue to provide the investment and support necessary to maintain PleaseReview’s market leading position as it sets new standards in usability and functionality.

So, for employees, we see increased career opportunities and the benefits that a rapidly growing UK quoted company can provide. For clients, we see extended reach, further investment and a great home for their mission critical solution. We look forward to our partners continuing to work with the team to provide integrated solutions for mutual clients. 

It's important to note that there won’t be any changes in the frontline team. Barry Lyne, with a larger salesforce, will still be at the forefront of sales and Nick Angell and his department will carry on providing support and customer services. Zoe Wright and her team will continue to provide training, customer liaison, product management and education. Behind the scenes, Tim Robinson, PleaseTech CTO, will keep on applying his massive brain to the product architecture, Jason Webb, Integrations Manager, will continue to integrate and Poh Teng will still lead the Malaysian development and test team which delivers such high quality software. So we expect clients not to notice any difference.  

It only remains for us to thank our staff, clients and partners for the last 15 years and ask you to work with us as we integrate the businesses. 

Introducing PleaseReview OpenSpace

Posted by David Cornwell on 6. February 2017 09:58

Founder/CEO of PleaseTech Ltd - collaborative document review and co-authoring for the enterprise.

This blog post introduces a new concept we are adding to our collaborative review solution, PleaseReview. It’s the ability to initiate and manage an uncontrolled co-authoring step using SharePoint or Office 365. We are calling it PleaseReview ‘OpenSpace’ as we want to differentiate it from our standard ‘controlled’ PleaseReview review or co-authoring process.

The aim behind OpenSpace is to add some managerial control to a standard SharePoint or Office 365 co-authoring session. That means that this standard co-authoring session will use the existing PleaseReview review set-up which allows authors to easily define and control who has access to the document(s). It also means that there will still be a degree of process management as PleaseReview will provide its standard notifications, reminders, status monitoring, etc.

The main difference will be that PleaseReview will have no control over what happens inside the document.  The level of reporting will also be less comprehensive (as we don’t manage what happens in the document) but it will include, as a minimum, the basics such as who was in the co-authoring session, their associated status and, we are hoping, an indication of what was changed and by whom – although this latter bit does depend on Word’s settings.

What happens inside the document will be the standard SharePoint/Office 365 uncontrolled co-authoring functionality – just as if you had loaded the document(s) into SharePoint/Office 365 yourself.  Access to the document(s) will be via PleaseReview (i.e. the control panel) or directly via the SharePoint/Office 365 interface. In the setup process PleaseReview will have set the appropriate access permissions so that only those OpenSpace participants have access to the documents. We're hoping to bring the various document-level protections that Word provides into the PleaseReview set-up options so that the author doesn’t have to fiddle around with Word to, for example, force on tracked changes and lock this setting with a password.

You may think that this is a major change of strategy for PleaseTech. After all, hasn't our message always been about in-document control, where no one can overwrite others' contributions? And, isn’t PleaseReview competitive with the SharePoint/Office 365 co-authoring feature?

I’d reply by saying it’s not a change of strategy because we’ve always understood and accepted that different phases of the document preparation lifecycle require different approaches. Traditional PleaseReview is at its strongest when the document needs to be moved out of the authoring phase (where there are major alterations and additions to the document's content) into the review phase.

We have decided to undertake this development because it’s what our clients have asked for. They recognize the benefits PleaseReview offers but also, at the initial stages of document creation, want the flexibility and openness offered by SharePoint/Office 365's co-authoring capability. Once the initial document has been developed and there is a need for wider review, PleaseReview is brought into play.

So, bringing PleaseReview’s process and managerial control to this initial open co-authoring process is an obvious step. It has many advantages for those wanting to use both SharePoint/Office 365 and PleaseReview at different stages of the document development lifecycle. There are several broad points to note:

1. It reduces the number of systems people ‘touch’ in their day-to-day activities making their lives easier, lowering training overheads and increasing acceptance. In this context it’s worth noting that this OpenSpace will automatically be available via PleaseTech’s PleaseReview integrations and thus provide the capability to integrate with third party systems;

2. It adds value to the SharePoint/Office 365 co-authoring process by providing managerial control. This means that IT departments don’t have to develop and maintain custom workflow systems to control the process;

3. It will provide a single seamless environment for all stages of the document co-authoring and review process with three clear stages:

- Uncontrolled SharePoint/Office 365 co-authoring using PleaseReview OpenSpace;
- Controlled PleaseReview co-authoring (i.e. restricting author access to certain parts of the document);
- Review i.e. the ability to ‘mark-up but not mess up’ the document.

4. All document types can be reviewed in the same environment meaning there is no need to have multiple co-authoring/review systems for different document types.

An OpenSpace will simply be a specific review type within PleaseReview so those with relevant permissions will be able to easily set-up and manage an OpenSpace co-authoring session within SharePoint/Office 365.

In terms of timing, we are aiming to release PleaseReview OpenSpace by the end of Q2 2017.

We’re discussing this development further at the DIA RSIDM Forum (Regulatory Submissions, Information, and Document Management) this week and running webinars over the next couple of months. If it’s something of interest I’d love to hear from you. We're still working out what is technically achievable and precise requirements, so any bright ideas are welcome- please get in touch

I look forward to your feedback and ideas.


Welcome to 2017!

Posted by David Cornwell on 10. January 2017 11:56

Founder/CEO of PleaseTech Ltd - collaborative document review and co-authoring for the enterprise.

As is tradition, the first part of my January blog is somewhat repetitive as I say 'the previous year was yet another successful one for PleaseTech with revenue growth, new clients and some great new people having joined the team'!

Those of you who read my blogs regularly know that I am a fully paid up member of the ‘turnover is vanity and profit is sanity’ brigade. So, I’m delighted to report that we had another excellent year and continue to remain profitable. Profit gives us the ability to invest in new people and to further grow the business. We see no reason to change our successful model.

Life Sciences remains our largest sector and North America remains our largest market, although we are seeing growth in Europe and the rest of the world.

We had a commensurate growth in staff numbers with new starters in both the UK and Malaysia. 

The marketing department continued to work hard to spread the word. PleaseTech exhibited at or attended over 30 shows and conferences in 2016 and expanded our very successful ‘Word Masterclass’ speaking and webinar program.  the latest offering ‘Tempted by Templates’ (the clue is in the title) is a Templates Masterclass.  These can be viewed here.

In terms of product development, 2016 again saw PleaseTech moving from strength to strength. I’m particularly pleased that we were finally able to release PleaseReview v6 to rave reviews. We managed to include into the v6 release a redaction capability to start addressing the requirements pertaining to the EU Transparency directive and, specifically, Policy 70. In doing this we coined the phrase ‘Collaborative Redaction‘ - see my previous blog on this subject: ‘EU Policy 70 and Redaction – PleaseReview's take on it', posted in November 2016. 

We continue to support and enhance our integrations and work with partners who have undertaken their own integrations. The latest example of this is MasterControl who released a PleaseReview integration with their v11.6 release of MasterControl Documents™.

Additionally, we are keeping pace with industry standards, having greatly expanded our SAML 2.0 support and are expecting to release support for System for Cross-domain Identity Management (SCIM) in the not too distant future.

Once again 2016 saw customer praise for our service and support and, for the first time, our training services. Having staffed up in 2016, we are now able to deliver a wider and more diverse training program.  To quote one happy customer: “The training was impressive and I got good feedback from users”.

So, all in all another good year! Long may the trend continue.

What can we expect in 2017? Well, from our perspective the answer is: more of the same. We will continue to work hard to deliver excellent software and accompanying this, excellent customer service.

In terms of product we will be releasing PleaseReview v6.1 by the end of Q1 2017 which will have some significant enhancements for the Policy 70 collaborative redaction functionality. This is specifically designed to streamline the process and enhance reporting for those Life Science companies submitting to Europe. 

We will then have a further release (v6.2) at the end of Q2 2017 introducing the concept of OpenSpaces to PleaseReview. We will be launching a major publicity drive on this over the next few weeks so watch this space and remember that you heard it here first! 

Finally, I want to share with you the following little anecdote. As I sat down to write the first draft of this blog, my inbox had two leads which came in overnight. Both were from previous PleaseReview users who have moved company and want to introduce PR into their new organizations.

The fact that people out there feel that the software we produce makes their lives sufficiently better/easier that, on joining a new company, they want to introduce it to their new co-workers is a true testament to the work we do. I’m tremendously proud of that and I know that my team feel the same way!

We plan to keep it up in 2017!


EU Policy 70 and Redaction – PleaseReview's take on it

Posted by David Cornwell on 16. November 2016 14:23

Founder/CEO of PleaseTech Ltd - collaborative document review and co-authoring for the enterprise.

This blog post is primarily about how PleaseReview can assist life science companies in the process of complying with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) transparency policy 70 on the publication of clinical data. However, it also discusses how we at PleaseTech plan to expand PleaseReview’s redaction (or masking as it is sometimes known) capability over the next six months, so this post may be of interest to those readers with other redaction challenges.

What is the EMA's transparency policy 70 and its impact on the publication of clinical data?

Without going into too much detail, the EMA’s Policy 70 concerns the publication of clinical data for medicinal products for human use (more information can be found here). This requires the publication on the EMA website of clinical data submitted by life science companies to the EMA in support of drug applications. As such, said clinical data is made publicly available to the whole world.

Pertinent to our interest, is the fact that the published documentation must be redacted to remove Personal Private Data (PPD) and Personally Identifiable Data (PID) and may also be redacted to remove some Commercially Confidential Data (CCI). So, in short, the submitting life science company needs to agree redactions (and for the CCI data, provide a justification for each redaction – the so called ‘Justification Table’) to the EMA and then provide the redacted documents for publication.

To further complicate the issue, PPD and PID data is relatively structured and standard and, therefore, can largely use a rules based approach to redaction. It is therefore a candidate for being subcontracted. Whereas CCI data is ‘softer’, typically lacking structure, and open to interpretation - so requiring justification. So, in practice, work on the different redaction types requires a different process and therefore needs to be undertaken by different teams – ideally in parallel as there is considerable time pressure.

Clearly this is a massive undertaking, especially as the policy is retrospective and therefore the documents will not have been written in a way that ever anticipated publication. So, in summary, life science companies submitting to the EMA have a short amount of time to redact thousands of documents, masking specified information only some of which is structured.

Where can PleaseReview assist?

Firstly, with the review of proposed redactions.

In my view, the redaction of a document is no different to any other document review process. Redactions must be proposed, reviewed, approved and then published. Initially, during the negotiation phase when CCI redactions are agreed with the EMA, a PDF document ‘marked for redaction’ will be the published output. Only when agreement is reached will the agreed redactions be applied to the document. At all stages review is a critical part of the process.

Proposed redactions need to be reviewed and that’s the first place PleaseReview fits in. If you are an existing PleaseReview user, your system, as it is configured today (no upgrades needed), can be used. PleaseReview will identify the areas ‘marked for redaction’ in a PDF file in PleaseReview. These can then be commented upon, discussed, agreed, etc. Areas missed can be identified. As always all this interaction is recorded and reported upon.

Secondly, with the latest and the greatest PleaseReview release (v6), not only do you get the areas ‘marked for redaction’ identified, but review participants can also propose redactions within PleaseReview. These are treated like any other proposed change to the document. As such, proposed redactions appear in the reconciliation report, which can be downloaded in Word and can therefore be copied and pasted into the Justification Table. So, collaborative redaction is introduced and available. Use it wisely!

Finally, we are busy working on v6.1 which will include several enhancements designed to streamline the process:

  1. Redaction categorization. Precise requirements are still emerging and evolving, but initial indications are that different types of redaction (i.e. PPD, PID & CCI) will be required to have different properties (specifically color and overlay text) and so PleaseReview will include the ability to specify different redaction properties against Redaction Categories (the same as Comment Categories);

  2. Round tripping of PDFs. It is important to be able to seamlessly import areas marked for redaction in PDF files into PleaseReview (i.e. convert them into PleaseReview proposed redactions rather than just identify them) and export them as the same so PleaseReview can be used to manipulate them (i.e. accept/reject/etc.);

  3. Merge redactions. The ability to import PDF documents into PleaseReview with areas marked for redaction at any stage of the review cycle and have the proposed redactions imported and merged with the master document. This will allow multiple teams to work in parallel and then consolidate results;

  4. Automatically produce a justification table minimizing manual work such as copy and paste.

So, in summary:

  1. If you are current users of PleaseReview, with your existing system you can collaborate on the review of proposed redactions;

  2. If you upgrade to PleaseReview v6 (the latest release), not only can you collaborate on the review of proposed redactions but also propose new redactions in PleaseReview;

  3. When PleaseReview v6.1 is released, (Q1,17) – you will be able to do all of the above, plus you’ll also have a collaborative redaction environment, designed to assist the process of complying with the more subtle redaction requirements of Policy 70.

If you would like to learn more about PleaseReview's redaction capabilities or see a demonstration, please contact us.

What is the future for document creation?

Posted by David Cornwell on 9. November 2016 10:16

Founder/CEO of PleaseTech Ltd - collaborative document review and co-authoring for the enterprise.

As the CEO of a technology company I must constantly consider the future. Naturally, a major consideration is whether a disruptive new technology is coming along which could make our products obsolete. For example, at a consumer level, Uber is severely damaging, if not destroying the traditional taxi business. As an Uber user myself, I can see why.

I believe that only the paranoid survive and I’m forever scanning the horizon for the missile which is aimed squarely at our technology - that of document review. What is this disruptive new technology (or, as Nicholas Taleb would put it, black swan event) which will hurt us?

Before I go any further let me define ‘document review’ as the term means different things in different industries. For us, document review is the generic term for the process by which peers, specialists (i.e. subject matter experts) or other interested parties comment upon and suggest changes to the content of a document prior to its finalization, approval and dissemination. Specifically, it is the review element of the document creation process. It can involve a single person (unusual), a small team of, say, five to twenty people (common) or a widespread team of 50+ reviewers (unusual). There may be several re-work and review iterations before the document is finalized.

Whether the document is an internal policy, procedure or specification or an external facing regulatory submission or proposal, the basic creation process is the same: create, review, finalize, approve, and finally, disseminate. I simply don’t see this process changing in the foreseeable future. No black swans there.

Now the good news for us is that PleaseTech operates in the B2B market space where disruptive new technology takes time to infiltrate. Large corporates are considered slow moving in this era of ever accelerating innovation. However, that doesn’t mean we can rest easy. The corollary of perceived slow movement is that when change does come, if you're not part of it, you're out!

One area of disruption which does impact us is the ongoing Office suite apps battle between Google and Microsoft. The Microsoft Office Suite has, for the last 20 years, been the dominant application for the creation of documents, spreadsheets and presentations in the business world. Our competitive advantage is based around our deep understanding of Microsoft Word and, to a lesser extent, the remainder of the Office Suite. So is the Office Suite under attack? The answer is yes - of course. The real question is, how successfully?

A couple of years ago it seemed that Google was making decent inroads into Microsoft’s market share with commentators making a comparison with the relative decline of use of Internet Explorer compared with Chrome. Indeed, in early 2015, Google announced its plan to ‘steal’ 80 percent of Microsoft’s market share. However, with the undoubted success of Office 365, Microsoft is fighting back and, last October in this very journal, Mary Branscombe penned an article entitled “Why companies are switching from Google Apps to Office 365”.

It goes beyond this. In general, users are resistant to change and those entering the workforce over the last few years have been used to Word from an early age. However, there is some evidence that Google is winning the battle in new smaller companies with younger workforces. But it will take a very long time for this advantage to filter through, meaning the Microsoft Office Suite will be the primary document creation mechanism for the foreseeable future.

There is, of course, the whole cloud versus on premise debate. Whilst the cloud is a fine invention and our cloud business is growing rapidly, not everyone wants their valuable intellectual property in the cloud.

A case in point would be a regulatory drug submission which contains clinical trials' data. Or a high value proposal for a defense contract. Is a company really prepared to entrust these valuable documents to a generic cloud? Obviously not, so we course, is where Microsoft wins again with its Office Suite. Its commercial competitors are all 100 percent cloud based.

What about the future of documents themselves? With individuals entering the workforce now being classified as ‘digital natives’, does the whole concept of a ‘document’ go away? Is this our black swan?

I’m of an age where I recall typing pools. Professional Engineers (as I was attempting to be as I entered the workforce back then) didn’t type their own documents. They were submitted to a typing pool, where they were created, printed and returned to you for review. A red pen was then used and the cycle continued. However, the introduction of PCs and word processors was a disruptive technology and the typing pool vanished. Yet, despite the disruption, the concept of paper document format lived on electronically with Adobe Acrobat. The delivery mechanism may have changed but the concept of a document is still very much alive.

Do digital natives think the same way? The research suggests not. They think in social media terms and moving them beyond this is one of the challenges educators have to deal with. They need to replace the informal language with more formal language that they can use in their essays, dissertations and other such submissions.

Can we see contracts being agreed in informal language? I think not. One of the first lessons in business is, understanding that the way something is worded can form the basis of a legal contract or instruction. The language used is all important. If it’s a specialist subject area, there is ‘accepted language’ pertaining to that specialism. The nuances of wording whatever the target dissemination mechanism (i.e. formal document, web page, email or, even, tweet) are all important.

So it seems to be that the document creation process of create, review, finalize, approve, disseminate isn’t going to change anytime soon – certainly not in my business career and probably not in my children’s business career.


It’s hard to see something replacing Word even with initiatives such as the Open Document Format (ODF) supported by the UK Government. However, the whole point of a Black Swan event is that it comes out of left field and is extremely difficult to predict. So who knows what the future holds? The corollary of perceived slow movement is that when change does come, if you're not part of it, you're out.

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