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

PleaseReview v.5.0 is released, we're now working on v.5.1!

Posted by David Cornwell on 25. July 2013 11:20

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


The UK is basking in a wonderful summer. The best, apparently, since 1976. Obviously, I’d like to pretend that I’m too young to remember such a distant event, but, unfortunately I remember it well. I was a carefree 17 year old. How do I remember that particular summer? Well trust me, memories of long hot summers are rare if you are British!

So nearly 40 years later, here I am in another long hot summer but life has moved on and, as opposed to being carefree, I have responsibilities.  Even though PleaseReview v5.0 is out of the door, I can’t kick back, relax and sit in the garden drinking Pimms (a uniquely British summer drink which conjures up images of croquet on the lawn - for those wondering what Pimms is).

Nope – no rest for the wicked. No sooner than one release is out of the door, our attention turns to the next.  That’s the way it is in software development – an endless cycle of develop/test/release. The simple fact is that every software product in the world is a ‘work in progress’ – it’s never complete. There is always something to add, to perfect and to repair. Just keeping up with the release cycles of other vendor’s products (Windows Server 2012, Office 2013, etc.) is work enough, let alone the long list of enhancements we’d like to get done.  So now we turn our attention to v5.1.

Over the next month or so we will be inviting our clients to a series of v5.1 webinars in which we will let them know the planned scope of release and request feedback.

The improvement cycle doesn’t stop at our software. Over the last couple of months we have commissioned a new support system to provide a better experience for clients and have even updated our website with a slightly re-modelled home page.

As those who follow us will know, we're great fans of cartoons here at PleaseTech. I believe they help make serious points in a light way, which most people understand. To celebrate the launch of PleaseReview v5.0, we commissioned a couple of cartoons to highlight the new offline tablet review capability:  

 

 

Talking of cartoons, no one will have missed the fact that there has been a royal birth in the UK. We now have three kings in waiting – lucky us! However, those of you who follow our document review cartoons will have seen a cartoon regarding the royal birth before it all happened. Why do I mention this? Because, I’m pleased to say that the cartoon predicted ‘George’ as the name for a boy at odds of 5-1. I wish I’d put some cash on that outcome!

Thinking about bars…I earned a drink or three over the 4th July weekend when I undertook the WaterAid 6 Peaks challenge.  You may recall the 6 Peaks Challenge comprises climbing the tallest peaks in England, Wales, Scotland, Isle of Man and both North and Southern Ireland. The headline statistics were:

50 miles to walk

20,000 feet to climb

1,000 miles to drive (with two sea crossings)

72 hours in which to complete it

For those familiar with the UK’s ‘3 peaks’ challenge ( which involves walking the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales within 24 hours), the 6 peaks is like that but with a warm up (Snaefell on the Isle of Man) followed by extra time i.e. Slieve Donard in Northern Island and Corran Tuathail in Southern Ireland. We walk up Slieve Donard at night with head torches.

So, the good news is that most of us, including me, succeeded.  The better news is that the eight team members (six climbers and two drivers) were still talking to each other at the end of it all! For 72 hours we were either in a minivan being driven to the next mountain or walking up (or down) a mountain.

Luckily I had a natural advantage. Years of cattle class transatlantic travel means I can sleep anywhere. Even, it transpires, in the back of a mini bus hurtling between mountains. Others were not so fortunate and found the physical challenge difficult when compounded by the lack of sleep.  There is no mistaking it was a tough challenge and I am delighted to have completed it. I’m also delighted that we have raised about £4,500 (circa US$7,000) for the WaterAid charity. Furthermore, I’m proud that afterwards, of the six people left in the bar at 3:00am (of the circa 60 people from nine teams taking part), four were from our team!  Many thanks to all who supported us. 

Finally, I am delighted to say that we've finally managed to get our new movie released. Watch it here

 

PleaseTech releases PleaseReview v5.0 and keeps cool in the hot weather

Posted by Sarah Holden on 17. July 2013 13:35

Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.


There is always a certain amount of build-up prior to a new product release. This has certainly been the case for us here at PleaseTech. And in marketing, it’s always good to have something concrete to say. And it’s even better to be able to add ‘we’re the first’ which we can do – twice, following the release this week of PleaseReview v5.0, our collaborative document review solution.

We are the first to make it easier for busy people to catch up with the reviews waiting for their attention. The new offline tablet review (for iPad and Android) means you don’t have to be ‘connected’ to catch up. 

We are the first to help users collaborate to capture high level feedback on a document – from multiple participants, in real time, on the same feedback document. 

Ok, if you’re not involved in team reviews this may not matter to you - but to some it’s a big deal and will contribute to better productivity and better quality documents. For more detail on these and other enhancements do see our previous post or read the new release.

It is with a sense of relief for us all that the release is out the door and, now that the communication wheel is in motion and clients are already contacting us to upgrade their systems, minds are turning to the next project. That’s the thing about working for a dynamic technology company - people don’t stay still for long - there’s always more to do.

This continuous development cycle keeps us ahead of the curve and in recognition of this, we are proud to have been recently named a Gartner Cool Vendor in the social software and collaboration space. 

This accolade reflects our work ethic and some of our key success factors are recognized in their report:

- Identify opportunities early

- Offer the solution in a variety of deployment models (e.g. cloud, mobile, on-premise)

- Match new technology investments to user cases

- Continue to innovate

Why are we cool? Because, in Gartner’s words we “tackle long-standing coordination, collaboration and peer review challenges faced by teams every day regarding group writing, reviewing and editing documents in a way that transforms a complicated, burdensome experience into a  more efficient and controlled process”.

So, PleaseReview v5.0 is out of the door, but watch this space, v5.1 is already in development…  

 

Just layin' down some tracks....

Posted by Clare Beazley on 12. July 2013 11:40


Picture the scene, the offices of a software company deep in the heart of England. It's stopped raining.  The calm is then shattered when the CFO sends an instant message to her colleagues explaining why she is going to be away from her desk for an hour or so.  "I'm just off to the studio to lay down some tracks."  You can hear the stunned surprise across the ether.  Clare, an international pop star?  Actually no, I was just heading off to record the voiceover script for our new animated cartoon explaining, with humour, how PleaseReview helps solve the nightmare of document review.  And it was a first for me (not something that happens too often at my age), as I haven't even visited a recording studio, let alone been recorded.  So I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in a local recording studio in the company of Dave, a professional and excellent sound engineer, and his recording gear, to record the script.  The only downside was having to listen to the playback of my voice as we reviewed each take.  Still, all makes a change from being an accountant...

Click on this link to view the new PleaseTech movie

 

The nightmare of 'tracked changes'

Posted by PleaseTech Guest on 27. June 2013 15:09

Our guest blogger is...


Andrew Barnes, Independent Marketing Consultant

 

I'm not prone to nightmares, and normally I sleep quite well.  But towards the end of last year I genuinely did wake in the middle of the night in a slight panic.

Over the years I've worked in a variety of different roles with many types of software companies.  From rapidly growing UK companies with great products to global organizations with products in need of refresh, I've worked in some sort of marketing position.

Throughout that time one thing has been more or less constant: the need to create, share and review documents.  Even now, as an independent consultant, I've always thought of myself as pretty adept at juggling documents to ultimately come out with a polished datasheet, press release, whitepaper or proposal as required.  But for some reason this time it was different.

I had been co-ordinating the creation and approval of a new whitepaper for a company that will remain nameless.  This involved taking input from a few different departments and working with a couple of agencies in different time zones.

There was nothing really out of the ordinary.  A draft had been created.  Like many companies there wasn't much of a process to follow.  They relied on the distribution of the whitepaper by email and using tracked changes in Microsoft Word to evolve it.

I won't bore you with the details of the rainbow of colors I had to resolve in the document as the emails came back and people edited edits.  I set about resolving the amendments and accepting comments where appropriate.  By the time I'd finished I felt pretty relieved.

So why did I wake with a start?  For some reason I suddenly realized that I'd inadvertently approved for external release a document that was still being modified by some fairly senior people.  And the situation needed to be corrected pretty quickly.

At the 11th hour an executive had decided the document needed a particular twist and had started a new email thread distributing the original version.  I'd been told this in passing, but it had slipped my mind and as a result the consolidation of some pretty critical amendments hadn't happened.  All my hard work had been messed up.

So first thing the following morning I still had the same deadline to meet, and I had to work out to incorporate amendments to amendments, quickly research responses to new comments and resubmit for further approval across time-zones.

I didn't have the luxury of an audit trail to work out what had gone on.  The lack of process had let me down.  So I painstakingly had to go about comparing documents, tracking down emails to see who had done what and chasing one person who was adamant they needed to be involved, but couldn't be tracked down (and yes the pun was intended).

I got there in the end. The whitepaper was published and well received by the audience.  So apart from some shredded nerves and extra work, no real harm was done.

Since then I've started doing some work for PleaseTech Ltd and have had my eyes opened to the value of a structured, controlled approach to document review.

I think it's time for me to stop juggling documents and drowning in the sea of tracked changes.  If only I can persuade my clients of the right way to control the document review process...

Announcing PleaseReview v5.0

Posted by David Cornwell on 19. June 2013 10:07

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


Well I’m delighted to be formally announcing what is in PleaseReview v5.0.

We initially announced the ‘high level’ plans last year and showcased some of the key features at the recent FOSE conference in Washington, DC and at the APMP Bid and Proposal conference in Atlanta. We will also have v5.0 with us on the booth at the DIA conference in Boston next week. We're booth #304 - please drop by if you're going. For more details visit the DIA website.

So, PleaseReview v5.0 provides the following enhancements:

  • A modernized user interface;
  • ‘High level’ feedback capability;
  • Flight mode (an additional cost option) to provide offline, zero footprint review capability with HTML5 (i.e. modern) browsers;
  • A customizable review experience designed to suite varying levels of reviewer sophistication with the introduction of User Types;
  • Revised, simplified licensing;
  • Various other enhancements, upgrades and fixes.

We always value client feedback and most of these enhancements are being introduced as a direct result of such user feedback. Several are intended to be ‘first steps’ to be further developed in future releases.

Clearly the standout feature is Flight Mode. The ability to review Word documents offline on a tablet and automatically upload and consolidate your comments and changes into the main review surely has to be a winner. We believe that PleaseReview is globally unique and this simply takes it a step further. 

So diving into the detail ………

Modernized, Enhanced User Interface

The review interface has been ‘refreshed’ with new, larger, modern icons, the introduction of a count-down timer and, for Word documents, a ‘paper-like’ look & feel with page breaks.

Existing PleaseReview v4 users will recognize the overall environment and will feel ‘at home’ but will also notice numerous little improvements such as the selected paragraph being identified in the document and a complete rationalization of the options available. In addition to Reviewers, Authors also benefit from enhancements designed to minimize their need to click!

Feedback Feature

We’ve introduced a new feature called a ‘Feedback Document’. This is designed to enable the capture of ‘high level’ feedback on a document or document set. So now it’s possible to ask questions such as; ‘please rate the quality of the writing’; ‘what are the strengths of the document set’; ‘please identify the major risks’; etc.

This feedback capability is the first stage of our new ‘Beyond Review’ strategy. The idea being that now they have an efficient way for multiple people to mark-up and comment on documents, it’s time to leverage PleaseReview to provide business process benefits beyond simple document review. There will be further developments in this area.

The feedback functionality has been driven by requirements for color team reviews in the proposals industry. From understanding what's needed to getting something that works are two very different things but, even if I do say so myself, its implementation is extremely clever and it is very easy to configure.

The feedback functionality also makes it possible to use PleaseReview simply as a brainstorming tool. So PleaseReview can be used to capture the thoughts of participants on a topic rather than as a review process.

Flight Mode

These days it’s all about the mobile worker. Last year we introduce our iPad module and have had the Offline Review Client (OLC) for a long time. But it’s not been possible to review offline on a tablet – until now.

So, imagine: You are at the gate reviewing a Word document on your iPad. The flight is called, you click into PleaseReview’s Flight Mode and select which reviews you want to work on during the flight. Whilst you board they are downloading. When the plane doors close and you need to flick your iPad into Flight Mode you have the selected reviews available for offline review. No apps, no installs – it’s all in the browser.

Whilst you're reviewing offline you will be able to see all the comments and changes made by your colleagues to the moment you downloaded the review. When you are next connected, upload your comments and changes. It’s that simple.

The only requirement is a browser which supports HTML5. So Flight Mode works with most devices, be it a Windows laptop, Macbook, iPad or Android tablet.

We think this is pretty cool. We hope you do as well!

User Types

As part of our focus on facilitating enterprise rollouts, we are introducing the ability to specify User Types in PleaseReview. This allows control over the review interface with the provision of different functionality to different types of user.

So casual users can have a simplified interface (with reduced available functionality) whilst more sophisticated users can have a fully featured interface.

This makes it easy to use PleaseReview throughout the organization even by less confident users. Expect further enterprise rollout features in future releases.

Revised Licensing

I think everyone I know agrees that software licensing is anything but simple. The basic problem is balancing flexible licensing which meets client requirements with the inherent complexity of the process.

Our previous licensing was very flexible was becoming rather cumbersome- for example, a user taking advantage of all the features offered by PleaseReview used three different licenses! This was difficult to explain to prospective clients. So we have simplified it.

We now have a simple hierarchical model of Power User, Enhanced User and Standard User which still provides the flexibility needed.

Other Stuff

There have been a wide range of other enhancements and minor fixes designed to make life easier for our clients. If you’d like a webinar to go over the enhancements just let us know.

We have already started thinking about v5.1 and I’m over in Malaysia with the development team in early July to scope that out and bounce ideas around. Onward and upward! 

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