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

Will online word processors ever become mainstream?

Posted by Tim Robinson on 17. June 2013 12:54

CTO at PleaseTech


You have to hand it to Google. In the early days at least, they achieved success by unleashing a product on the market that was so far ahead, not just of current offerings, but of people’s expectations, that they changed the game. First this happened with search, then with webmail and then again with online maps. In each case they went into an already-busy marketplace and blew it away purely with the superiority of their product.

Of course you can argue that Google and Microsoft are now head-to-head on all 3 applications (and on online word processing which we’ll come to in a second), but there’s no doubt that Google defined the genre and MS have been playing catch-up. And I’m not naïve enough to think that these offering (either MS or Google) were developed from scratch in house, but it’s the Google machine that has rolled them out and made them ubiquitous. The point I’m making is simply that if anyone can make a web application work, Google can.

Not long after maps and Gmail, they turned their attention to Google Docs and the fields of online word processing and spreadsheets. They’ve certainly made their mark here but in terms of overall adoption to this type of application, it’s still relatively a minority activity. The obvious corollary to my previous conclusion is: If Google can’t make it work, maybe nobody can.

I think there are several reasons for this: firstly the fact that Google Docs by a massive margin falls short of the usability and functionality of Microsoft Word (even the 10% that most users use) and, judging by the lack of improvements in the last couple of years, Google isn’t that fussed about catching up. Even the idea of writing a word processor inside a web browser using JavaScript is a really difficult (some might say crazy) thing to attempt. Secondly the “always connected world” isn’t nearly as ubiquitous as those living in Southern California would like us to believe (I regularly find myself in locations without even cell phone access, and I don’t exactly live in the middle of nowhere); and thirdly there’s the fact that if you have a document saved somewhere you control (whether that’s on your hard drive or EDMS), you can at least have a strategy for security, backup and Disaster Recovery whereas with the online world you’ll never really know where your data is or who has access.

But lastly I think there’s a more philosophical angle: writing a document is a very personal activity, even when that document, as a piece of intellectual property, is owned by your employer. Of course there is a need for collaboration – that’s what PleaseTech is all about – but for the creative business of writing, I want to work on my own, and I don’t want people messing with my content until I’ve decided I’ve finished with it and am ready to hand it over.

We use both Google Docs and spreadsheets in PleaseTech but only where the need for real-time multi-user access overrides all other considerations, and in 95% of cases (maybe 99 – I never counted) that doesn’t apply. So, for all those reasons above, I’m writing this blog post where I write all my documents: on my PC in Microsoft Word, and while I’m actually posting it, if the network connection drops or gets timed out, I can just paste it in again.

Disclaimer: other non-JavaScript Word processors are available. I am most definitely not a Microsoft shill – I hate the ribbon, I hate Windows 8, and I hate SharePoint, I’m not specifically attached to MS Word other than familiarity, and apart from WYSIWYG, I don’t really think the state-of-the-art in word processing has advanced that much since Word Perfect 5.1

 

An IT illiterate gal joins a software company…

Posted by Sarah Edmonds on 11. June 2013 16:32

The other half of marketing... Google


I'm new to the IT industry, my background is consumer marketing. I think it's fair to say that when the IT boys in the office talk to me, I often look at them with a glazed expression that says 'I have no idea what you're talking about, just please make my computer work'. But I'm absorbing myself in the wealth of technology out there, and actually, I'm even starting to feel slightly cool for a mum of three floating towards the end of her thirties.  Not only do I know what Tumblr, Vine and Pulse are, I've even started to use them.  My website skills still leave a lot to be desired, but if you want to get into a conversation about GoogleDrive, Box, OneDrum or Acrobat, I could wax lyrical about why our product, PleaseReview, is so much better.  Get me.

I'll never fully understand the technical side of PleaseReview, but that doesn't matter, that's what IT departments and developers are for.  I probably have the same IT skills as most end users (reasonable Word, Excel), and that's the beauty of PleaseReview, that it's simple to use, you don't need hours of training that goes in one ear and out the other.

Hopefully it won't surprise you to know that we use PleaseReview all the time in the office.  It's a great way to get feedback on a document (Whitepapers, licensing manuals) from a number of colleagues without having to collate multiple changes, or for example, being on a deadline and having to get hold of Dave when he's in the US to resolve conflicting comments.

I've had no official training on how to use PleaseReview, five minutes maybe from a colleague when I first looked at the system.  And guess what, even I can use it. If only it was that simple to print when you press the PRINT button...

'blog.pleasetech.com': our blog finds a new home

Posted by Sarah Holden on 6. June 2013 14:04

Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.


Whilst Dave Cornwell, our CEO, has maintained an (almost) regular blog for several years, we’re expanding and inviting others from within and outside PleaseTech to join him.

The intent is to provide different viewpoints, cover various areas of interest and tap into the different mindsets of the individuals who work here or who are otherwise involved in document collaboration. Having been with PleaseTech for almost three years (goodness, already three years) I have come to appreciate and enjoy the very ‘special’ and diverse personalities I come into contact with and so look forward to reading what they have to say. 

To accommodate these plans, we have moved our blog from a generic provider so that it is now hosted directly by PleaseTech. There are several advantages to us including improved SEO, increased brand awareness, control of our content and freedom of design. Also, being a technology company, we have all the expertise on hand if anything breaks!

So, moving forward, you will see regular posts from PleaseTech, covering company updates, opinions, shared knowledge, industry news and more.  

From a marketing perspective, our blog will deal with some of the challenges we face and what we are doing to overcome them.  A recent survey of over 800 marketers conducted by the B2B Technology Marketing community on LinkedIn earlier this year confirmed what we face: 

‘The number one challenge for B2B marketers is generating high quality leads’

The full survey results are certainly worth a read and provide some pointers into what works better in terms of marketing activity. Our challenges specifically come down to:

Finding the right person to talk to – whilst for some industries this is clear, document collaboration is often managed by a diverse range of people across the organization.

Education – many use workarounds or solutions that enable basic collaboration, and, in doing so, put up with the inefficiencies and frustrations inherent with these practices/solutions. They know no better (or have not had the time to research an alternative) and so their expectations are low, especially if their IT department has told them that the existing solution is ‘state-of-the-art’.

Convincing the IT dept. – Dave has covered this in previous blog posts and it continues to be a challenge. Business users are the ones who experience document collaboration issues, but frequently have to ‘live’ with the solutions provided by IT who often have the final say in how the dollars are spent.

Finding our ‘voice’ – whilst we know our business inside out, we continue to strive to know more about the different industry sectors and business disciplines we work with. It’s all very well knowing why our product is better and different but we have to touch the right chords with those we speak with. How can we help? What’s in it for them? What can they learn from us?

In future blog posts we will touch on some of the activities we have planned and that are currently underway to meet these challenges. We will share research, customer insights, best practices and independent expert contributions.

So, to gain an inside view into the workings of a technology company and all the cogs that make the wheel turn, as well as industry insights, personal deliberations and more, do sign up to catch the posts as they appear. 

 

Four months have flown past.

Posted by David Cornwell on 28. May 2013 15:26

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


Is it really four months since I wrote my last blog entry? It is, and the time has simply flown by. Looking back, it’s been a very successful four months but it’s hard to know where to start. 

Firstly, from a business perspective, we continue to win new clients, to have a healthy prospect list and to see PleaseReview rolled out further with existing clients. So, assuming that the purpose of a business is to acquire and retain customers (to paraphrase Peter Drucker), then we are being successful! 

Secondly, we were recently named a 'Cool Vendor' in Gartner Inc.'s 'Cool Vendors in Social Software and Collaboration, 2013' report, which was published in April of this year. Whilst the best recognition is winning clients and having them come back to purchase additional licenses, it’s also nice to get the wider recognition which this accolade brings.  To read more about why we were selected as innovative players in the collaboration space, see our news item.

Thirdly, we've achieved Gold Partner Status in the Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN), and are in the final stages of developing an integration with Oracle’s WebCenter Content platform (“WCC”). This was launched at the Oracle IOUG Collaborate conference, Denver, in April and is on track for release shortly after PleaseReview v5.0, due early summer. 

Talking about PleaseReview v5.0…  this latest release will bring a revised, modernized interface and other significant enhancements, which will further extend PleaseReview’s lead as the most advanced document review solution in the world.

Personally, I’ve attended eight conferences in Tampa, Boston, Cardiff, Denver, Twickenham, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC. This blog entry will be published when I’m at my ninth conference this year in Atlanta. Only one more to go (DIA in Boston) before the summer break - ten conferences in six months – not bad going!

I don't attend all conferences and, as a company we have had booths at two others so far this year and at a further two before the summer break. In total, we are currently expecting to attend twenty conferences in 2013. We have been deliberately extending the range of the conferences we attend and experimenting - and have had mixed success. We have had some experimental ‘misses’ in the USA and, once again the European conferences have generally not proved worthwhile (with the exception of a couple of smaller ones in the UK). 

The Independent Oracle User’s Group (IOUG) Collaborate 13 conference was, if we are honest, disappointing in terms of lead generation and, in many ways we felt a bit of a ‘fish out of water’ – it is a very technical event and we appeal to business users. However, it acted as a ‘launch vehicle’ for the new integration, helped establish some good Oracle relationships and certainly furthered our understanding of the very extensive Oracle environment and the WebCenter Content platform’s position within it. We will attend Oracle OpenWorld (with circa 50,000 other people) in San Francisco in September with a released product and will hopefully gain a decent amount of interest (aka leads). 

Whilst I tend to talk a lot about conferences as they are a major source of leads for us, our marketing effort is not solely limited to them. We have a broad range of marketing activity underway and the inclusion on the ‘Cool Vendors’ report is a result of this wider effort. PR, social media and content marketing are all part of this and we continue to work at driving more traffic to our website. 

I’m extremely pleased that PleaseReview v5.0 is on schedule for release at the end of June. We have a series of customer webinars planned to introduce our customers to the new features and I’ll be blogging on the enhancements at around the same time. However, suffice it to say that, in addition to the interface refresh, the mobile experience will be enhanced, and we are introducing a new feature which kicks off our new ‘beyond review’ strategy.

This ‘beyond review’ strategy is designed to leverage PleaseReview to provide business process benefits beyond simple document review. The first phase of this, to be released with v5.0, is a ‘feedback capability’ which allows the capture of higher level feedback on a document. This may be manifested as a SWOT analysis or as ‘ratings’ against configurable scales. It can also be used as a simple brainstorming tool. The output is a Word document (and report) with the captured feedback. The feedback functionality will be of particular use in the proposals market but is also applicable wherever the review is focused on ‘higher level’ analysis rather than (or in addition to) detailed mark-up.

So, you can see we have been busy!

On a personal level my sun bronzed complexion is not a result of a well-earned holiday but because I’m out every weekend yomping up the South Wales mountains training for the ‘6 Peaks Challenge’ in early July (WaterAid 6 Peaks Challenge). As a reminder, the headline figures are:

  • 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


Each team will be climbing the tallest peaks in England, Wales, Scotland, Isle of Man and both North and South Ireland - all in 72 hours. Our team comprises six climbers and two drivers. 

So, most weekends between now and July 5th you’ll find me walking up and down ‘Pen y Fan’ which is the highest mountain in South Wales and Southern Britain. A standard Sunday training run is to do it twice with a brief ice cream break in the south car park! This makes it about a 8.5 miles walk with a total ascent (and descent) of around 3,000 feet and takes around 4.5 hours (depending on how long you pause at the top to admire the view and how long the line at the ice cream van is). You certainly know you've been on a walk at the end of it. The worrying thing is that to complete the challenge we have to do the equivalent of six of these walks in 72 hours!


You can support us here.

Yet another successful year but a branding faux pas

Posted by David Cornwell on 14. January 2013 15:34

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


The first part of the January blog is somewhat repetitive yet again. 2012 was yet another successful year with decent revenue growth, the delivery of some great product enhancements and a brand new product, the ‘soon-to-be-renamed’ PleaseAuthor (see below for more detail)! 

2012 revenue growth over 2011 was 32%. We remain profitable and retain a large cash balance which is still running at approximately 12 months of projected overheads. Given that we now employ more people and have recruiting plans, and thus have ever increasing projected overheads, this remains an excellent position.

Revenue in 2012 brought us a total of 25 new corporate clients and the revenue split remains approximately 1/3rd annual renewable (such as support and hosting, etc.), 1/3rd new business from existing clients and 1/3rd new business from new clients. We are particularly pleased with the new business from existing clients as it shows that PleaseReview delivers the benefits it promises!

The trend of Life Sciences being our largest sector continues with 77% of 2012 sales and, once again, North America is our largest market accounting for 74% of all sales.

2012 saw the release of PleaseReview v4.4 (associated with the PleaseAuthor v1.0 release – see below) and of PleaseReview v4.5. Key enhancements included the iPad module and a delegation module. 

Last, but by no means least, we were finally able to release a new PDF plug-in. This new plug-in (which, as previously, only works with the ‘paid for’ versions of Acrobat) allows you to use the full range of Acrobat mark-up tools and have all annotations recorded and managed by PleaseReview. Thus you get the consolidation, the reconciliation report and other clever tweaks like the ability to specify the name of the annotation author on the consolidated PDF file (usually this is used to provide a generic name, like a company name, for the annotations). It is a major enhancement to our PDF review capability. 

The new PDF plug-in was in danger of becoming a never ending saga for two reasons: (i) everything which could go wrong did, and (ii) new releases of Acrobat kept shifting the goal posts.   It seemed every time we thought we had it in a position to release something would change and we were back to re-coding and re-testing.  The experience has caused us so much pain that we will be investigating other options for PDF review which don’t include Acrobat.

Something else which caused us pain in 2012 was the focus on the UK market.  In January last year I explained that we were recruiting a business development manager to focus on developing the UK market.  We duly recruited and he has spent 9 months hammering away. Hammering away, it must be said, with strictly limited success.  Despite creating some decent opportunities, it’s taking somewhat longer than expected to turn opportunities into sales in the UK. I’m not sure whether this is a ‘UK market thing’ or the economic environment or a bit of both. So, whilst continuing to work hard in the UK, it looks like we will be seeking this year’s growth from our traditional market.  

2012 also saw the release of PleaseAuthor. Unfortunately, whilst there is nothing wrong with the product itself, the name is causing major confusion. It is clear we have committed a serious ‘branding faux pas’. 

In short, both clients and prospects are confused between the differences in ‘structured authoring’ (the product formerly known as PleaseAuthor) and ‘co-authoring’ (i.e. the collaborative authoring part of PleaseReview).

In retrospect this is understandable. For those immersed in the technology and products (i.e. us) the difference is clear and distinctive. However, for those who aren’t so immersed it is really confusing! So, we have taken the decision to re-brand. Better do it now whilst the product is new and not established. 

Other than the re-branding of PleaseAuthor, what does 2013 hold? 

The economic outlook remains unstable with the fiscal cliff issues having been delayed and the European situation limps on with no end in sight. Furthermore the whole debate around Britexit (the UK leaving the EU or at least re-negotiating its relationship with the rest of Europe) simply adds to the excitement.  Whilst all the media keep telling us that the uncertainty doesn’t help anyone, as far as I am concerned, it’s been uncertain for the last 5 years and it’s now the new normality. I’m not sure I’d believe anyone if they started telling me there was certainty.  Life continues and so does business. 

In fact, Gartner has just revised upwards its 2013 Worldwide IT spending growth forecast from 3.8% to 4.2%. Though they note: “although much of this results from projected gains in the value of foreign currencies versus the dollar. When measured in constant dollars, 2013 spending growth is forecast to be only 3.9%.” Still a forecast 3.9% growth in IT spending is a good thing as it means they are expecting corporate IT budgets to reflect this - meaning opportunity for IT vendors such as us! 

Unfortunately, implicit in the statement, is a weaker dollar. This is bad news for us. We set our prices in US$, as that is our main trading currency. So, if the US$ weakens it means we need more of them to purchase every UK pound and Malaysian Ringit – our overhead currencies. However, most forecasters have the £/$ rate more-or-less unchanged for 2013 whilst the general opinion is that the Ringit will strengthen by ~5%. So, as the Ringit accounts for only a portion of our overheads, the overall effect will hopefully not be too hard on us.

So, we continue to be optimistic for 2013. However, we approach it as we approach every year, with caution. Despite this caution we are planning to expand and will shortly be recruiting and have plans for further recruitment later in the year. We go into the year with a strong prospect list and looking forward to v5.0 of PleaseReview which is due out at the end of Q2 this year.

On a personal note, having had a ‘year off’ from interesting physical challenges in 2012, I am hoping to be part of a team in the ‘6 Peaks Challenge’ in July (WaterAid 6 Peaks Challenge). The headline figures are:
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

It’s climbing all the tallest peaks in England, Wales, Scotland, Isle of Man and both North and South Ireland - all in 72 hours. We are expecting to have a team of six climbers and two drivers. It’s not set in stone yet as there are some issues we are discussing with the organizers but I’m hopeful we can secure agreement and help raise funds for a worthwhile charity! I’ll keep you informed. 

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