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

Looking back at 2013 and forward to 2014

Posted by David Cornwell on 7. January 2014 10:07

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


I hope everyone had a good Christmas and New Year. Welcome to 2014. 

As is traditional, the first part of my January blog is somewhat repetitive as I say that the previous year was yet another successful one for PleaseTech with revenue growth, new clients and some great product enhancements! 

2013 revenue growth over 2012 was approximately 10%. Whilst that figure may seem disappointing in light of previous growth figures, it masks a much higher underlying sales growth reflected by our annual recurring revenue being up 25%. 2013 brought us a total of 21 new corporate clients.

We remain profitable and continue to retain a healthy cash balance. Given that we now employ more people and have further recruiting plans (meaning ever increasing projected overheads), this remains an excellent position to be in.

With approximately 80% of 2013 sales, the trend of Life Sciences being our largest sector continues and, once again, North America is our largest market accounting for 66% of all sales. This is a slight decrease from previous years following an increase in business with European customers.

In terms of product, 2013 saw the release of PleaseReview v5.0. Key enhancements included:

— An enhanced user interface

— The feedback capability which can be used both to capture high level feedback on a document set and thoughts and ideas to help with team brainstorming

— Flight mode. It's now possible to review Word documents offline on your tablet (Android and iPad) and then upload to the master review when back online

— User types to control the functionality available to reviewers according to the level of sophistication required

— Simplified licensing to take into account added product capabilities. 

From a customer service point of view, we continue to get excellent feedback on our support. For example, a recent customer commented: “Sadly, the sense of true customer service is lost on many vendors we do business with; we are happy to see that PleaseTech ‘gets it’.”

2013 was the year we 'landed' on the industry analysts radar and were recognized as thought leaders in the document review and collaboration space. Ovum, Info-Tech, Osterman Research and the Bloor Group all covered us and, to top it off, there was the Gartner 'Cool Vendor' award. I'm sure that our continuing understanding of the critical and ubiquitous business process of document review and how PleaseReview responds to this will continue to attract the analysts' attention.

As we continue to develop partner relations, we released a PleaseReview integration with Oracle WebCenter Content and achieved Oracle Gold Partner status. Work on other integrations and partnerships has been a constant theme of 2013 and continues into the new year.

So, looking back I think we can be proud of what we achieved in 2013. 

What can we expect in 2014?

Well, from our perspective the answer is: more of the same.  We will continue to work hard and deliver excellent software. 

There is increased optimism about the global economy which can only be a good thing. Given the high reliance we have on US dollar denominated sales, the volatility in the dollar/sterling exchange rate over the last 12 months remains a business risk that we need to manage, but isn't a threat to the fundamentals of our business.

We will continue to expand our presence in Life Sciences by working with new and existing partners, but 2014 should also bring to fruition the work we have been doing on some exciting new opportunities in new market sectors with new partners. Watch out for announcements over the course of the year.

We have PleaseReview v5.1 coming towards the end of its development phase with the test phase starting shortly. I’ll be devoting a whole blog post to v5.1 later in January so watch this space. Work has already started on v6.0 and we have no shortage of ideas and requests for enhancements. 2014 will also see further development of PleaseCompose.

So, from a business perspective, it’s ‘steady as she goes’ or in other words ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. 

From a personal perspective a year wouldn’t be the same without a physical challenge or two. Nothing major is planned yet but in the meantime I have signed up for the South Wales Three Peaks Trial Platinum walk at the end of March which is a 17 mile walk with a total ascent of 5,000 feet.

That will keep me focused for now!

 

Our new product hits the streets!

Posted by David Cornwell on 23. August 2012 16:34

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


Long time no blog! I find it hard to believe that it's been four months since my last sensible blog post. The time has just flown past. My excuse is that we have been focusing on getting our new product, PleaseAuthor, out of the door. The effort taken to complete, document and deliver it has been all consuming. 

PleaseAuthor is targeted at what I consider to be the ‘light weight’ structured authoring market - in other words those who need to implement structured authoring but who don't want to make the investment in, or require, the more complex solutions currently available. Structured authoring is not new but what is new is our approach - by basing it entirely around Microsoft Word we keep it within a familiar user environment and make it extremely simple to learn and use and, most importantly, set-up. 

As always, with a new product, the aim of the first version is to provide a catalyst for debate and to initiate discussion with customers. Of course, this first version must work. But the real value is for potential customers to actually see, feel and play with it. By using customer feedback to develop enhancements to PleaseAuthor, I have no doubt that it will prove to be a very valuable tool for clients. As with any iterative process, each journey starts with a single step and we are actively working with clients to define the next step in PleaseAuthor’s journey.

One of the toughest aspects of extending a single product solution into a suite of products is to get the look and feel right so that the products co-exist seamlessly. There are, of course, two ways to approach this – the cheap way and the expensive way. The latter consists of employing user interface designers and the former involves asking everyone in the company for ideas. Needless to say we chose the former and, I think, it has worked rather well – as those of you who are lucky enough to use our products will discover. 

Moving away from product development, what has worked less well in my opinion is some of the social media marketing we have been concentrating on. LinkedIn has been useful and provides value in driving traffic to our website, Twitter helps develop conversations where there is a defined hash tag (such as for a conference) but otherwise has yet to prove its worth and as for Facebook, not a success. If we were a ‘B2C’ business then I’d see Facebook in a different light, but as a ‘B2B’ I can’t see its value. Anyhow, we have a comprehensive review of the whole social media campaign in early September...I’ll let you know how it goes.

We are now at the stage of deciding ‘what next’ for PleaseReview, aside from a delegation module currently in development and to be delivered at the end of September.

In examining the document collaboration market, the big vendors seem fixated on the Google Docs ‘co-authoring’ approach. This is where Microsoft has focused its efforts with SharePoint 2010/Office 2010 and, from reading initial reviews of upcoming releases, interactive co-authoring continues to be the focus. I believe that whilst this is interesting, it’s not really what people want as it causes as many issues as it solves. True, people can work on the same document - but there is no control over who can do what to where and users can easily overwrite others' changes. As we say it requires ‘well trained, rational and courteous’ users.

People may think they want simultaneous, interactive co-authoring, but, given that not all users are rational and courteous, what they really want is control, reporting and a complete solution. Thus we have engineered more and more control into PleaseReview. For example, our ‘ReviewZones’ allow individuals to be locked out of part of the document or see sections of the document as ‘read only’. Authors want people to be able to ‘mark-up the document but not mess it up’. PleaseReview provides complete control over ‘who can do what to where’ and thus prevents over-enthusiastic reviewers messing up the document.  

Clearly there are user cases for both approaches but we are planting our flag firmly in the ‘control’ territory. Going forward our tag line will be ‘controlled document collaboration’ – the emphasis being, of course, on the word ‘controlled’.

As evidence that our approach is extremely valid, we are finding that as people start experimenting with the interactive co-authoring provided by SharePoint and Office, they realise that control is a good thing and that PleaseReview is the only game in town. We add that layer of control and reporting to SharePoint which enhances its capabilities and delivers a more complete solution. 

On the subject of SharePoint we finally released our SharePoint whitepaper reporting on the research we undertook at the SharePoint USA and European conferences last year. Two key findings really stood out for me. Firstly, 90% of respondents experienced issues with their document review process but nonetheless were ‘satisfied’ . This, to my mind is about education. People simply aren’t aware that a better alternative exists and make do with what they have. Secondly, a surprisingly large number of participants had a very simplistic view of what constitutes collaboration. For example, over 25% of respondents agreed that sequential access to a document was collaboration, whilst 32% were neutral on the subject. Oh dear, a fair amount of education to do!

Finally, as you may have noticed, the Olympics have just finished here in the UK with the Paralympics still to come. We commissioned a series of cartoons for the Games which are published on ourcartoon website. I hope you enjoy them.

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