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

Welcome to 2016 – another fine year we hope

Posted by David Cornwell on 12. January 2016 16:26

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


As is traditional, 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'!

2015 delivered revenue growth of 40% compared to 2014 with 50 new clients (itself a 35% YoY increase). Amongst this new business we count some major strategic wins with some very large organizations – never a bad thing! We also maintained a healthy growth in annual recurring revenue (ARR) of 27%. Alongside these strong results, the uptake of our cloud services has provided us with our highest percentage growth, reflecting industry trends.

Those of you who read my blogs regularly know that I am a fully paid up member of the ‘turnover is vanity, profit is sanity and cash is reality’ brigade. So I’m delighted to report that we remain profitable and continue to retain a healthy cash balance. Profit gives us the ability to invest in new people and to further grow the business - exactly what we plan to do this year.

Accounting for over 80% of 2015 sales, Life Sciences remains our largest market sector. Once again, North America is our largest market with over 75% of all sales – which is directly in line with the trend of the last five years.

We had a commensurate growth in staff numbers increasing headcount by 40% with new starters in both the UK and Malaysia.  Suffice it to say, we no longer rattle around the new UK office which we moved to in late 2014.

The marketing department continued to work hard to spread the word. PleaseTech exhibited at a total of 23 shows/conferences in 2015, attended a couple as ‘delegate only’, fulfilled several speaking engagements and ran very successful ‘Word Masterclass’ webinars with the APMP and AMWA membership organizations. Additionally, we ran our first user group meeting for Life Sciences customers. We learnt a lot from this experience and are currently evaluating our future plans in this area. Watch this space!

In terms of product development, 2015 saw the introduction of a new agile development process which is designed to provide scalability as the company grows. The introduction of this process has not been without its trials. The amount of disruption and impact on productivity was unexpected, delaying the PleaseReview v6 release into this year.

However, we can’t blame the v6 delay entirely on the introduction of agile. I think everyone in the company underestimated how difficult it would be to rewrite the PleaseReview interface. There is a huge amount of functionality which has built up from its first introduction in 2004. Using it daily it's easy to forget how sophisticated it is! The good news is that v6 is coming along and a brief demo of the future was given at the user group meeting, which was very well received.

In other product news, we released a significantly enhanced integration with Veeva Vault on which we have had great feedback. We have also decided to temporarily (we hope) retire PleaseCompose (our structured authoring offering) to focus all our attention on PleaseReview. PleaseReview is where we make our money, is incredibly successful and, therefore, we feel it important to ‘put the wood behind the arrowhead’ or, as Peters and Waterman would have it, ‘stick to the knitting’.

However, to say that we are a single product company would be to miss the point. We have several integrations with ECM/eDMS platforms and each integration is a separate product with its own life cycle and which needs to be maintained and enhanced. Add into the mix support for various SAML2 providers and we have plenty plates to keep spinning.

During 2015 we continued to focus on working with partners and an agreement with Open Text saw ‘PleaseReview for Content Server’ added to the Open Text price list. Needless to say this is an exciting development for us and will hopefully give us access to organizations which would be/are difficult to approach directly.

Once again 2015 saw customer praise for our service and support. Nick and his team continue to enhance our reputation in this vital area. To quote one client: "Thanks to you and your team for the fantastic support that we have been getting". Whether Please Review is being rolled out to hundreds of users in a complex integrated enterprise environment (as it was in this case) or we are providing support to our standalone cloud users, we pride ourselves on exceeding expectations.

So, all in all a good year!

What can we expect in 2016? Well, from our perspective the answer is: more of the same. We will continue to work hard and deliver excellent customer service. We have a number of exciting prospective customers who we look forward to bringing on-board and are starting to explore APAC as a market territory.

We will release PleaseReview v6.0 which will be a substantial upgrading of PleaseReview’s user interface. The idea is to make the interface much more modern/consumer like so that anyone familiar with standard consumer technologies and web applications will feel immediately ‘at home’ when reviewing a document in PleaseReview. This approach will help further minimize training and will support enterprise-wide rollout and adoption for new and existing clients to increase their ROI.

Work on other integrations and partnerships is a constant theme as is expansion of the team. 

So, we have a lot to do over the next 12 months if we want to replicate 2015. Best get to it.

Lessons learnt when organizing and hosting a customer user group meeting

Posted by Sarah Edmonds on 15. December 2015 13:01

The other half of marketing... Google


We recently ran a PleaseTech user group meeting for our life science customers in Cambridge, MA.  It was the first that we’ve done for a while and was always going to be a learning curve, but which elements of the day did we get right and what would we do differently next time?

Given the number of times we’d been asked about a user meeting, we were surprised that our greatest challenge was getting people to sign up to the meeting.  We have well over 100,000 PleaseReview users, a majority of which are in the Life Sciences area and therefore count as the target audience. However, we are typically not in touch with any more than a handful of key account contacts at each client. We expected that promoting the event to these key contacts would spread the word and that this approach would be adequate.  But it wasn’t and we weren’t getting anything like the expected registrations. So the issue we faced was how to effectively mass mail hundreds of customer contacts.

Over the years, we’ve used a couple of different e-marketing tools, neither of which seem to have got round the problem of corporate firewalls rejecting the email, or allowing it through but recognising it as spam.  That said, a few emails must have got through as a handful (and I do mean a handful) of people signed up this way. But as for everyone else, to say it was like pushing water uphill to get a commitment is an understatement.

So we had a massive push to get a critical mass of delegates. Personal emails, phone calls etc. We succeeded but it was a close run thing. On the positive side it did mean that a vast majority of the people who registered did turn up and we had a less than 10% ‘no show’ rate. It’s a challenge to know how to get a closer relationship with the actual end users as most clients just get on and use our software without the need for constant support or assistance.  

As the meeting showed, nothing beats one on one interaction with customers and this is certainly an area of our business we’re paying close attention to – over the last 12 months we’ve expanded our account management team and are actively trying to engage more closely with clients. Although, again this is limited to key account contacts as a vast majority of users have no desire, or indeed time, to spend valuable minutes chatting with us.   

With better engagement with key account contacts, if we were to repeat the same meeting in 18 months’ time, maybe we would have more success in attracting attendees.  However, for this particular event it took hours and hours of one on one emails and telephone calls to drum up just 21 people in total.  To say we were surprised and slightly disappointed in equal measure wouldn’t be too far from the truth. 

There are still lots of questions we don’t have the answers to; do customers actually want to engage with us in this way? Are we using the right marketing tools?  Are there any other formats which might work better?

In the end, we were 24 people strong, including our CEO, David Cornwell, our VP of Sales, Barry Lyne and myself.  So what about the event itself? 

Starting with the basics, feedback suggested that the venue was good and easy to get to, although a couple of attendees commented it would have been better nearer to public transport stops.  Food wise, we opted for healthier options rather than lots of bread and cookies, which was definitely appreciated.   There were complaints about the coffee, but as this was provided by the hotel, I’m not sure what we could have done about that, short of finding a Starbucks!

A key piece of advice I’d give is to investigate, before booking your venue, whether there’s a minimum banqueting spend, and what taxes, services charges and other costs they add onto the bill -  we were shocked at just how much this added to the final bill.

As we had anticipated a higher number of attendees it transpired that the venue was not ideal especially from a ‘cost per head’ perspective.  If we were to do this again, for the small number of attendees we succeeded in getting, I would look into a restaurant with a private dining room (intimate presentation and round table discussions followed by a nice meal). However, it’s a difficult decision as you really need to settle the venue before the invite.

What about the timings of the day?  We opted for 9am-5pm, but in a busy city such as Boston, we should have taken into consideration peak traffic times – in retrospect 10am-4pm may have worked better for people.  Of course, if you’re providing overnight accommodation, this gives you greater flexibility. 

In terms of the content of the day, we gave a number of presentations – a business update, an overview of the latest version of PleaseReview (v5.2) and an insight into our next major release, PleaseReview v6, which is due out next year.  We also ran a couple of ‘Over to the floor’ sessions, which proved hugely popular. 

Giving customers the time and space to ask questions and to discuss product improvements was invaluable both to us and them.  Attendees genuinely appreciated being listened to, and if we could go back and make just one change to the day, it would have been to allow more time for these sessions.

Lastly, we also filmed each of the presentations so others who couldn’t attend would benefit. We anticipated the need for microphones for the presenters to ensure that the recording duly captured the wise words of the presenters, but failed to anticipate the many questions and interactions from the floor. With even the relatively small hotel room we used, wandering floor microphones are a must if you want to hear the questions being asked, so my advice would be to always have microphones to hand.  The resulting film of the presentations have been made available to users via our PleaseReview LinkedIn User Group.  This is a private, members’ only approved group. 

So looking back, do we think it was worth running the meeting?  Being able to spend one on one time with customers is something we genuinely enjoy and find hugely useful.  We’re very grateful to all those who attended for taking the time out of their busy schedules to come along and hope they found it beneficial – we’ve taken their feedback and ideas back to our development team, and some of it will inevitably shape how PleaseReview functions in the future. 

On the flip side it was a very expensive day when you work out the total cost per head.  Will we run another one?  With the benefit of hindsight and lessons learnt, yes is probably the answer, potentially for our European customers next, so watch this space and please sign up…

The search for the guilty

Posted by David Cornwell on 29. September 2015 15:31

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


The UK's The Times newspaper (28th September 2015) in an article on the VW emissions scandal, states: “Matthias Müller, the new VW chief, has made hunting down those directly responsible his priority.” It goes on to say about two senior executives ‘relieved of their posts’: “Both deny commissioning the controversial software or knowing about it.”

Matthias Müller’s search for the guilty will not be helped by the fact that the use of this software appears to have been going on for some time. It is also being reported that “Volkswagen was reportedly warned about rigging emissions tests on its vehicles” in 2007 and 2011.

It will, of course, be interesting to see what happens. Can VW survive? What will it cost them?

But, I hear you ask, what does this have to do with document review?

Well, the answer is that Matthias Müller’s search for the guilty would be helped if there is a comprehensive audit trail for all the reviews of documents associated with the software. We do not know whether this comprehensive audit trail exists, but I doubt it. I expect that there's a whole bunch of long forgotten emails which contain the data. Even now, I suspect, management within VW are searching their personal email databases preparing their ‘Pearl Harbor files’.

However, what I do know is that somewhere there will be specifications for the software (Functional, Design, Test, etc.) and some other documents associated with the process, and that these documents will have been reviewed. There may well be minutes of product management meetings. Also, the software itself would have been peer reviewed. There would also, presumably, be some form of output documentation (user manual, technical release notes, etc.) associated with the software. We do not know how the review of these documents took place, but we do know that it did. No one delivers a bit of software which is going into production in, reportedly, 11 million cars without detailed specifications, design, testing and the review of all those items.

Currently The Times is suggesting that Bosch, a VW subcontractor, provided the software. It matters not. What would help the new management at VW is a clear audit trail of all decisions. In this, the review process is critical as it’s where a lot of far reaching suggestions and decisions are made.

Maybe, and I stress I have no knowledge of this and am purely suggesting a plausible scenario, an innocent comment in a review of a discussion document on how to meet the emission level tests sparked the whole process. Who knows? However, an audit trail of the reviews would certainly help in the process of uncovering the truth.

PleaseReview provides an audit trail, tracking every comment and change including who made it and when. It also captures the reasons for accepting and rejecting changes, as well as who did so and supports advanced comment and change categorization. All the information I bet the new VW management team wished it had to hand!

An increasing number of companies are using PleaseReview in association with the software and other product development life cycle as it supports review of associated documentation including, in fact, the software itself.

With the increasing need for compliance and transparency, the availability of comprehensive audit trails are an important side benefit to the real savings obtained by using PleaseReview. As, perhaps, the sorry case of VW illustrates.

So, I leave you with our current review cartoon ………

 

Review scenarios – PleaseTech explores the options

Posted by Sarah Holden on 5. March 2015 10:20

Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.


As we have mentioned in previous blog posts, document review is an experience most of us are familiar with and, especially in the workplace, are required to work with others to get it done (think product specs, requirements documents, regulatory submissions, marketing material, proposals etc.).  We may simply send said document out by email for review and editing, or share it with others via a shared workspace, sit around a table and thrash it out…you have probably tried a bit of everything. A recent whitepaper we have published found that amongst a specific business user community we surveyed¹, the majority (62%) rely on email. We also know from earlier research² that people using email as a means of sharing documents for review experience issues as outlined below:

 

Of course not everyone will experience the frustrations highlighted in the table above and the use of email will suit their review requirements perfectly, but there are lots of people reading this who will identify with many of the issues.  There are different review scenarios to suit different user needs, which should be considered. These range from an uncontrolled process (e.g. using email or Google Drive) through to a highly restricted one (such as PDF annotation technology). It is important to find the one that suits you, as carrying on with a ‘make do’ solution affects performance, causes frustrations, wastes time and ultimately impacts the quality of the final document. 

This infographic demonstrates some of the features of each review scenario (please click on the image to see it larger).

And if you are feeling a slight degree of dissatisfaction with your process, or are simply curious, have a go at our questionnaire (results are totally anonymous) and see where you fit on the review spectrum.

 

 

¹Survey conducted amongst Oracle users, October 2014

²Survey conducted amongst Oracle users, October 2013

 

 

 

Document review, Labradors, webinars and cartoons...

Posted by Sarah Edmonds on 3. March 2015 11:02

The other half of marketing... Google


Hopefully somebody’s reading this blog as it forms part of our marketing communications strategy. This strategy is based on a wide variety of activities such as insightful content management, analyst relations, exhibition presence, speaking opportunities, whitepapers, webinars, partner activity, our cartoon website, social media as well as a variety of literature, and of course our website.  But amongst all this, what is the most effective method for really engaging with our customers and prospects and for getting a conversation started?

There is absolute value in producing whitepapers and conducting webinars, which can be viewed and listened to again on our SlideShare page.  The proof is in the pudding as hundreds of people visit this page. Not all visits turn into leads, but some do.  It also positions us as an authority and a market expert in the field of document review and co-authoring. This is broadly considered as ‘thought leadership’.

The same can be said for our YouTube page, here people can find the short animated films we’ve created which detail and demo the product, PleaseReview, and why you might need it.  We know that reading presentations and whitepapers can be a little dry at times and, as you can tell from our cartoons, we are anything but ‘dry’. So we often animate the results of any research we’ve conducted.  It humanizes our communications and projects our company’s personality. What we do is deadly serious but communicating it needn’t be dry. After all, our customers and prospective customers aren’t machines; they’re normal folk who absorb information in a range of ways from watching TV to reading a paper.

And these normal folk don’t want to spend their days solely thinking and looking at work related subjects, even when at work checking out their LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook streams – we all do it… Sometimes we just want a bit of light hearted fun, something that doesn’t tax the brain, something that makes us laugh.  So, for example, we took a look at our database and segmented job titles against names to establish the most popular names amongst various job positions, such as medical writers (Heather by the way).  And people loved it - they liked it, commented on and retweeted it.  And the response to our online quiz which allows people to find out what sort of document review personality they are (Labrador, squirrel, lion or dolphin) has gone through the roof.  

Hopefully whilst they’re on our website having a bit of fun, curiosity has got the better of them and they’ve had a little look around the site.  And maybe, just maybe they found something else they quite liked…

 

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