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

The SharePoint dichotomy

Posted by Sarah Holden on 18. October 2013 10:37

Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.


Now, more than ever, ‘collaboration’ is the buzz word of the day as key analysts and other thought leaders extoll its virtues.  Ben Hecht in the Harvard Business Review recently wrote that ‘collaboration is the new competition’ and going one step further, Gartner point out ‘IT leaders have opportunities to deliver business value in the area collaboration’.

SharePoint is perhaps one of the most prolific ‘collaborative platforms.  Eighteen months ago we published a whitepaper entitledDocument Review and SharePoint Document Collaboration', which asked SharePoint customers what they thought about its collaborative capabilities and whether being known as the ‘business collaboration platform’ lived up to its reputation with regard to the collaborative authoring and review process.

It found that whilst respondents were broadly satisfied with their document review solutions, further questioning revealed many issues.  Whilst the term collaboration was widely used, in reality expectations were low. This demonstrated that in the SharePoint community, education was still required.

So we decided to ask since this research, and three years on from the launch of SharePoint 2010, how have user expectations evolved as the platform has become more prolific?  What is the reality of document collaboration in the workplace?  Is there still a mismatch between what SharePoint users need and what they have?  Have opinions on SharePoint’s collaborative capabilities changed?

We surveyed 276 companies in order to find out the answers to these questions.

Ultimately, are businesses deriving value from their collaborative tools?

Want to know what we found out?  Sign up to a 30 minute webinar, hosted by PleaseTech CEO Dave Cornwell on Tuesday October 22nd.

Simply click this link.

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Oracle OpenWorld

Posted by David Cornwell on 27. September 2013 09:24

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


I’m sitting in the lounge at SFO en route home after my first ever Oracle OpenWorld. We had a booth in Moscone West – the Applications Hall. So, as a show veteran, what are my impressions?

Firstly, it’s the size of the whole event. It’s certainly the largest I’ve ever attended. I’m not sure what the final attendance figures are but the figures being bandied around are 60,000 people. I suspect that is all attendees including delegates, booth staff, Oracle staff and conference organisers but, whatever the numbers; it’s an awful lot of people.

It’s only when I ventured from our hall to the main event area (where the keynotes and the ‘Technology hall’ was located across the road, you realize the scale of the whole thing.  It’s a major logistical challenge and I thought the whole event was extremely well organized – congratulations to Oracle and the event organizers.

Secondly, the sheer number of Oracle products and breadth they cover is almost beyond comprehension. Trying to get my mind around what the various exhibiting companies were promoting was a mission impossible. So much was so far outside of my experience I had no idea!

The question then is how do you differentiate yourself? How do identify yourself in the noise and bring attention to yourself to the delegates whom may be potentially interested in your offerings – assuming that only a percentage are interested? The key is ‘simple messages’. If anything our booth wording was a case of ‘too much information’.  We just needed to get the message ‘Document Collaboration’ across.

However, on the subject of simple messages, many people did suggest that their document collaboration needs were taken care of via SharePoint.  So, Microsoft has had a lot of success with its simple message that SharePoint is the ‘document collaboration platform’.  So our challenge is to come up with an equally simple message of why you need PleaseReview if you have SharePoint!

Thirdly, whilst we were at the event to promote our new Oracle WebCenter Content integration, there was a high degree of interest in our Documentum, Open Text and SharePoint integrations. Initially this surprised me. However, when you do the rational analysis, the simple fact is that the attendees represent some of the biggest companies in the world and they have large corporate systems, which include the aforementioned Documentum, Open Text and SharePoint systems.  So, opportunities outside WebCenter Content were an unexpected and, of course, much welcomed outcome.

As usual for these big events we ran a document collaboration survey from the booth and had over 400 participants. Results will help us in our marketing and be published.  We learnt a bit about survey length and what attracts people to complete surveys. Hint: never refer to it as a survey. Ask them if they want to win the prize – who doesn’t - and then once they start they normally complete.

Finally, I’ve learnt that going to the Oracle Appreciation Event party/concert on the Wednesday night is not something I plan to do again. Bussing 50,000+ people to Treasure Island through the rush hour traffic (1 hr 45 mins from standing in line for the bus) is non-trivial. Then, when you are there, there is a long line for food, drink, the rest rooms, etc.  OK, so Maroon 5, were good (but I suspect they play to a more animated audience normally) but I’m afraid I decided to forgo the pleasure of The Black Peas and head back. Now if it had been The Black Eyed Peas it may have been a different story.

Last word: Special thanks also need to go to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who skipped his final keynote speech on Tuesday to attend the America's cup (congratulations Larry on a great win I’m sure they couldn’t have done it without you) giving attendees more time to experience the document collaboration benefits of PleaseReview.

 

 

PleaseTech at Oracle OpenWorld

Posted by John Tanner on 26. September 2013 16:30

Our PleaseTech integration expert


As Oracle OpenWorld virgins our pre-show expectations were high, especially considering the sheer size of the event; and as proceedings draw to a close we certainly haven't been disappointed.  The four days have provided an excellent forum to share PleaseTech's products to a diverse range of business partners.  Most surprising has been the interest we have received in our integrations with non-Oracle document management solutions from Microsoft SharePoint to Documentum.

Special thanks also need to go to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who skipped his final keynote speech on Tuesday to attend the America's cup, giving attendees more time to experience the document collaboration benefits of PleaseReview.

 

Not another email attachment to review (the options)

Posted by Sarah Holden on 19. August 2013 12:00

Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.


How much effort does it take to produce all the documents that you work with? It’s a question I had rarely considered before joining PleaseTech. But faced with the mass of documentation businesses produce: policies, procedures, manuals, reports, product specs, proposals, marketing collateral (you get the drift)… and then understanding that creating these usually requires significant editing and review before final publication - usually with the input of multiple people – I now ’get’ the need for PleaseReview. 

Previously, as an independent marketing consultant, I used the ‘traditional’ manual review methods. Whilst tradition is a wonderful thing in some circumstances, in this case it is inefficient and costly. Email and tracked changes is fine if it's a ‘one-to-one’ situation. But, as soon as there are more than two people involved it becomes ‘tricky’, if not downright challenging.

Here I consider some of the alternatives available for the collaborative editing and reviewing of business documents and put forward the case that you should use the right tools if you want the job done properly - and as a result, get a better return in terms of money and time saved.

The typical document production process is a workflow that involves a few individuals or at times teams of participants. It goes something like this:

After the document has been drafted, it’s made available to one or more persons for editing (co-authoring) and review. The more extensive the document, the more people that typically become involved. This collaborative process may be repeated several times before a document is considered final. 

Organizations will typically use one of the following methods to carry this out:

Manual – Our research confirms most organizations use manual processes for document review. They muddle through by managing email attachments, copying and pasting edits into original documents, undergoing multiple review cycles, working with several document versions and may even attend several review meetings. 

Time consuming. Frustrating. Unproductive.

Generic online approaches  These are readily available and a step beyond email attachments. Examples include: Adobe Acrobat's shared PDF review and Google Drive. People can access the document online, at the same time which means time saved and fewer review cycles required.

However, solutions such as these have multiple drawbacks.  Things to look out for: do changes still have to be manually incorporated into the original document? Are users able to overwrite others' changes? Are metrics and other review activity captured in a report? Is there any review management? Does it support Word formatting and styles (the most popular document type) and are there any document confidentiality issues (as the document is hosted in the cloud)?

PDF is very popular, but annotations are extremely visual and could overwhelm the document owner:

Business collaboration platforms  These include systems such as Microsoft SharePoint (read our whitepaper), Open Text Content Server and EMC Documentum. Whilst providing a broad range of business collaboration tools, they cannot be expected to meet all the criteria required for a fully functioning, controlled collaborative editing and review solution. Co-authoring is an ‘after you ….. no, after you, I insist’ situation based on 'check-in, check-out', whilst review is typically PDF based. In our experience, document authors and reviewers quickly develop manual workarounds which take us full circle back to email attachments!  

Then there is PleaseReview. After three years at PleaseTech I understand why PleaseReview flourishes. It takes a specialist approach to the issue. Recognizing that many organizations have to meet strict regulatory, compliance or corporate standards it is designed specifically to control and manage the entire review process. It does this by:

  • making the document available in a secure, controlled and collaborative environment 
  • providing owner management and control
  • delivering specialist functionality including automatic change consolidation, easy reconciliation of comments and comprehensive reporting
  • catering for various document types such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF 
  • offering offline and tablet review. 

The associated benefits can be summarized by improved performance – such as reduced review costs, increased time savings, greater employee efficiency and accountability, better quality documents and high user satisfaction. 


For more information on PleaseTech's collaborative review and co-authoring solution, visit: www.pleasetech.com

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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