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

Efficient and controlled In-document collaboration with PleaseReview for OpenText Content Server

Posted by Sarah Holden on 23. March 2016 09:44

Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.


Here at PleaseTech, partnerships with other players in the document collaboration space are very important.

An example in kind is a recent blog post published by OpenText, a global player in Enterprise Content Management. It introduces the launch of PleaseReview for OpenText Content Server, their content repository system. In their blog they explain “As organizations continue to churn out vast amounts of information on a daily basis, collaboration can become more and more challenging—with issues including the navigation of various document versions, widespread email chaos when dealing with multiple reviewers, and control issues due to the lack of complete audit trails. The end result is often missed deadlines, inferior document quality, compliance issues—and then ultimately, frustrated employees.”

The purpose of this post was to publicize a webinar that was shortly to take place: ‘PleaseTech PleaseReview for OpenText™ Content Server’.

A bit of history – whilst there has been an integration in place for over 8 years between PleaseReview and Content Server, last year OpenText recognized that effective document review was a growing issue for existing and prospective clients, especially with marketing hype surrounding Office365 and SharePoint. Recognizing that to stay a step ahead of their competitors in helping organizations collaborate more effectively in the document review process, OpenText extended the existing partnership by making PleaseTech a Technology Partner. As a result, PleaseReview can now be purchased directly from OpenText as an optional module for Content Server,

 The webinar was held earlier this month introducing PleaseReview to OpenText’s audience, and was extremely well attended. This is just the first step and we will continue to support their sales force as they start to actively promote PleaseReview.

 If you want to see how PleaseReview can improve productivity in your organization, you had better watch the webinar recording

Microsoft Word - the most complex software product in the world?

Posted by David Cornwell on 10. June 2015 11:09

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


“Microsoft Word must be one of the most complex software products in the world” was the thought I had a couple of weeks ago whilst sitting in a hotel room in Seattle preparing to give a Word Master Class presentation at the APMP Bid & Proposal Conference 2015.

I’d just done the maths. Word 2010 has 10 menus (not including the Help function) with over 350 commands. The standard and formatting toolbars alone have around 200 options. What does the web say on the subject? Excel certainly features in some of the ramblings of people who consider such things and most agree that Word has several millions lines of code behind it. Of course, Word is part of the Office Suite and has a number of items in common. The exact number of lines of code in the Office suite is a Microsoft secret but one helpful blog post noted that LibreOffice (broadly functionally equivalent) has just over 7 million lines of code and just under 1.5 million comments (within the code).

Whatever the statistics I think we can agree it’s more complex than your average user needs. Indeed, it’s said that '90% of people only ever use 10% of the functionality'. Of course, not everyone uses the same 10% and therein lies the rub. There are so many ways to do things in Word and, with many people ‘self-taught’, it means that you can very quickly get into a complete mess. In fact, one of our key benefit messages with respect to PleaseReview for document authors is that reviewers can ‘mark-up the document but not mess it up’.

So this inevitably brings us onto best practice. Whilst some clients, typically those in the Pharmaceutical Industry, use standardized templates which (usually) follow best practice, there are many who are using internal (and sometimes very poorly developed) templates and others who are using templates developed 20 years ago which have been progressively updated to the newer versions of Word and, as such, contain a whole load of what can only be described as garbage. 

How do we know this? It’s simple, we have the challenge of taking these various documents, processing them and displaying them in PleaseReview, our collaborative review software. This is difficult enough if the document is a nice consistent document based on Word Styles and following best practice. It’s not at all straightforward if the document is a mess of styles, direct formatting, lists lined up with spaces and so on. 

The types of thing we see are hand typed tables of contents; hand typed numbered lists; hybrids of where the initial TOC/list has been manually edited; direct formatting, drawings all over the place and, of course, manual cross references – I’m sure you get the picture. 

So, when we were considering new topics for speaking slots at events we came up with the concept of the Word Master Class. Offering to speak on document collaboration or document review was not really an option as, by definition, we had to discuss our own products and this was considered as a product pitch. These are deeply frowned upon in conferences and therefore to be avoided.

So the Word Master Class was developed. It leverages the company’s detailed knowledge of Word, helps us as we want nice consistent documents based on Styles and following best practice and appears to be a subject a lot of people want to listen to. It’s proving very popular and receiving some great feedback. An example is given below:

“I attended your session today and wanted to reach out and say thank you. In one hour you managed to save me a serious amount of time formatting and editing documents. Can you please send me the instructions so I can try the new techniques on my own? Again, thanks for opening my eyes to easy tricks to solving everyday proposal problems!”

The Master Class is constantly evolving based on feedback and further research. In addition to the more serious material, we try to cover some of the more quirky items to lighten the mood. A specific trick is the ‘Rand’ function. Typing '=RAND(x,y)' – where x & y are numbers - will generate random Lorem Ipsum text where x is the number of paragraphs and y is the number of lines per paragraph. Most people understand that Lorem Ipsum text is dummy text used to test document layouts, etc. Just to give some background on Lorem Ipsum, its origin is in the early days of typesetting (in the early 1500s) when an unknown printer took a gallery of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. Since then, further research has concluded that it has roots in a piece of classical Latin literature from 45 BC (source: Lipsum.com). I use the Rand function regularly when demonstrating co-authoring and it occasionally raises a comment along the lines of "I didn’t know you could do that in Word". 

Whilst writing this blog I thought I’d research 'Microsoft Word and humor' to see if there was anything which caught my eye. Well I’m very grateful to a chap called William Smith who preserved and published this exchange from a Microsoft Word forum which was about to be terminated. 

In short and in summary, the questioner concludes that “Latin seems a bizarre choice”. I guess if we look beyond the immediate humor this demonstrates that it’s not just professional writers who use Word. Almost everyone uses it and, if they haven’t been trained (and they frequently haven’t), they somehow make it look right using their limited knowledge. This even applies to people who spend a considerable amount of their time using Word in a professional capacity. 

In fact, it’s precisely these people – people who may be subject matter experts who end up writing documents rather than Word experts – who are the target audience for our Master Class. 

Anyway, the Word Master Class is a 45 minute presentation/demonstration of some of the features of Word, covering the use of Styles, Section Breaks, Outline View, Drawings, Hyperlinks and Cross References, Macros and the Quick Access Toolbar. We will be running the Word Master Class as a webinar in the 2nd half of the year so, if it’s of interest, send us an email and we will advise you of the webinar details as soon as available.

 

The ‘realistic SharePoint’ era?

Posted by David Cornwell on 2. September 2014 12:54

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


Apparently when you are a CEO of a growing company there comes a tipping point when you stop telling everyone what to do and start being told by your staff what to do! "David, we need a blog entry from you on SharePoint" - was the command from marketing. So, being a dutiful, obedient servant to the cause, here it is.  

It was actually moderately topical because whilst on holiday with friends, a couple of us were chewing the cud over a glass or two and he was complaining that you can’t get SharePoint developers for love or money in central London. I questioned why they were developing in SharePoint but he didn’t know (he is an accountant and was only interested in the money side of the equation). Anyway, we talked through the ‘trough of disillusionment’ and whether we are entering the ‘post SharePoint’ era as some seem to believe. 

Personally, I don’t think we are entering the post SharePoint era but I do hope we are entering the ‘realistic SharePoint’ era. This is the era when  people work out what SharePoint does well and what it doesn’t do well. 

I guess it is what Gartner calls the ‘slope of enlightenment’ in its Hype Cycle model. In the model, the slope of enlightenment follows the 'trough of disillusionment' which follows the ‘peak of inflated expectations’. Check out this link for an overview of the model.

And, let’s be honest, expectations have been inflated. PleaseTech, along with many others I'm sure, suffers from IT departments the world over saying "SharePoint can do that ..... it’s the collaboration platform/it’s the records management platform/and it’s the [insert term here] platform."

In my opinion, this is partly the fault of the Microsoft hype. I’ve personally sat in presentations given by Microsoft personnel where they explain to the audience that SharePoint does everything and there is no need for anything else.  

Unfortunately, some people seem to have been listening to the presentations and appear to have been swayed by Microsoft's marketing. In the trade this is known as drinking the Microsoft 'kool aid'. They emerge from these sessions repeating in rote ‘SharePoint can do that’. 

No it can’t – not everything. Stop people. Take time to understand the problem (aka the requirement) and research the best method of delivering it. BTW, here is a clue: The answer is not always SharePoint. 

When it comes to PleaseReview and what it offers, SharePoint CAN’T DO IT.  Not out of the box, not with lots of clever development of workflow, not at all. And, the unfortunate thing is, organizations waste millions of dollars trying to make SharePoint do what PleaseReview does when all they have to do is buy a license from us, buy our SharePoint integration license, deliver to the business, save a load of development dollars and bask in the reflected glory of a job well done.  

Too often the end user client wants our software but has to fight tooth and nail with IT as their response is ‘SharePoint can do that’.

I am personally aware of several projects where thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars have been spent trying to make SharePoint do what PleaseReview does. Recently we had a series of emergency presentations with a prospect because the committee was meeting to approve a project which was going to throw ‘good money after bad’ and spend even more money on a failed SharePoint project. The project was trying to emulate PleaseReview functionality. I’m pleased to say that it appears, even at the 11th hour, that common sense has prevailed and PleaseReview looks like it will be the preferred option.

It seems that the basic problem is that, when it comes to SharePoint, the ‘Law of the Instrument’ (otherwise known as Maslow’s hammer) applies. The law is typified by the saying ‘if all you have is a hammer, all problems look like a nail’ and, what it means is, people become over reliant on familiar tools. 

This is perhaps why in their 'Collaborative Credentials'  report, the Mando Group (a UK based web design and SharePoint consultancy) have found that the majority of Microsoft SharePoint users are 'disillusioned' with SharePoint implementations. When you start to believe that every requirement simply needs hitting with the SharePoint hammer you lose sight of the fact that not every requirement resembles a nail. Sometimes it's better to screw things together, sometimes to glue them together and sometimes to weld them together. Hammers are blunt instruments, after all. 

So, I do look forward to the dawning of a new age, the age of ‘realistic SharePoint’. This will be an age in which there is a new sense of enlightenment, where there will be less kool aid consumed, where appropriate tools for the job in hand will be used and, as a consequence, where PleaseTech’s revenue will go through the stratosphere! Let the sun shine in!

For more information on how PleaseReview works with SharePoint, please visit our website or contact us.

  

 

Are you being served?

Posted by Barry Lyne on 31. July 2014 12:00

PleaseTech's VP of Sales


Hello to all our customers, prospects, followers and friends – it’s great to be part of the team at PleaseTech, working from our sunny (for the moment) offices in Malmesbury, UK.

My first impressions are that we have a great client base but there is much more opportunity for us to grow our revenues with new geographies and industry verticals. Product knowledge is vitally important in any sales role - I feel lucky that PleaseReview is so intuitive to use – and wish it had been available in previous companies, it would have made getting complex bids & proposals and other documents out such a breeze.

One of my key goals is to make it easier for potential customers to take advantage of our solutions, we recognize that in today’s ‘post-recession’ economy nobody is buying software unless they can demonstrate tangible business benefits and that is why we continue to focus on building tools to help our clients in this area.

David Cornwell, PleaseTech’s CEO observed in his latest blog post that clients are reporting their ‘document workload’ is increasing, mainly due to greater regulatory pressures and the growing need to be compliant. Close to my heart is how we, as a team, help our clients to evaluate, and importantly quantify the business benefits of PleaseReview. Some of you may be familiar with our Collaboration Questionnaire which helps individuals and companies assess their collaboration needs and the document processes they have in place within their organization. If you’ve completed the questionnaire please get in touch - we can also help you to quantify the real business benefits to your organisation using our ROI (return on investment) calculator. It’s a great tool developed using metrics gathered over many years so take advantage of this experience and discover how to solve the problem of your escalating ‘document workload’.

We have a very active conference and exhibition program and as my diary begins to fill up I am really looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible over the coming weeks and months. And if you’re not a customer yet please get in touch or watch our movie and let’s see if any of our solutions can help to make your job easier at the same time as helping your company be more efficient.

A medical writer's perspective of PleaseReview

Posted by Sarah Holden on 16. December 2013 12:09

Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.


Recently we attended a conference for medical writers. Whilst there, we were visited by a medical writer who works for a US biopharmaceutical company. She is a regular user of our collaborative review and co-authoring solution, PleaseReview. It is gratifying to hear first-hand how PleaseReview helps with what can otherwise be an arduous task. From her point of view, working with others on the many documents regularly produced within both the clinical and regulatory groups means the task of consolidating everyone’s changes into one copy is a major activity- requiring time, patience and great people skills! PleaseReview has made this much easier- she no longer has to play referee, reviewers no longer operate in a vacuum and the time gained equates to significant cost savings.

We have written up a short case study detailing her experience to elaborate the benefits medical writers can expect, so if interested, please take a look

On another note, as we approach the end of the year, we continue on the theme of our Christmas countdown. Today, we celebrate the  newly expanded PleaseTech blog which is a continuation of the blog started by out CEO, Dave Cornwell, but now includes contributions from other team members and guest bloggers as well as being easy to find at www.blog.pleasetech.com.

 

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