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

An increasing document workload

Posted by David Cornwell on 2. June 2014 10:44

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


As you may be aware, PleaseTech attends a large number of conferences every year. Not only do we have a booth/stand to show our products and chat with existing and prospective customers, but also in order to get additional insight as to the pressures driving prospective clients, we conduct research at these conferences. This normally takes the form of a brief iPad questionnaire which we ask delegates to complete.

Where we get a statistically meaningful sample, we publish the results of this research as White Papers and webinars. The research tends to be geared towards the conferences’ specific industry or discipline, so the results from different conferences are not always directly comparable.

However, one of the recurring themes we see in this research is the increase in what we are calling the ‘document workload’. I’m thinking of the document workload as the number of documents required to achieve a certain goal. If that goal is running a successful business then let’s define it as the number of documents required to run the business.  Another way to think of it is, the number of documents required to do your job, or that you come across in your job. 

There is no doubt that the document workload is increasing. That’s what people tell us and it’s what we observe in our own business. Why? Well, the standard answer is the increased regulatory and legislative overhead and resulting increased emphasis in procedures and client auditing requirements. 

The phrase ‘If it’s not documented it didn’t happen’ (or similar wording) is well known, especially in the FDA-regulated Life Sciences market, which historically has been and remains our largest market. This is the corollary of procedures where it’s commonly stated that: 'If a process is not documented it doesn’t exist’. Whilst these clichés have always been true in Life Sciences, if you search for the terms you will find them equally applicable to Legal, Government, Healthcare, etc.

So the good news is that the document workload is increasing. Good news? Yes, very much so if you are a vendor in the ‘document workload mitigation’ industry. Whilst I suspect that the ‘document workload mitigation’ industry isn’t an officially recognized industry sector, it’s really the reason why there is so much focus on document management and document collaboration - a recognized sector which PleaseTech is very much part of. 

This increase in the document workload leads directly and unequivocally to an increase in the ‘review workload’. An increase in the review workload means an increase in demand for PleaseReview. In fact, we would argue that the review workload is a significant percentage of the effort required in dealing with the document workload. 

We have previously documented the results of our research which suggest that people have a low expectation of document collaboration solutions. Everyone just assumes that there is no way around the ‘tracked changes nightmare’. As the document workload increases, so will that nightmare and the associated pain. 

Mitigation is all about the reduction of pain and one of the things I’ve come to understand in my long career is that in order to sell a software product it must solve a pain point. If it doesn’t solve a pain point there won’t be a compelling ROI and it becomes a ‘nice to have’ - and no one has the time or budget for that stuff these days. 

Whilst I was thinking about the document workload and collating the ideas as a subject for this blog post, I thought a bit of research of my own was in order. I was hoping to find some research which quantified the increase of the document workload on businesses. From that I reasoned I could work out the increase in the review workload. I was somewhat surprised to find that there doesn’t appear to be much, if any, research on the subject. A search for ‘document workload’ resulted in nothing meaningful. Likewise ‘document burden’ didn’t produce anything interesting. There were a number of vendors talking about the ‘document burden’ but no hard research.

So, I’m thinking that we need to start researching this. We need to find out by how much the document workload is increasing year on year. We need to ask people what percentage of the document workload they estimate can be attributed to the review workload and what the pain is, in real terms, of the review workload. The output of all this research is a marketing campaign!

If you wish to be a part of this research, please let us know by emailing us at marketing@pleasetech.com!

 

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

header bg