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

What is the future of document creation?

Posted by David Cornwell on 15. June 2016 11:36

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


I thought I would share an excerpt from an article I recently wrote for CIOReview, an enterprise technology magazine, where I consider the future of document creation.

As the CEO of a technology company I constantly consider the future. Naturally, a major consideration is whether a disruptive new technology is coming along which could make our products obsolete. 

I believe that only the paranoid survive and I’m forever scanning the horizon for the missile which is aimed squarely at our technology - that of document review. What is this disruptive new technology (or, as Nicholas Taleb would put it, black swan event) which will hurt us? 

Let me define ‘document review’ as the term means different things in different industries. For us, document review is the generic term for the process by which peers, specialists or other interested parties comment upon and suggest changes to the content of a document prior to its finalization, approval and dissemination. Specifically, it is the review element of the document creation process.

Whatever the document, the basic creation process is the same: create; review; finalize; approve; and finally, disseminate. I simply don’t see this process changing in the foreseeable future. No black swans there. 

PleaseTech operates in the B2B marketspace where disruptive new technology takes time to infiltrate. 

One area of disruption which impacts us is the ongoing Office suite apps battle between Google and Microsoft. The Microsoft Office Suite has, for the last 20 years, been the dominant application for the creation of documents, spreadsheets and presentations in the business world. Our competitive advantage is based around our deep understanding of Microsoft Word and, to a lesser extent, the remainder of the Office Suite. So is the Office Suite under attack? The answer is: yes - of course. The real question is: how successfully?

A couple of years ago it seemed that Google was making decent inroads into Microsoft’s market share However, with the undoubted success of Office 365, Microsoft is fighting back with companies now switching from Google Apps to Office 365. 

There is, of course, the whole cloud vs on premise debate. Whilst the cloud is a fine invention and our cloud business is growing rapidly, not everyone wants their valuable intellectual property in the cloud. 

Is a company really prepared to entrust valuable documents to a generic cloud? Obviously not, so we see on premise being equally as important as cloud and, that of course, is where Microsoft wins again with its Office Suite. Its commercial competitors are all 100% cloud based.

What about the future of documents themselves? With individuals entering the workforce now being classified as ‘digital natives’, does the whole concept of a ‘document’ go away? Is this our black swan? 

I’m of an age where I recall typing pools. Professional Engineers (as I was attempting to be as I entered the workforce back then) didn’t type their own documents. They were submitted to a typing pool, where they were created, printed and returned to you for review. A red pen was then used and the cycle continued. However, the introduction of PCs and word processors was a disruptive technology and the typing pool vanished. Yet, despite the disruption, the concept of paper document format lived on electronically with Adobe Acrobat. The delivery mechanism may have changed but the concept of a document is still very much alive. 

Do digital natives think the same way? The research suggests not. They think in social media terms and moving them beyond this is one of the challenges educators are having to deal with. Can we see contracts being agreed in informal language? I think not. One of the first lessons in business is understanding that the way something is worded can form the basis of a legal contract or instruction. The language used is all important. 

So it seems to be that the document creation process of create, review, finalize, approve, disseminate isn’t going to change anytime soon – certainly not in my business career and probably not in my children’s business career. 

It’s hard to see something replacing Word even with initiatives such as the Open Document Format (ODF) supported by the UK Government. However the whole point of a Black Swan event is that it comes out of left field and is extremely difficult to predict. So who knows what the future holds?

If you believe that document creation is as important as I do, I suggest you contact us at PleaseTech to find out how we could help you better face what the future might throw at you.

A decent ½ year and a couple of reflections

Posted by David Cornwell on 25. July 2014 12:51

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


It’s clearly something to do with my age – but it doesn’t seem a whole six months since New Year. When I look at the wall chart (yes I still like a wall chart despite have my Outlook Calendar), I can see why the time has flown past. I personally attended eight conferences in the last six months and found time to do other stuff such as sell software and recruit a new sales VP!

So the continued success of PleaseReview means we are able to continue to invest in growing the business and recruit additional people.  As our clients know, we are an organic growth business owned entirely by management and staff.  This means we adopt a controlled approach to growth and have to ‘earn a bit to spend a bit’.

So the first bit of news is that on 1st July Barry Lyne joined PleaseTech as our Sales VP. Barry is based in Malmesbury but has travel on his agenda and I’m sure he’ll be making a few visits to existing clients as he embarks on a learning curve to understand why PleaseReview is so successful.

And successful it is! In the first half of 2014 we gained 14 new corporate clients from a range of industries. The detail and a couple of sample client names is captured in our news item here, however a key factor is that the new clients represent diverse industries including engineering, technology, professional services and, of course our core market, life sciences.

Our recent strategy has been to expand into other industries whilst not losing focus on life sciences. The practical implementation of this is attending different conferences which focus on different industries and tailoring messaging appropriately.  This is paying off and is something Barry is keen to continue.

Another interesting trend has been the move to the cloud. Historically, we have had about 25% of our clients using our cloud services and the remainder being on premise. However, around 50% of the new clients this year have opted for the cloud service. It will be interesting to see whether that trend continues as the year progresses.

One of the headaches expansion brings is increased overhead. We have been struggling for space in our current offices for some time. With the staff additions both recruited and planned, more space is required. We have identified a suitable property and plans are underway to move in the autumn. Office moves require planning and are, as we are finding, very disruptive, so if the plans all work, we will have plenty of space to accommodate expansion over the next few years.

It’s important, however, that we don’t over expand and so our cautious approach means that we continue to hold a healthy cash balance so that both new and existing clients retain supreme confidence in our longevity!

Moving onto interesting observations from our various new conference visits ………..

At most conferences we attend these days we conduct a survey into people’s document related activities. One particular phrase we have coined is ‘the document workload’ and one of the questions we are asking is whether the individuals’ document workload is increasing.

Not surprisingly the compliance professionals surveyed from the banking industry, and the quality assurance professionals surveyed from a wide variety of industries, almost universally agreed that their document workload had increased.  Increasing regulation was the most common factor when asked ‘why’.

However, again not surprisingly, the only sector not to agree that the document workload was increasingly was, yes you’ve guessed it, life sciences. Already heavily regulated, the life sciences industry probably represents the ‘pinnacle’ of regulation - so we can see that other industries are on the path to this pinnacle. This can only be good for us because where there is regulation there is documentation, and where there is documentation there is review and that’s what we do better than anyone else!

One final thing: PleaseReview v5.1 is, thankfully, finally on the verge of release. More on that subject next month.  

 

Veeva Vault and PleaseTech ‘take off’ with new integration

Posted by Sarah Holden on 12. June 2014 11:33

Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.


PleaseReview is already extensively used throughout Life Science companies, but we have high hopes of expanding this even further thanks to our most recent integration with another significant and rapidly growing player in this sector, Veeva Systems.

    Last week we announced the integration between PleaseReview and Veeva Vault.
A match made in heaven, well at least in the Cloud. 

Whilst we have several platform integrations in place which are based around on premise installations, and have many cloud customers, this is our first purely cloud-based integration. 

Veeva are specialists in cloud-based software for the Life Sciences Industry, and their Vault platform provides regulated content management applications that touch just about every part of a life sciences company - from clinical trials, to manufacturing, regulatory submissions, medical communications and marketing.  PleaseReview tackles the specific task of collaborative document co-authoring and review which, in the document-intensive and heavily regulated Life Sciences sector, is also applicable across departments and disciplines. 

The process is straightforward and user administration is managed in a single location. In practice, users simply login to PleaseReview, select documents stored within the controlled Veeva Vault repository, review and edit them within PleaseReview’s controlled collaborative environment and then check them directly back into Veeva without leaving PleaseReview.

As Life Sciences is such a regulated industry, control is a necessary consideration and a key element of both products’ success. In fact, the synergy between PleaseTech and Veeva is so strong that it led to customers asking for this integration.  Now PleaseReview can be used in conjunction with Veeva’s Submissions, QualityDocs, eTMF, MedComms and PromoMats Vaults.

We are just finalizing plans with Veeva to host a joint webinar to show how it all works in a little more detail, and I hope to be able to share that with you shortly. If you wish to be kept informed, just let us know.

 

 

Cloud File Sharing And The Art of Document Collaboration

Posted by PleaseTech Guest on 6. February 2014 16:01

Our guest blogger is...


Andrew Barnes, independent marketing consultant

My first experience of cloud based file sharing was as a personal user of Dropbox several years ago. As the owner of a shiny new iPad I needed to be able to transfer content between the device and my main laptop. Dropbox proved ideal.

My second encounter with cloud file sharing was not so successful. I was doing some work for a company that used a third-party cloud service as a file-sharing mechanism. I needed access to this repository, so they gave me login credentials.

I just downloaded the software to my laptop, logged in and started to access the content I needed. No training was required and everything was going well until my Macbook Air ran out of local disk space, and I wasn’t connected to the internet.

No problem I thought, I could delete the several GB of shared files that had been synched to my computer and all would be well.

As someone who has been in and around enterprise computing for the last 30 years I was astonished at what happened next. I got back on line and was blissfully unaware anything was wrong until various users started complaining that the “shared disk” was empty. It seemed my action of freeing disk space locally had synched to the cloud. No real harm was done but it was a lesson for the system administrator to think about the security and risk implications of cloud file sharing.

Fast forward a couple of years and I’m reminded again of risk, the importance of an audit trail, and the opportunity that can be gained by knowing who did what to documents.

There is no doubt that the facility for real-time editing of documents using applications like Google Docs can be very useful when used in small measure. There is equally no doubt that it can be a nightmare.

Allowing multiple people to “real-time collaborate” on a document will get very confusing. Keeping track of who did what, and having considered discussion of, and input into, the merits of a change can make for interesting conversations; especially if all the collaborators can’t be on-line at once.

To me such editing quickly has the same effect as many people talking at once. The dominant people (not necessarily the subject experts) take over, changes are made that may not be well considered and there may be little or no audit trail available. What’s worse is that if you are off-line you are out of it.

For some, document collaboration is a regulatory requirement. For others it is a productivity and consistency cornerstone of business and sales processes. In either case a structured approach is the only way to be confident in what is produced.

And the structured approach can provide unexpected value. With the right platform tracking who has worked on which documents can help build the profile of subject matter experts. Identifying who made the most contribution to sales proposals can pin-point deal champions. Investigating the effectiveness of partners in the review process can cement relationships, or identify room for improvement.

So yes, cloud file sharing has its place, but before diving in on a large scale, think about your needs from the document collaboration process, what outputs you expect and how well you can demonstrate adherence to regulation.

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