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.

 

 

The law of unintended consequences and customer feedback

Posted by David Cornwell on 20. September 2013 10:02

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


So the summer is over, the kids are back at school and business has got manic again. I’m writing this blog post from Budapest airport where I’ve been on a less than 24 hour visit to give a presentation at the Lorenz user conference called UserBridge.13. About 160 people from 21 different countries attended with visitors from as far afield as Australia, South Africa, the USA, Japan and Europe.

As always with Lorenz, the conference was immaculately organised with a beautiful venue, superb food and sessions which ran more-or-less on time!

I was presenting our document collaboration maturity model which allows organizations to check whether their collaboration process actually meets with their collaboration requirements.  We're going to be talking about this a lot of the coming months, so watch this space.

On Saturday I fly out to San Francisco for Oracle World.

So, to the title of my blog – the law of unintended consequences. 

One of the things CEOs and all others who make decisions are acutely aware of is that any process, set of rules, etc. will be subject to overly rigid interpretation, misunderstandings and a complete lack of common sense.

The story gets a little complicated, so follow carefully!

So, there I was, sitting with my wife on an Easyjet flight back from Barcelona, when I observed behaviour which illustrated this perfectly.

Easyjet have recently moved to an allocated seating model which allows them to charge people extra for the emergency rows and the front of the plane. I’m sure when the idea first came up, it seemed like a really good idea and, from a business perspective, it is. More revenue from the same people on the same flight – what’s not to like about that?

This particular flight was not full, nor crucially, were the two emergency rows in the middle of the plane. In fact the entire 2nd row of emergency seats was not occupied at all. As a frequent flyer, sitting one row behind the vacant emergency row, I noted this and indicated to my wife that it would be interesting to see how they deal with this because, as we all know, you need at least one capable person sitting in the row (in case of emergency).

Now, at approximately the same time, the strapping 20 something year old in the aisle seat next to next to us asked the crew if he could sit in the emergency row and was told ‘no’, as people have to pay to be there. Fair enough.

So, the doors close and the steward makes his move. A (very) large gentleman is asked to move from the aisle seat in the first (occupied) emergency row and does so gratefully, occupying the middle seat on one side of the previously empty emergency row. Score one for the steward.

Now what to do? He still needs an able-bodied person on the other side of the aisle. There remain two couples occupying the other emergency row on opposite sides of the plane.

But, our man was on to it. Alas, instead of doing the sensible thing and ask the strapping chap next to me to move (or indeed another capable individual) he split a couple up so that one had to occupy the empty row!  Unbelievable!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no body language expert, but given the fact that (i) she was leaning on her partner’s shoulder  with her arm around him when the steward came calling, (ii) the steward had to persuade the lady to move and kept reiterating ‘it’s only for take-off’, and (iii) given the long, dare I say, lingering kiss she gave her partner as she reluctantly moved back a row, I’d  guess that it was not how she had expected her romantic(?) weekend in Barcelona to end. Needless to say she was back next to her man the second the seat belt sign was turned off.

So, rather than a win for Easyjet: Strapping man next to me is happy as he gets an emergency row and more leg room for his long legs, aforementioned lady is happy as she gets to take off next to her nearest, I’m happy because the seat next to me is free, the, no doubt highly trained, steward managed snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

I have no doubt that no-one intended the above scenario. They assumed that the steward would take the common sense approach and move someone else.

What lessons do I take away? Simply, that, regardless of how clearly you define procedures and practices and regardless of how highly trained the staff are, you still need to rely on your staff to exhibit common sense. In this case the steward did not. Why not, we ask?

Well, of course, it may be an incorrect company policy. Perhaps he would have got into trouble if he let someone occupy a seat they hadn’t paid for. Answer, listen to client feedback such as this and re-think company policy.

Perhaps it is a misunderstanding/over rigorous understanding/interpretation of company policy and another steward would exhibit common sense. Answer: include the scenario in company training.

Perhaps he is a poor reader of body language and thought the woman needed rescuing? Answer: I’m sure that’s not the case.

In fact, I have emailed this to the CEO of Easyjet, told her I’d be including it in my blog and had a very nice response from a lady in ‘Executive Support’.

But I think that, other than the law of unintended consequences, there is another key point to emerge and that is, without customer feedback, you don’t get to know where you are going wrong or get the chance to put things right. So, I’m a great fan.  We rely heavily on customer feedback here at PleaseTech to establish development priorities so, customers, please do let me know if there are any unintended consequences from our software or, indeed, enhancements you want to see in future releases. .

Finally, I’m regularly asked ‘what mad venture are you up to next’? So, I’m pleased to announce that the answer is ‘driving sheep across London Bridge’ – I’ll bet you weren’t expecting that to be the answer!

But, it’s true.   On Sunday 29th September, in the company of the Master of the Worshipful Company of Woolmen, one of the oldest Livery Companies of the City of London, my wife and I and some friends will be participating in the traditional, annual sheep drive. Costumes yet to be decided but it will be either biblical or sheppardesque. I have firmly ruled out ‘Little Bo Peep’.

Needless to say any funds raised go to charity so hopefully we can have some fun and raise a bit of cash! I’ll report back in my next blog and will post pictures as proof on our Facebook page!

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

Why does PleaseTech use social media as part of its B2B marketing strategy?

Posted by PleaseTech Guest on 1. August 2013 15:52

Our guest blogger is...


Mary Thomas is a social media advisor to PleaseTech.  She is the founder of Concise Training and the author of ‘Social Media Made Simple’.

The first question we must address is ‘what is social media’? It’s one of those phrases which means different things to different people. A teenager may think of it as Facebook whereas a business professional may think of it as LinkedIn.  As a social media professional, I think of it as a way of engaging with a large number of people in a cost effective and time efficient way.

From a business perspective, it’s another marketing channel and within this social media channel, there are many individual channels which include some of the more famous ‘social networking’ tools as well as other channels that might not automatically spring to mind.  These include Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google +, blogs, video, forums, eBooks / E-articles, image sharing tools, email newsletters, FourSquare, Groupon and QR Codes.  

As a business with a specific target market, PleaseTech, for example, knows that not all of these tools are appropriate to its business and has taken a strategic approach to which channels best support its messaging to the target market and thus its overall marketing and sales activity.  Based on audience, time, resources and content, PleaseTech has picked which of these channels most effectively brings ‘to life’ its flagship product, PleaseReview, and which best supports its communications with stakeholders.  

For example, its YouTube channel (PleaseTechLtd) features an animated movie detailing the problems organizations face when trying to get large teams of people to effectively collaborate, author and review documents. YouTube is an efficient distribution mechanism which is widely understood and accepted, therefore allowing PleaseTech to easily communicate its key messages and product information in an easily digestible format to a large audience.

We all absorb information in different ways and that’s the beauty of social media, that information can be communicated visually, verbally or via the written word.  

Talking about the written word, you are currently reading PleaseTech’s brand new blog, which is beginning to build up a wealth of content through interesting articles on a variety of subjects - such as this one.  This is not entirely altruistic as the objective is to have an active blog which is part of search engine optimization and which, in turn, will increase PleaseTech’s chances of being found by search engines and becoming known as an expert in their field.  Although, in retrospect, if this is the objective it may be better to concentrate on articles on document review rather than social media!  

Building up such content is ‘content marketing’. But what exactly is content marketing? It’s a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a target audience.  By giving away useful information, businesses become the ‘place to go for information’.  As the brand of the business is developed, it becomes the ‘place of choice to do business with’.  In the old days, content marketing was the advert in the trade magazine which you sent off to get a white paper. Now it’s as simple as having valuable content accessible via your website, blog, etc.  

It’s important to differentiate content marketing to relationship marketing.  If you go to any face to face networking meeting, it is clear that even in the B2B world, many people will select businesses based on relationships.

If you ‘like’ somebody or a brand, you are more likely to trust them and do business with them.  The major brands use social media extensively to convey their ‘values’ and thus try and gain your support for the brand.  

In a B2B context,  it can be used to develop and build relationships with people that you know and more importantly, people you don’t know. PleaseTech is a classic example of a business which has an ‘electronic’ relationship with a great many of its clients. The relationship with such clients and prospective clients encompasses all means of communication, including this blog.

For PleaseTech, many face to face meetings take place at conferences and exhibitions across the US and Europe, but ‘touching’ people before they meet, whether that’s via a newsletter, Twitter, Google + or LinkedIn, and then, for example, supplying them with literature that allows them to scan a QR code, taking them directly to the www.pleasetech.com website, helps to build and nurture both new and existing relationships.  

All this takes both time and thought; it doesn’t just happen by accident. It’s all about strategy, resources, content, tools, audience, aims, review and measurement.  Combine these effectively and your social media will support your business goals.

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