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

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

The nightmare of 'tracked changes'

Posted by PleaseTech Guest on 27. June 2013 15:09

Our guest blogger is...


Andrew Barnes, Independent Marketing Consultant

 

I'm not prone to nightmares, and normally I sleep quite well.  But towards the end of last year I genuinely did wake in the middle of the night in a slight panic.

Over the years I've worked in a variety of different roles with many types of software companies.  From rapidly growing UK companies with great products to global organizations with products in need of refresh, I've worked in some sort of marketing position.

Throughout that time one thing has been more or less constant: the need to create, share and review documents.  Even now, as an independent consultant, I've always thought of myself as pretty adept at juggling documents to ultimately come out with a polished datasheet, press release, whitepaper or proposal as required.  But for some reason this time it was different.

I had been co-ordinating the creation and approval of a new whitepaper for a company that will remain nameless.  This involved taking input from a few different departments and working with a couple of agencies in different time zones.

There was nothing really out of the ordinary.  A draft had been created.  Like many companies there wasn't much of a process to follow.  They relied on the distribution of the whitepaper by email and using tracked changes in Microsoft Word to evolve it.

I won't bore you with the details of the rainbow of colors I had to resolve in the document as the emails came back and people edited edits.  I set about resolving the amendments and accepting comments where appropriate.  By the time I'd finished I felt pretty relieved.

So why did I wake with a start?  For some reason I suddenly realized that I'd inadvertently approved for external release a document that was still being modified by some fairly senior people.  And the situation needed to be corrected pretty quickly.

At the 11th hour an executive had decided the document needed a particular twist and had started a new email thread distributing the original version.  I'd been told this in passing, but it had slipped my mind and as a result the consolidation of some pretty critical amendments hadn't happened.  All my hard work had been messed up.

So first thing the following morning I still had the same deadline to meet, and I had to work out to incorporate amendments to amendments, quickly research responses to new comments and resubmit for further approval across time-zones.

I didn't have the luxury of an audit trail to work out what had gone on.  The lack of process had let me down.  So I painstakingly had to go about comparing documents, tracking down emails to see who had done what and chasing one person who was adamant they needed to be involved, but couldn't be tracked down (and yes the pun was intended).

I got there in the end. The whitepaper was published and well received by the audience.  So apart from some shredded nerves and extra work, no real harm was done.

Since then I've started doing some work for PleaseTech Ltd and have had my eyes opened to the value of a structured, controlled approach to document review.

I think it's time for me to stop juggling documents and drowning in the sea of tracked changes.  If only I can persuade my clients of the right way to control the document review process...

Focusing on controlled document collaboration

Posted by David Cornwell on 24. September 2012 16:24

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


We had a marketing workshop last week and, following our decision to emphasise the ‘control’ we bring to collaboration, we addressed the tag line issue. In my last blog post I said it would be ‘controlled document collaboration’. Silly me.

Needless to say the marketing gurus felt they could do better. So a happy (?) time was spent with the whiteboard rearranging the three words: ‘controlled’, ‘document’ and ‘collaboration’. The result of an hour’s hard graft was: ‘Document collaboration. Controlled.’ 

So forget what I said back in August. Our new tag line is: ‘Document collaboration. Controlled.’ 

And here is the logo to prove it:

 

You heard it here first!
 
On a personal note, those of you who follow me on twitter will be aware that I’m no longer trapped on this island. Last month my passport became full. Literally, there was no further space for stamps. So it was necessary to apply for a new one. September was a travel free month, so I took the opportunity to send off the old passport and get a replacement. Thankfully, it has arrived just in time for my travels which start again in October. In the five weeks of October I’ll be in the USA for four of them. I’ll be at the following conferences: AMWADIA EDM and ERS/eCTDAPMP SPAC and RAPS(what a lot of acronyms!). Thankfully, I do get a week home in-between. If you are attending one of the conferences please do drop by our booth to say hello.
 
There has been a bit in the press recently about focus on the enterprise. The latest being from Jim Goetz who says he's “floored that so few entrepreneurs are focusing on building products for businesses” (see here). It brought to mind a report I read about this time last year which suggested that that the best start-ups had no experience of enterprise software and that this could be a good thing as it allowed 'outdated conventions' to be challenged.
 
This brings to mind one of the age old sayings: ‘If it was easy, everyone would do it’.
 
Let’s face it, building enterprise software applications is not easy! And selling to enterprises is not easy either! If I were bright enough to think of something which allowed me to build a great company without dealing with corporate IT departments and corporate purchasing departments, I’d do it like a shot!
 
From a software perspective, it’s particularly hard when you have to install the software on the client’s site. In other words, when you have to install the software in an environment over which you have no control.
 
So, build a functional, well tested software product which meets a business need and you are but half way there technically. Now you need to ensure it works in a complex corporate computing environment, integrates with the environment’s other components (such as directory services, etc.) and is sufficiently well documented that under-pressure IT staff can install and maintain it.
 
Then, no matter how compelling the product and no matter how great an ROI it has, you have to convince multiple people across the organization it’s a good and worthwhile investment. This takes time. In large organizations, wheels turn slowly and are driven by budget years.
 
Finally, you have the product, you have a willing purchaser and then you hit corporate purchasing and legal. Now the fun really starts. We have even had one purchasing department come back to us and tell us that they will place the purchase order if we deduct 5% off the quote. This is after we have been involved in lengthy discussions with the sponsoring department! Our response, by the way, was to tell them to *** off.
 
And people wonder why there aren’t “more engineers and entrepreneurs interested in enterprise”.
Please don’t think I’m complaining. I’m not. I’m just pointing out that conceiving, developing and delivering enterprise grade applications is non-trivial. And that is before you start trying to sell them.
 
From my perspective, the simple fact is that the built-in lag of the enterprise market means that it is simply not possible to grow companies in the same way that that it is possible to grow companies focusing on consumer stuff such as social media. If you are a ‘bright young entrepreneur’ and saw the explosive growth of Facebook and Twitter, and the slog of the enterprise focused companies, where would you focus?
 
I had planned to stop the blog there but I was told I shouldn't end on a negative note. So, on the positive side my share price hasn't crashed and focusing on the enterprise isn't all bad. Our software helps reduce the time it takes to get drugs to market and thus improves and saves lives. That's got to be good - right?

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