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

Office and SharePoint 2016 appear to be moving in the correct direction - for us

Posted by David Cornwell on 16. October 2015 10:34

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


So now we know what is happening with respect to co-authoring in Word 2016 when combined with SharePoint or OneDrive.

Microsoft has gone for 'real-time co-authoring'.

How does this work? Well, to quote from Word's Office Blog post: “when two or more users …. open the same Word document from OneDrive they can co-author with others in real-time, which allows them to see the cursor location and text edits made by the other users automatically appear as they happen”. The same is true for SharePoint 2016.

Microsoft has obviously taken their lead from Google as ITPro demonstrates by saying, “The move should bring a major advantage to Microsoft over Google’s Google Docs when Office 2016 is released ……”. Interestingly, its justification for this advantage is that it brings co-authoring to the desktop version of Word.

Some commentators are being brutally realistic. I particularly like Office Watch when they say:

“If you’re having a touch of ‘déjà vu’ right now … it's not your imagination. Microsoft has announced document collaboration so, so many times over the years. But each time the press falls for it and parrot the Microsoft hype. Sigh.

Document collaboration isn’t new in Office.  For some years, two or more people have been able to open the same document and edit it at the same time.

What’s changed is the level of detail in displaying changes to the other users online.  In Office 2013 if you edited a paragraph, that paragraph was locked out for other editors until you’d finished.  Then the paragraph changes were pushed out to the other editors.

In Office 2016, it’s more detailed with edits appearing to other users in what Microsoft calls ‘real time’.   Co-authors can see text edits and even the cursor position of other editors as they all work on a document.”

They go on to add:

“Nitpickers will know that ‘real time’ really means ‘as fast as possible’ which is fast enough.  The speed that updates show to other editors depends on the speed of the various Internet connections and the hosting server.  Our informal tests, with side-by-side computers, suggest that ‘real time’ really means about ’10-20 seconds’.  That’s more than adequate for document collaboration.”

Others are waxing lyrical over this.  John Brandon writes in a ComputerWorld article:

“There’s something really satisfying about working on a business document with another person or in a group. The thoughts often come together in unison. One person adds a paragraph, another person makes a quick correction. It’s about as close to having a video chat as you can get ….” He continues: “ …. brainstorming sessions with a few writers in one document working in tandem is an enjoyable and highly productive experience …...”.

So let’s get back to reality and work out whether this is going to revolutionize the world of document creation.

I doubt that there are many in the corporate sphere who believe that one person adding a paragraph and another making a quick correction in real time is either enjoyable or particularly productive. I fully accept John’s position that, if you are genuinely brainstorming and simply downloading ideas to the page then it may, and I stress may, be useful. But is it really more useful than existing Word co-authoring?

Remember, the only real limitation of the current Office 2010/2013 functionality is that it locks edited paragraphs until the editor ‘saves’ the changes. With Word 2016 many people can simultaneously edit the same paragraph. But, when you stop and think, you’d soon settle on the fact that several users not being able to simultaneously edit exactly the same paragraph is not a major limitation when they could be editing adjacent paragraphs.

Sure, there may be a few converts from Google Docs who are using the Google platform because simultaneously editing exactly the same paragraph is critical for their business process, but I’m finding it hard to think of examples.

What about control? What about the document owner? What about reporting? What about accountability?

This co-authoring functionality offered by Word 2016 (in conjunction with SharePoint 2016 or OneDrive) is what we call ‘uncontrolled co-authoring’. This means anyone can materially edit anywhere in the document. I can delete your stuff, you can delete my stuff and we can all gang up on poor Fred and delete his stuff. No traceability, no accountability, no responsibility.

Our position is quite simply that this type of uncontrolled real-time co-authoring works for specific business processes if you have a small team of trained, rational and courteous users.

So nothing changes our view that SharePoint is fine for casual, light usage. A bit of brainstorming here and there perhaps. However, for industrial strength document review and co-authoring, you are going to need more control and not a co-authoring space with no audit trail and where anything goes.

Thousands of documents, multiple reviewers, potentially hundreds of comments – that’s the reality of the world we and our clients live in. To manage this control is the key. Control of the process but also control of ‘who can do what to where’ in the document.

So, our conclusion is threefold:

1.   Those happy with the current Word/SharePoint uncontrolled co-authoring will continue to be happy with it and will probably welcome this enhancement;

2.   Those struggling with the current Word/SharePoint uncontrolled co-authoring will continue to struggle in the naïve belief that it’s the Microsoft way or the highway – a position unfortunately adopted by many IT departments desperate to justify their investment in Sharepoint;

3.   No-one is going to abandon PleaseReview and rush to the new functionality because the current advantages PleaseReview has over SharePoint for collaborative document review and co-authoring remain. 

Of course, anyone wishing to adopt this brave new land of, this time, real simultaneous co-authoring will have to wait a while anyway. Not only will they need Word 2016 but also SharePoint 2016 (or OneDrive) as Microsoft is quite clear that “Word 2016 co-authoring fails when the file is stored on SharePoint 2013” and the recommended solution is to turn it off with a registry fix!

So, as my title suggests, Office and SharePoint 2016 appear to be moving in the correct direction – for us!

 


Review scenarios – PleaseTech explores the options

Posted by Sarah Holden on 5. March 2015 10:20

Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.


As we have mentioned in previous blog posts, document review is an experience most of us are familiar with and, especially in the workplace, are required to work with others to get it done (think product specs, requirements documents, regulatory submissions, marketing material, proposals etc.).  We may simply send said document out by email for review and editing, or share it with others via a shared workspace, sit around a table and thrash it out…you have probably tried a bit of everything. A recent whitepaper we have published found that amongst a specific business user community we surveyed¹, the majority (62%) rely on email. We also know from earlier research² that people using email as a means of sharing documents for review experience issues as outlined below:

 

Of course not everyone will experience the frustrations highlighted in the table above and the use of email will suit their review requirements perfectly, but there are lots of people reading this who will identify with many of the issues.  There are different review scenarios to suit different user needs, which should be considered. These range from an uncontrolled process (e.g. using email or Google Drive) through to a highly restricted one (such as PDF annotation technology). It is important to find the one that suits you, as carrying on with a ‘make do’ solution affects performance, causes frustrations, wastes time and ultimately impacts the quality of the final document. 

This infographic demonstrates some of the features of each review scenario (please click on the image to see it larger).

And if you are feeling a slight degree of dissatisfaction with your process, or are simply curious, have a go at our questionnaire (results are totally anonymous) and see where you fit on the review spectrum.

 

 

¹Survey conducted amongst Oracle users, October 2014

²Survey conducted amongst Oracle users, October 2013

 

 

 

The power of partner webinars: working with Veeva and Generis broadens PleaseTech’s reach.

Posted by Sarah Holden on 3. December 2014 11:14

Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.


Over the last couple of weeks we have held two webinars. I have to say, a well-executed webinar that brings useful information to a specific audience is hard to beat in terms of generating real interest and giving the sales folk plenty to do.

In each instance, we worked with a partner. Not only does this give us compelling content to share, but our brand/product story reaches a new audience. In fact, these last webinars have given our sales people as many, if not more, follow up leads than some of the events we pay big bucks to attend.

Firstly we were presenting our PleaseReview integration with Veeva Vault. Veeva provides life sciences organizations with cloud based solutions for regulated content management. The integration of Veeva Vault with PleaseReview provides a complete and seamless process for document collaboration: 

 

The webinar elicited a large audience of existing Veeva customers looking to enhance their current process and interested parties looking for a complete solution. The volume of questions during the event was proof that having experts on hand and a live demonstration of the software was a far more effective means of generating interest than other, more traditional, methods of communication.

To view a recording of the webinar, please do visit Veeva’s website

 

Our second partner webinar was held in partnership with Generis, the creators of CARA - a fast, configurable user interface and business rules engine for the creation, approval and management of documents for leading content management platforms. The integration between CARA and PleaseReview is initially for Documentum users only and is one of the two contenders in the replacement of Documentum’s Webtop. As such, it is also geared towards providing an end to end document lifecycle solution for life sciences companies. 

In this instance, the webinar was marketed to existing CARA customers and counted both multi-national pharmaceuticals and emerging biotechs amongst the audience.

A more widely targeted webinar is expected in the New Year. However, to learn more about the integration, you can view the webinar recording here

   

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.

Integrating PleaseReview with Oracle WebCenter Content

Posted by John Tanner on 22. January 2014 11:06

Our PleaseTech integration expert


When setting out on developing the integration of WebCenter Content with PleaseReview, our primary aims were the same as with other PleaseReview document management integrations. We wanted to develop a seamless solution which would allow all of the controlled collaboration benefits of PleaseReview to be available from within WebCenter Content without the user having to log into a separate system.  In addition, we wanted to make it possible for existing PleaseReview users already familiar with the User Interface, to be able to log into it using their WebCenter Content Credentials and carry out reviews using WebCenter documents and WebCenter Users as Participants.

In order to achieve these aims it was necessary to develop three separate components, which together work hand-in-hand to join WebCenter Content and PleaseReview....

Firstly a custom WebCenter Content Component was created in order to update the WebCenter Content user interface to include new PleaseReview menu items and custom inbox pages in the style of the WebCenter Content instance, for users with the appropriate permissions.  The result was a custom component that can easily be deployed and configured to work with PleaseReview by a WebCenter Content administrator.

Next, a custom PleaseReview extension (or System Connector) specific to WebCenter Content was built to enable users to log into the PleaseReview UI using their WebCenter Credentials and to enable PleaseReview to be able to interact with WebCenter Content via its APIs, for purposes such as accessing documents, selecting users etc. This was built using the standard PleaseReview system connector structure, so as to simplify the deployment process.

Finally, in order to enable PleaseReview to obtain details of the PleaseReview specific users and groups administered from within WebLogic Admin Console, a WebLogic PleaseReview Connector was developed, which can simply be deployed as a Web Application on the WebLogic server on which WebCenter Content resides using the WebLogic AdminClient.

Putting these three components together we now have a solution which offers everything we initially set out to do, making a seamless collaborative review process possible from within WebCenter Content.  

For anyone interested in finding out more about this integration and the collaborative document review capabilities within WebCenter Content, please join us for our complimentary webinar on January 30th- just sign up here

 

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