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

Every little thing they do is magic

Posted by Sarah Edmonds on 14. August 2014 09:51

The other half of marketing... Google


It’s our job in our marketing to translate the magic.  Over in techie heaven (as they’re fondly known in PleaseTech), once the team have delivered the latest product release, it’s up to us to communicate the upgrades to the end user.  Sometimes it’s a tough gig, sitting in a meeting trying to understand what they mean when they talk about database transactions, continuous integration, encoding or regular expression… However, those are just some of the tools that have been used to design PleaseReview v5.1, but what do they mean and how do they benefit our customers?

A database transaction makes sure everything or nothing happens in a transaction.  So, if you spend $100 on groceries, a database transaction makes sure the money is both debited from your account and credited to the store’s account.  When thinking about PleaseReview it keeps the integrity of the data in sync, so if you and e.g. Tim are both online at the same time reviewing a proposal, and Tim then makes and immediately withdraws a comment, you aren’t able to reply to the comment.  Sounds obvious, but if you could reply to a comment you’d briefly seen, that had then been withdrawn there could be lots of random responses applied to a document.

Continuous integration does what it says on the tin.  It’s a development technique which continuously merges to our development servers the work developers individually do on new roll outs and integrations.  Its main aim is to prevent integration problems and to avoid one developer's work in progress breaking another developer's efforts, thus allowing our teams in the UK and Malaysia to work more effectively together.  For our customers, it means a higher quality product with fewer bugs.  So for example, PleaseReview v5.1 provides ‘post review reporting’, which delivers metrics around a review such as ‘how many proposed or rejected changes were there?’  This ‘review data’ is delivered via an Excel spreadsheet. Another 5.1 enhancement called “sub-reviews” allows a reviewer on one review to branch off their own sub-review with their own set of reviewers and then merge consolidated comments back into the original “master” review. These things were being developed by different teams at the same time but, rather than only bringing them together when they are both complete, the process of continuous integration means that every day we can test the latest sub-review code with the latest post-review reporting code to make sure they work properly together.

Character encoding represents a repertoire of characters , which is used in both computation, data storage, and the transmission of textual data At PleaseTech we use a universal coding (UTF-8) that handles letters from all alphabets.  Lots of our customers require documents to be reviewed not only by many people internal to an organisation, but also people externally who may work in different countries.  Encoding means that as a document passes between computers in different countries whose first languages may be different (French, Spanish etc.), the document doesn’t become corrupted.

What regular expression means to me, and what it means to our developers are two different things… To our techies, regular expression is a sequence of characters that forms a (potentially complex) search pattern.  This supports the new context-based review feature of PleaseReview v5.1, which allows reviewers to search for a word or phrase within a document to ensure that e.g. lower or upper case is being used correctly, or that a word or phrase is being used in its correct context.

Of course, there are lots other new benefits that can be found within PleaseReview v5.1, which is rolling out as we speak, and was talked about by Dave earlier in the year right here on this blog.  To find out more or to experience a little bit of the magic for yourself, please get in touch.  

What's your problem?

Posted by Sarah Edmonds on 18. June 2014 09:56

The other half of marketing... Google


What’s your problem?  No really, we want to know.  What are the problems you’re experiencing with your document review process?  Do you have a higher number of documents to review, how are you reviewing those documents, is the process working well for you?

It’s these sort of questions we’ve been asking prospective customers at the shows we’ve been attending this year.  At PleaseTech marketing HQ, it not only helps us get our messaging right, it also educates us so we can fully understand the inefficiencies of other review options (PDF, track changes with email, SharePoint, etc.) and why they don’t provide a completely effective review process.

Our latest research was gathered at the APMP Bid & Proposal Conference in Chicago in May of this year and highlighted something we’ve suspected for some time; that the document workload is increasing.   For proposal professionals, this means the number of documents they have to review is getting bigger and bigger.

Fine if the size of your team is increasing in proportion to the number of documents.   Or if you have a process in place to effectively manage the number of reviews coming across your desk, but our research suggests this isn’t the case.

Lots of color team reviewers don’t have simultaneous access to documents, nor can they review whenever, wherever and on any device.  Frustratingly, this means they’re sat at their desk waiting for a colleague to finish working on a document before they can begin. 

Many also say they’d like to know which of their changes do or don’t make the final draft, and associated rationale.

From the perspective of managing a review, document owners still have to merge several sets of changes into a master copy; they aren’t using a system which allows them to automatically incorporate all changes in one go. 

Often reviews are delayed when people forget about deadlines, and people tell us that a system that sent out reminders would be seriously helpful.  On the flip side, using a system that also showed each of the reviewers’ status on a review is also highlighted as being extremely useful by respondents. 

We know from past research conducted at SharePoint conferences that people are using legacy tools to review documents and this is the same for proposal professionals – tools of the trade include PDF mark-up, track changes with email or shared drives, and even hard copy. 

This amounts to proposals that miss deadlines; take far longer than necessary to complete; cost valuable work hours and causes inevitable disharmony amongst reviewers.

Every year, lots of new users come on board and start using PleaseReview.  Some of them from our existing customer base who see their colleagues using our software and want a slice of the cake, others new customers who come to us via our website, or who we meet at shows.  What they all have in common was a poor document review process, and the knowledge that there is a better way.  As for the rest of you, hopefully our research will begin to help you understand and improve your own processes.  We look forward to discussing it with you at one of the next shows we’re attending.

 

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.

PleaseTech and Oracle® introduce WebCenter Content’s new collaborative document review capabilities

Posted by Sarah Holden on 24. January 2014 10:10

Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.


It’s been a couple of weeks since we announced our PleaseTech integration with Oracle’s WebCenter Content ECM platform. We are now following that up by hosting a brief webinar to demonstrate both what this partnership brings and how it works.

Oracle’s WebCenter Content allows businesses to not only consolidate and manage their documents and content from a central platform, but now has the added capability to address a very specific, yet prolific business issue. How to collaboratively edit, review and co-author a document at the same time as others, whilst maintaining control over the document, management over the process and adherence to corporate compliance requirements. Oh, and making it easy to do, too!

The webinar will be presented by PleaseTech CEO, Dave Cornwell and Senior Principal, Product Management, Oracle.

So simply sign up! LINK to webinar page.

Webinar: Collaborative document review within Oracle WebCenter Content

Thursday January 30th, 2014: 12 noon, EST / 9am PST / 5pm GMT

Duration: 30 minutes

 

We look forward to you joining us next week.

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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