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

Looking back at 2013 and forward to 2014

Posted by David Cornwell on 7. January 2014 10:07

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


I hope everyone had a good Christmas and New Year. Welcome to 2014. 

As is traditional, the first part of my January blog is somewhat repetitive as I say that the previous year was yet another successful one for PleaseTech with revenue growth, new clients and some great product enhancements! 

2013 revenue growth over 2012 was approximately 10%. Whilst that figure may seem disappointing in light of previous growth figures, it masks a much higher underlying sales growth reflected by our annual recurring revenue being up 25%. 2013 brought us a total of 21 new corporate clients.

We remain profitable and continue to retain a healthy cash balance. Given that we now employ more people and have further recruiting plans (meaning ever increasing projected overheads), this remains an excellent position to be in.

With approximately 80% of 2013 sales, the trend of Life Sciences being our largest sector continues and, once again, North America is our largest market accounting for 66% of all sales. This is a slight decrease from previous years following an increase in business with European customers.

In terms of product, 2013 saw the release of PleaseReview v5.0. Key enhancements included:

— An enhanced user interface

— The feedback capability which can be used both to capture high level feedback on a document set and thoughts and ideas to help with team brainstorming

— Flight mode. It's now possible to review Word documents offline on your tablet (Android and iPad) and then upload to the master review when back online

— User types to control the functionality available to reviewers according to the level of sophistication required

— Simplified licensing to take into account added product capabilities. 

From a customer service point of view, we continue to get excellent feedback on our support. For example, a recent customer commented: “Sadly, the sense of true customer service is lost on many vendors we do business with; we are happy to see that PleaseTech ‘gets it’.”

2013 was the year we 'landed' on the industry analysts radar and were recognized as thought leaders in the document review and collaboration space. Ovum, Info-Tech, Osterman Research and the Bloor Group all covered us and, to top it off, there was the Gartner 'Cool Vendor' award. I'm sure that our continuing understanding of the critical and ubiquitous business process of document review and how PleaseReview responds to this will continue to attract the analysts' attention.

As we continue to develop partner relations, we released a PleaseReview integration with Oracle WebCenter Content and achieved Oracle Gold Partner status. Work on other integrations and partnerships has been a constant theme of 2013 and continues into the new year.

So, looking back I think we can be proud of what we achieved in 2013. 

What can we expect in 2014?

Well, from our perspective the answer is: more of the same.  We will continue to work hard and deliver excellent software. 

There is increased optimism about the global economy which can only be a good thing. Given the high reliance we have on US dollar denominated sales, the volatility in the dollar/sterling exchange rate over the last 12 months remains a business risk that we need to manage, but isn't a threat to the fundamentals of our business.

We will continue to expand our presence in Life Sciences by working with new and existing partners, but 2014 should also bring to fruition the work we have been doing on some exciting new opportunities in new market sectors with new partners. Watch out for announcements over the course of the year.

We have PleaseReview v5.1 coming towards the end of its development phase with the test phase starting shortly. I’ll be devoting a whole blog post to v5.1 later in January so watch this space. Work has already started on v6.0 and we have no shortage of ideas and requests for enhancements. 2014 will also see further development of PleaseCompose.

So, from a business perspective, it’s ‘steady as she goes’ or in other words ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. 

From a personal perspective a year wouldn’t be the same without a physical challenge or two. Nothing major is planned yet but in the meantime I have signed up for the South Wales Three Peaks Trial Platinum walk at the end of March which is a 17 mile walk with a total ascent of 5,000 feet.

That will keep me focused for now!

 

PleaseTech releases PleaseReview v5.0 and keeps cool in the hot weather

Posted by Sarah Holden on 17. July 2013 13:35

Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.


There is always a certain amount of build-up prior to a new product release. This has certainly been the case for us here at PleaseTech. And in marketing, it’s always good to have something concrete to say. And it’s even better to be able to add ‘we’re the first’ which we can do – twice, following the release this week of PleaseReview v5.0, our collaborative document review solution.

We are the first to make it easier for busy people to catch up with the reviews waiting for their attention. The new offline tablet review (for iPad and Android) means you don’t have to be ‘connected’ to catch up. 

We are the first to help users collaborate to capture high level feedback on a document – from multiple participants, in real time, on the same feedback document. 

Ok, if you’re not involved in team reviews this may not matter to you - but to some it’s a big deal and will contribute to better productivity and better quality documents. For more detail on these and other enhancements do see our previous post or read the new release.

It is with a sense of relief for us all that the release is out the door and, now that the communication wheel is in motion and clients are already contacting us to upgrade their systems, minds are turning to the next project. That’s the thing about working for a dynamic technology company - people don’t stay still for long - there’s always more to do.

This continuous development cycle keeps us ahead of the curve and in recognition of this, we are proud to have been recently named a Gartner Cool Vendor in the social software and collaboration space. 

This accolade reflects our work ethic and some of our key success factors are recognized in their report:

- Identify opportunities early

- Offer the solution in a variety of deployment models (e.g. cloud, mobile, on-premise)

- Match new technology investments to user cases

- Continue to innovate

Why are we cool? Because, in Gartner’s words we “tackle long-standing coordination, collaboration and peer review challenges faced by teams every day regarding group writing, reviewing and editing documents in a way that transforms a complicated, burdensome experience into a  more efficient and controlled process”.

So, PleaseReview v5.0 is out of the door, but watch this space, v5.1 is already in development…  

 

Announcing PleaseReview v5.0

Posted by David Cornwell on 19. June 2013 10:07

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


Well I’m delighted to be formally announcing what is in PleaseReview v5.0.

We initially announced the ‘high level’ plans last year and showcased some of the key features at the recent FOSE conference in Washington, DC and at the APMP Bid and Proposal conference in Atlanta. We will also have v5.0 with us on the booth at the DIA conference in Boston next week. We're booth #304 - please drop by if you're going. For more details visit the DIA website.

So, PleaseReview v5.0 provides the following enhancements:

  • A modernized user interface;
  • ‘High level’ feedback capability;
  • Flight mode (an additional cost option) to provide offline, zero footprint review capability with HTML5 (i.e. modern) browsers;
  • A customizable review experience designed to suite varying levels of reviewer sophistication with the introduction of User Types;
  • Revised, simplified licensing;
  • Various other enhancements, upgrades and fixes.

We always value client feedback and most of these enhancements are being introduced as a direct result of such user feedback. Several are intended to be ‘first steps’ to be further developed in future releases.

Clearly the standout feature is Flight Mode. The ability to review Word documents offline on a tablet and automatically upload and consolidate your comments and changes into the main review surely has to be a winner. We believe that PleaseReview is globally unique and this simply takes it a step further. 

So diving into the detail ………

Modernized, Enhanced User Interface

The review interface has been ‘refreshed’ with new, larger, modern icons, the introduction of a count-down timer and, for Word documents, a ‘paper-like’ look & feel with page breaks.

Existing PleaseReview v4 users will recognize the overall environment and will feel ‘at home’ but will also notice numerous little improvements such as the selected paragraph being identified in the document and a complete rationalization of the options available. In addition to Reviewers, Authors also benefit from enhancements designed to minimize their need to click!

Feedback Feature

We’ve introduced a new feature called a ‘Feedback Document’. This is designed to enable the capture of ‘high level’ feedback on a document or document set. So now it’s possible to ask questions such as; ‘please rate the quality of the writing’; ‘what are the strengths of the document set’; ‘please identify the major risks’; etc.

This feedback capability is the first stage of our new ‘Beyond Review’ strategy. The idea being that now they have an efficient way for multiple people to mark-up and comment on documents, it’s time to leverage PleaseReview to provide business process benefits beyond simple document review. There will be further developments in this area.

The feedback functionality has been driven by requirements for color team reviews in the proposals industry. From understanding what's needed to getting something that works are two very different things but, even if I do say so myself, its implementation is extremely clever and it is very easy to configure.

The feedback functionality also makes it possible to use PleaseReview simply as a brainstorming tool. So PleaseReview can be used to capture the thoughts of participants on a topic rather than as a review process.

Flight Mode

These days it’s all about the mobile worker. Last year we introduce our iPad module and have had the Offline Review Client (OLC) for a long time. But it’s not been possible to review offline on a tablet – until now.

So, imagine: You are at the gate reviewing a Word document on your iPad. The flight is called, you click into PleaseReview’s Flight Mode and select which reviews you want to work on during the flight. Whilst you board they are downloading. When the plane doors close and you need to flick your iPad into Flight Mode you have the selected reviews available for offline review. No apps, no installs – it’s all in the browser.

Whilst you're reviewing offline you will be able to see all the comments and changes made by your colleagues to the moment you downloaded the review. When you are next connected, upload your comments and changes. It’s that simple.

The only requirement is a browser which supports HTML5. So Flight Mode works with most devices, be it a Windows laptop, Macbook, iPad or Android tablet.

We think this is pretty cool. We hope you do as well!

User Types

As part of our focus on facilitating enterprise rollouts, we are introducing the ability to specify User Types in PleaseReview. This allows control over the review interface with the provision of different functionality to different types of user.

So casual users can have a simplified interface (with reduced available functionality) whilst more sophisticated users can have a fully featured interface.

This makes it easy to use PleaseReview throughout the organization even by less confident users. Expect further enterprise rollout features in future releases.

Revised Licensing

I think everyone I know agrees that software licensing is anything but simple. The basic problem is balancing flexible licensing which meets client requirements with the inherent complexity of the process.

Our previous licensing was very flexible was becoming rather cumbersome- for example, a user taking advantage of all the features offered by PleaseReview used three different licenses! This was difficult to explain to prospective clients. So we have simplified it.

We now have a simple hierarchical model of Power User, Enhanced User and Standard User which still provides the flexibility needed.

Other Stuff

There have been a wide range of other enhancements and minor fixes designed to make life easier for our clients. If you’d like a webinar to go over the enhancements just let us know.

We have already started thinking about v5.1 and I’m over in Malaysia with the development team in early July to scope that out and bounce ideas around. Onward and upward! 

Our new product hits the streets!

Posted by David Cornwell on 23. August 2012 16:34

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


Long time no blog! I find it hard to believe that it's been four months since my last sensible blog post. The time has just flown past. My excuse is that we have been focusing on getting our new product, PleaseAuthor, out of the door. The effort taken to complete, document and deliver it has been all consuming. 

PleaseAuthor is targeted at what I consider to be the ‘light weight’ structured authoring market - in other words those who need to implement structured authoring but who don't want to make the investment in, or require, the more complex solutions currently available. Structured authoring is not new but what is new is our approach - by basing it entirely around Microsoft Word we keep it within a familiar user environment and make it extremely simple to learn and use and, most importantly, set-up. 

As always, with a new product, the aim of the first version is to provide a catalyst for debate and to initiate discussion with customers. Of course, this first version must work. But the real value is for potential customers to actually see, feel and play with it. By using customer feedback to develop enhancements to PleaseAuthor, I have no doubt that it will prove to be a very valuable tool for clients. As with any iterative process, each journey starts with a single step and we are actively working with clients to define the next step in PleaseAuthor’s journey.

One of the toughest aspects of extending a single product solution into a suite of products is to get the look and feel right so that the products co-exist seamlessly. There are, of course, two ways to approach this – the cheap way and the expensive way. The latter consists of employing user interface designers and the former involves asking everyone in the company for ideas. Needless to say we chose the former and, I think, it has worked rather well – as those of you who are lucky enough to use our products will discover. 

Moving away from product development, what has worked less well in my opinion is some of the social media marketing we have been concentrating on. LinkedIn has been useful and provides value in driving traffic to our website, Twitter helps develop conversations where there is a defined hash tag (such as for a conference) but otherwise has yet to prove its worth and as for Facebook, not a success. If we were a ‘B2C’ business then I’d see Facebook in a different light, but as a ‘B2B’ I can’t see its value. Anyhow, we have a comprehensive review of the whole social media campaign in early September...I’ll let you know how it goes.

We are now at the stage of deciding ‘what next’ for PleaseReview, aside from a delegation module currently in development and to be delivered at the end of September.

In examining the document collaboration market, the big vendors seem fixated on the Google Docs ‘co-authoring’ approach. This is where Microsoft has focused its efforts with SharePoint 2010/Office 2010 and, from reading initial reviews of upcoming releases, interactive co-authoring continues to be the focus. I believe that whilst this is interesting, it’s not really what people want as it causes as many issues as it solves. True, people can work on the same document - but there is no control over who can do what to where and users can easily overwrite others' changes. As we say it requires ‘well trained, rational and courteous’ users.

People may think they want simultaneous, interactive co-authoring, but, given that not all users are rational and courteous, what they really want is control, reporting and a complete solution. Thus we have engineered more and more control into PleaseReview. For example, our ‘ReviewZones’ allow individuals to be locked out of part of the document or see sections of the document as ‘read only’. Authors want people to be able to ‘mark-up the document but not mess it up’. PleaseReview provides complete control over ‘who can do what to where’ and thus prevents over-enthusiastic reviewers messing up the document.  

Clearly there are user cases for both approaches but we are planting our flag firmly in the ‘control’ territory. Going forward our tag line will be ‘controlled document collaboration’ – the emphasis being, of course, on the word ‘controlled’.

As evidence that our approach is extremely valid, we are finding that as people start experimenting with the interactive co-authoring provided by SharePoint and Office, they realise that control is a good thing and that PleaseReview is the only game in town. We add that layer of control and reporting to SharePoint which enhances its capabilities and delivers a more complete solution. 

On the subject of SharePoint we finally released our SharePoint whitepaper reporting on the research we undertook at the SharePoint USA and European conferences last year. Two key findings really stood out for me. Firstly, 90% of respondents experienced issues with their document review process but nonetheless were ‘satisfied’ . This, to my mind is about education. People simply aren’t aware that a better alternative exists and make do with what they have. Secondly, a surprisingly large number of participants had a very simplistic view of what constitutes collaboration. For example, over 25% of respondents agreed that sequential access to a document was collaboration, whilst 32% were neutral on the subject. Oh dear, a fair amount of education to do!

Finally, as you may have noticed, the Olympics have just finished here in the UK with the Paralympics still to come. We commissioned a series of cartoons for the Games which are published on ourcartoon website. I hope you enjoy them.

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