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

What is the future of document creation?

Posted by David Cornwell on 15. June 2016 11:36

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


I thought I would share an excerpt from an article I recently wrote for CIOReview, an enterprise technology magazine, where I consider the future of document creation.

As the CEO of a technology company I constantly consider the future. Naturally, a major consideration is whether a disruptive new technology is coming along which could make our products obsolete. 

I believe that only the paranoid survive and I’m forever scanning the horizon for the missile which is aimed squarely at our technology - that of document review. What is this disruptive new technology (or, as Nicholas Taleb would put it, black swan event) which will hurt us? 

Let me define ‘document review’ as the term means different things in different industries. For us, document review is the generic term for the process by which peers, specialists or other interested parties comment upon and suggest changes to the content of a document prior to its finalization, approval and dissemination. Specifically, it is the review element of the document creation process.

Whatever the document, the basic creation process is the same: create; review; finalize; approve; and finally, disseminate. I simply don’t see this process changing in the foreseeable future. No black swans there. 

PleaseTech operates in the B2B marketspace where disruptive new technology takes time to infiltrate. 

One area of disruption which impacts us is the ongoing Office suite apps battle between Google and Microsoft. The Microsoft Office Suite has, for the last 20 years, been the dominant application for the creation of documents, spreadsheets and presentations in the business world. Our competitive advantage is based around our deep understanding of Microsoft Word and, to a lesser extent, the remainder of the Office Suite. So is the Office Suite under attack? The answer is: yes - of course. The real question is: how successfully?

A couple of years ago it seemed that Google was making decent inroads into Microsoft’s market share However, with the undoubted success of Office 365, Microsoft is fighting back with companies now switching from Google Apps to Office 365. 

There is, of course, the whole cloud vs on premise debate. Whilst the cloud is a fine invention and our cloud business is growing rapidly, not everyone wants their valuable intellectual property in the cloud. 

Is a company really prepared to entrust valuable documents to a generic cloud? Obviously not, so we see on premise being equally as important as cloud and, that of course, is where Microsoft wins again with its Office Suite. Its commercial competitors are all 100% cloud based.

What about the future of documents themselves? With individuals entering the workforce now being classified as ‘digital natives’, does the whole concept of a ‘document’ go away? Is this our black swan? 

I’m of an age where I recall typing pools. Professional Engineers (as I was attempting to be as I entered the workforce back then) didn’t type their own documents. They were submitted to a typing pool, where they were created, printed and returned to you for review. A red pen was then used and the cycle continued. However, the introduction of PCs and word processors was a disruptive technology and the typing pool vanished. Yet, despite the disruption, the concept of paper document format lived on electronically with Adobe Acrobat. The delivery mechanism may have changed but the concept of a document is still very much alive. 

Do digital natives think the same way? The research suggests not. They think in social media terms and moving them beyond this is one of the challenges educators are having to deal with. Can we see contracts being agreed in informal language? I think not. One of the first lessons in business is understanding that the way something is worded can form the basis of a legal contract or instruction. The language used is all important. 

So it seems to be that the document creation process of create, review, finalize, approve, disseminate isn’t going to change anytime soon – certainly not in my business career and probably not in my children’s business career. 

It’s hard to see something replacing Word even with initiatives such as the Open Document Format (ODF) supported by the UK Government. However the whole point of a Black Swan event is that it comes out of left field and is extremely difficult to predict. So who knows what the future holds?

If you believe that document creation is as important as I do, I suggest you contact us at PleaseTech to find out how we could help you better face what the future might throw at you.

The ‘realistic SharePoint’ era?

Posted by David Cornwell on 2. September 2014 12:54

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


Apparently when you are a CEO of a growing company there comes a tipping point when you stop telling everyone what to do and start being told by your staff what to do! "David, we need a blog entry from you on SharePoint" - was the command from marketing. So, being a dutiful, obedient servant to the cause, here it is.  

It was actually moderately topical because whilst on holiday with friends, a couple of us were chewing the cud over a glass or two and he was complaining that you can’t get SharePoint developers for love or money in central London. I questioned why they were developing in SharePoint but he didn’t know (he is an accountant and was only interested in the money side of the equation). Anyway, we talked through the ‘trough of disillusionment’ and whether we are entering the ‘post SharePoint’ era as some seem to believe. 

Personally, I don’t think we are entering the post SharePoint era but I do hope we are entering the ‘realistic SharePoint’ era. This is the era when  people work out what SharePoint does well and what it doesn’t do well. 

I guess it is what Gartner calls the ‘slope of enlightenment’ in its Hype Cycle model. In the model, the slope of enlightenment follows the 'trough of disillusionment' which follows the ‘peak of inflated expectations’. Check out this link for an overview of the model.

And, let’s be honest, expectations have been inflated. PleaseTech, along with many others I'm sure, suffers from IT departments the world over saying "SharePoint can do that ..... it’s the collaboration platform/it’s the records management platform/and it’s the [insert term here] platform."

In my opinion, this is partly the fault of the Microsoft hype. I’ve personally sat in presentations given by Microsoft personnel where they explain to the audience that SharePoint does everything and there is no need for anything else.  

Unfortunately, some people seem to have been listening to the presentations and appear to have been swayed by Microsoft's marketing. In the trade this is known as drinking the Microsoft 'kool aid'. They emerge from these sessions repeating in rote ‘SharePoint can do that’. 

No it can’t – not everything. Stop people. Take time to understand the problem (aka the requirement) and research the best method of delivering it. BTW, here is a clue: The answer is not always SharePoint. 

When it comes to PleaseReview and what it offers, SharePoint CAN’T DO IT.  Not out of the box, not with lots of clever development of workflow, not at all. And, the unfortunate thing is, organizations waste millions of dollars trying to make SharePoint do what PleaseReview does when all they have to do is buy a license from us, buy our SharePoint integration license, deliver to the business, save a load of development dollars and bask in the reflected glory of a job well done.  

Too often the end user client wants our software but has to fight tooth and nail with IT as their response is ‘SharePoint can do that’.

I am personally aware of several projects where thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars have been spent trying to make SharePoint do what PleaseReview does. Recently we had a series of emergency presentations with a prospect because the committee was meeting to approve a project which was going to throw ‘good money after bad’ and spend even more money on a failed SharePoint project. The project was trying to emulate PleaseReview functionality. I’m pleased to say that it appears, even at the 11th hour, that common sense has prevailed and PleaseReview looks like it will be the preferred option.

It seems that the basic problem is that, when it comes to SharePoint, the ‘Law of the Instrument’ (otherwise known as Maslow’s hammer) applies. The law is typified by the saying ‘if all you have is a hammer, all problems look like a nail’ and, what it means is, people become over reliant on familiar tools. 

This is perhaps why in their 'Collaborative Credentials'  report, the Mando Group (a UK based web design and SharePoint consultancy) have found that the majority of Microsoft SharePoint users are 'disillusioned' with SharePoint implementations. When you start to believe that every requirement simply needs hitting with the SharePoint hammer you lose sight of the fact that not every requirement resembles a nail. Sometimes it's better to screw things together, sometimes to glue them together and sometimes to weld them together. Hammers are blunt instruments, after all. 

So, I do look forward to the dawning of a new age, the age of ‘realistic SharePoint’. This will be an age in which there is a new sense of enlightenment, where there will be less kool aid consumed, where appropriate tools for the job in hand will be used and, as a consequence, where PleaseTech’s revenue will go through the stratosphere! Let the sun shine in!

For more information on how PleaseReview works with SharePoint, please visit our website or contact us.

  

 

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.

 

 

We’re a lean, green collaborating machine…

Posted by Sarah Edmonds on 10. September 2013 12:18

The other half of marketing... Google


The average person produces seven times their bodyweight in rubbish each year with just over 40% of it being recycled.  Sometimes trying to be eco-friendly is a real pain.  Take energy efficient light bulbs that take seemingly ages to light a room up properly, or doing the school run with three small children on foot, and in the rain to avoid using the car…you get my point.

We try to be as green as possible here at PleaseTech; we’re corporate members of the Woodland Trust and recycle plastic, cardboard and printer cartridges to minimize our carbon footprint. 

Of course, we’re not the only ones. Most businesses have some sort of environmental policy but whilst many strive to be paperless, the demand for printer paper is at an all-time high.  Nearly all have a need to write and review all sorts of documents: procedures manuals, proposals, books, regulatory submissions, audits, contracts, assessments, the list goes on. 

In a previous life, I was the poor soul responsible for compiling annual reports, getting input from board directors, emailing round draft after draft to people who’d then dump hard copies on my desk, full of amends, some of which clashed with comments from colleagues, much of it in illegible handwriting.

Can you imagine how much paper was printed out before that report was approved – for printing? Not to mention the number of late nights spent in the office, with all the lights and computers on, to meet the deadline of finishing it? 

As consumers we strive to be greener, recycling, being a good example, but what is it that actually drives the change? In reality most people turn their heating down out of need not want - to save money, rather than energy.  Technological advances mean we have low energy, high definition TVs, but do people buy the TV to save energy or for the improved viewing experience?

It’s a similar situation in the workplace; new technologies are introduced in order to make our lives easier, save the company money or enable us to do our jobs more efficiently and, as a by-product, are also likely to drive environmental change.

Take my annual reports.  If the process of compiling the report had been easier, I’d have got the job done in half the time, the company in question would have saved a fortune in printing and electricity costs, and been ‘greener’ without even trying.

We have a client at PleaseTech who recently told us that to get just one review completed involved nearly 300 emails and even more attachments. 

How crazy is that?  But it’s not an unfamiliar tale, and one, which I’m sure most people can identify with. 

Controlled document collaboration software is relatively new, and was sought out initially by companies heavily regulated with a key business requirement to comply with strict industry guidelines, such as in Life Sciences.  However, the impact of what it can help businesses to achieve is gaining momentum across other industry sectors. It’s now considered a ‘cool’ technology by leading analysts such as Gartner and Ovum, and the range of organizations using it includes the big pharmaceuticals, financial institutions and energy firms to consultancies, universities and small businesses

And why? Well the answer is simple really, customers report that it cuts the time taken to edit and review documents by up to 65%, or to put it another way, gives them an extra month’s employee productivity every year.

The environmental impact is obvious.  Let’s say you have 10 team members working on a 50 page document.  Each person prints the document out twice.  That’s 1,000 pieces of paper.  They do that every month and you have 12,000 pieces of paper.  Estimates suggest one tree produces 8,333 pieces of A4 paper, so do the maths, that’s 1.4 trees saved. 

Some of our customers have 20+ people working on documents that are regularly over 200 pages in length, and there may be several documents that the business is working on each month.  The environmental saving is potentially huge, but arguably, a bi-product of the business wanting to operate more efficiently.

So in PleaseReview we have a piece of software that is easy to use, supports employee efficiency, saves businesses huge amounts of time, improves document quality and helps organizations offset their carbon footprint.   No wonder Gartner think we’re cool.

 

 

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