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

PleaseReview v.5.0 is released, we're now working on v.5.1!

Posted by David Cornwell on 25. July 2013 11:20

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


The UK is basking in a wonderful summer. The best, apparently, since 1976. Obviously, I’d like to pretend that I’m too young to remember such a distant event, but, unfortunately I remember it well. I was a carefree 17 year old. How do I remember that particular summer? Well trust me, memories of long hot summers are rare if you are British!

So nearly 40 years later, here I am in another long hot summer but life has moved on and, as opposed to being carefree, I have responsibilities.  Even though PleaseReview v5.0 is out of the door, I can’t kick back, relax and sit in the garden drinking Pimms (a uniquely British summer drink which conjures up images of croquet on the lawn - for those wondering what Pimms is).

Nope – no rest for the wicked. No sooner than one release is out of the door, our attention turns to the next.  That’s the way it is in software development – an endless cycle of develop/test/release. The simple fact is that every software product in the world is a ‘work in progress’ – it’s never complete. There is always something to add, to perfect and to repair. Just keeping up with the release cycles of other vendor’s products (Windows Server 2012, Office 2013, etc.) is work enough, let alone the long list of enhancements we’d like to get done.  So now we turn our attention to v5.1.

Over the next month or so we will be inviting our clients to a series of v5.1 webinars in which we will let them know the planned scope of release and request feedback.

The improvement cycle doesn’t stop at our software. Over the last couple of months we have commissioned a new support system to provide a better experience for clients and have even updated our website with a slightly re-modelled home page.

As those who follow us will know, we're great fans of cartoons here at PleaseTech. I believe they help make serious points in a light way, which most people understand. To celebrate the launch of PleaseReview v5.0, we commissioned a couple of cartoons to highlight the new offline tablet review capability:  

 

 

Talking of cartoons, no one will have missed the fact that there has been a royal birth in the UK. We now have three kings in waiting – lucky us! However, those of you who follow our document review cartoons will have seen a cartoon regarding the royal birth before it all happened. Why do I mention this? Because, I’m pleased to say that the cartoon predicted ‘George’ as the name for a boy at odds of 5-1. I wish I’d put some cash on that outcome!

Thinking about bars…I earned a drink or three over the 4th July weekend when I undertook the WaterAid 6 Peaks challenge.  You may recall the 6 Peaks Challenge comprises climbing the tallest peaks in England, Wales, Scotland, Isle of Man and both North and Southern Ireland. The headline statistics were:

50 miles to walk

20,000 feet to climb

1,000 miles to drive (with two sea crossings)

72 hours in which to complete it

For those familiar with the UK’s ‘3 peaks’ challenge ( which involves walking the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales within 24 hours), the 6 peaks is like that but with a warm up (Snaefell on the Isle of Man) followed by extra time i.e. Slieve Donard in Northern Island and Corran Tuathail in Southern Ireland. We walk up Slieve Donard at night with head torches.

So, the good news is that most of us, including me, succeeded.  The better news is that the eight team members (six climbers and two drivers) were still talking to each other at the end of it all! For 72 hours we were either in a minivan being driven to the next mountain or walking up (or down) a mountain.

Luckily I had a natural advantage. Years of cattle class transatlantic travel means I can sleep anywhere. Even, it transpires, in the back of a mini bus hurtling between mountains. Others were not so fortunate and found the physical challenge difficult when compounded by the lack of sleep.  There is no mistaking it was a tough challenge and I am delighted to have completed it. I’m also delighted that we have raised about £4,500 (circa US$7,000) for the WaterAid charity. Furthermore, I’m proud that afterwards, of the six people left in the bar at 3:00am (of the circa 60 people from nine teams taking part), four were from our team!  Many thanks to all who supported us. 

Finally, I am delighted to say that we've finally managed to get our new movie released. Watch it here

 

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! 

I conclude that PleaseReview is social media for documents

Posted by David Cornwell on 5. December 2012 16:20

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


Two months and no blogging. Poor effort. Note to self: must try harder.

In that time I've been in Sacramento, Baltimore, Atlanta, LA, Seattle, Orlando, Malaysia and London attending conferences and visiting clients and prospective clients! Apart from the on-site demo when my PC turned itself off – twice – all went well. Apart, that is, for a small hairdressing faux pas which, if you have been following the PleaseTech Twitter feed or visited our Facebook page, you will have been party to. The good news is that it has grown out now.


I now have a nice new *light* Samsung SSD (‘solid state drive’) machine which, so far, has been perfect. Whilst I love the new PC, I think my mistake was to be persuaded to go for Windows 8.  I've now installed a bit of software (Start8 - $4.99) which removes the ‘metro’ interface and re-instates a ‘Start’ button, so now it’s just like Windows 7 and all is well.  As a side note, I’m not an expert on these things but tend to agree with those suggesting that Microsoft couldn't decide on what it wanted Windows 8 to be. 


There is no doubt the future has a strong mobile element and the iPad experience has set the standard. In my own family I've seen user adoption of the tablet by individuals who have never touched a PC. They are now happily Skyping, emailing and surfing from a Samsung tablet. I remember introducing them to the capabilities of the tablet using my iPad in mid-2011 by holding a Skype video call with our niece in Dallas. Their kids then bought them a tablet for Christmas – the Samsung was their only option as they didn't own a PC to connect it with! 


Most readers of this blog will be thinking ‘so what’ there is nothing clever in Skyping, emailing and surfing from a tablet.  But remember whole generations have grown up without a computing background. I consider myself lucky that I was ‘in’ on the personal computing revolution.  It was less than 20 years ago (~1995) I first added an email address to my business card (for Computerised Document Control which became CDC Solutions) and had to explain to people what it was! 


Now, we are now allegedly in the ‘post email’ era, but more on that later. But, 20 years ago, did you ever imagine that you could sit on your sofa video chatting in real time with someone across the world using something the size of a notepad with no wires attached? People take this as standard now but there is no doubt it’s not only extremely clever but also that the whole mobile tablet genre represents a step change in the evolution of personal computing.


I think the main question for us is: ‘to what extent will the tablet revolution continue into the enterprise’? Personally I don’t see the tablet replacing PCs in the next 10 years. In terms of where corporate computing will go I suspect that my new Samsung Series 9 is an example of a constant process of evolution in which PCs become increasingly mobile. For example, my new PC with its SSD is only 1kg (2.2 lbs) heavier than an iPad and is considerably more flexible and useful from a business perspective. 


So, how will the tablet impact us? Currently, the way I see it is that there is increasingly a line between information producers and information consumers. I can’t see people writing serious documents on a tablet. Even typing this blog entry on a tablet would be challenging and it’s hardly a serious document. However, information consumers – and here we are mainly talking  management who are regularly on the move (and can ignore the edicts of their IT department stating that tablets do not fit into their device management strategy) – are adopting tablets and using them for most, if not all, of their work. So the message to us is we must assume that an increasing number of those with input to documents will be using tablets.


In this respect it is worth noting that ‘approving’ documents (i.e. viewing a document and then clicking on an ‘I Approve’ button) is much, much easier than providing ‘input’ to documents. By input we mean review capabilities such as red lining (i.e. proposing changes) and commenting as part of a greater collaborative review.


We spotted this trend a while ago and released our optional iPad module in Q1 this year. However, as the importance of ‘mobile’ continues to grow, PleaseReview v5.0 (currently scheduled for the back end of Q2 2013) will run with it and will have further tablet enhancements.


Hang on a minute. Did I just slip a major product announcement in there? Yes I did. Having recently released PleaseReview 4.5 with the new delegation module, we are now concentrating on the next release which will be called v5.0 and we are looking at a release mid-2013.


Forthcoming blogs will address additional features expected in v5.0 but, for now, I’m more concerned with strategy. We are constantly informed that the future is (i) Mobile, (ii) Social, and (iii) Cloud.

We have numbers (i) and (iii) sorted. I've addressed mobile above and we've been offering cloud options since we first launched PleaseReview in 2005. The challenge is ‘social’. 

If we look at the definition of ‘social’, Wikipedia says “In the absence of agreement about its meaning, the term "social" is used in many different senses and regarded as a fuzzy concept ……….”. No help there. But, of course, when the IT Analysts and strategists say social they mean ‘social media’. When people think social media they think of Twitter and Facebook and it’s tough to see how PleaseReview can become social in this sense. It has been said that we are in the post email era and that reminders and notifications which currently come from PleaseReview as emails should leverage social media. But how? Do people really want reminders that the deadline is approaching tweeted or posted on their Facebook timeline? I think not. 


I’m increasingly of the view that PleaseReview in itself is ‘social’ in that it’s collaborative and if social isn't collaborative what is it? Wikipedia is some help this time. It says: “Social media employ web- and mobile-based technologies to support interactive dialogue and introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication between organizations, communities, and individuals ………….. Social media are social software which mediate human communication.”


I think that summarizes PleaseReview pretty well. PleaseReview leverages web and mobile technologies to introduce substantial changes to the way in which documents are reviewed (i.e. communication with respect to documents) and mediated between organizations, business communities, and individuals (in our case Authors and subject matter experts and others with input to the document creation process). So, in so far as Pinterest enables engagement around pictures, Youtube around videos, Twitter around instantaneous messages and Facebook around friends, PleaseReview enables engagement around documents. In short, PleaseReview is social media for documents! Maybe that is a thought we can use in our marketing!


So, from a product strategy perspective, I’m pretty comfortable that we are hitting the main targets. We continue to improve the base product, we have a great story with respect to mobile, cloud is old hat to us and we are now social media for documents! 


From a market strategy perspective we continue to expand into new sectors both from a technical and business perspective.  Watch for announcements in the New Year.  


So with travelling over for the year and the v5.0 development spec’d and started, focus now moves to closing the year out.  I’ll let you know in January how that goes!

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