PleaseTech blog

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Document review is a non-trivial business problem for many companies

Posted by David Cornwell on 2. October 2014 11:46

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


How do we know that document review is a non-trivial business problem for many companies? The answer is quite simply that we spend our time talking with existing and prospective clients who have done the analysis. In order to justify a PleaseReview investment, they take the time and trouble to look at the benefits and build a business case and, if we are lucky, they share it with us!

For example, last week I was with a PleaseReview prospective customer. We were discussing the business case on which his PleaseReview project is based. He explained that the first business case he had calculated showed such a large benefit that he had to revise it as he didn't think it would be believed! He then recalculated it using conservative assumptions. These included only including those reviews with more than four participants and only taking into account the time saved by the document author not having to consolidate comments and changes with the ‘copy and paste’ process. BTW: This 'conservative' business case was estimated to save an average of eight hours per document - that is a working day!

In this particular company, there were 'thousands' of documents reviewed per year.

Furthermore, no consideration was given to the time saving at review meetings or any of the other standard benefits delivered by a PleaseReview system. And yet, even without this, the payback on the project was well under six months!

We know another company based its PleaseReview business case purely on the time saved in review meetings. During the software pilot, meetings which were scheduled to take all day were completed in a matter of hours. Thousands of hours per year would be saved if they went ahead with the purchase. This made PleaseReview a ‘no brainer’.

But, I hear you cry, statistics! I need statistics!

Well how about these statistics from live PleaseReview systems?

I found the following numbers from one of our clients: over a six year period this client has had around 20,000 documents involved in about 6,000 reviews, so an average of 3.4 documents per review and 3,333 documents per year. The user base is close to 1,500 and the client has historically had an average of 12 participants involved in each review.

So, if my sums are correct and assuming that the client gets the same level of saving (i.e. eight hours per document) over the last six years this client has conservatively saved around 26,600 hours per year. Let’s say that is an over estimate and base the calculation on reviews rather than documents. The figures now show a saving of ‘only’ 8,000 hours per year (based on 1,000 reviews, each with an eight hour saving) which equates to over 660 hours per month or 83 days per month. This is a considerable benefit.

Reviews can, of course, contain many comments and changes and the time saving will depend on the number of comments and changes.

Data from another client extracted from a single month in the middle of 2013, reveals an average of 175 comments/review. However, this is slightly skewed by the fact that one review had over 3,000 comments/changes whilst another had over 250! However, if you eliminate the extremes there was an average of just under 50 comments/changes per review.

I was actually sitting in a meeting at this client’s site when the above statistics were discussed. A senior manager was absolutely amazed that they had a business process which involved so many documents and so many people reviewing them. The ‘front line’ team explained that, before PleaseReview, it was a ‘horrid’ process that had taken weeks and now at least it was under some sort of control. In fact, the users now felt that they couldn’t do their job without PleaseReview. Further proof that document review really is a non-trivial business process.

Another client says: “we have cut the review time of most documents in half and turnaround time is much faster with the comments being automatically collated. I can’t say enough about the time that we have saved”. They also noted that the production of productivity reports was simplified.

Productivity reporting brings up the question of metrics. I’ve just quoted statistics from thousands of reviews with thousands of comments from a user base of thousands. Who has got time to collate that stuff? The answer is, of course, a database. It’s all there in the database and therefore it takes a matter of minutes to calculate the statistics.

How many people have any metrics around their document review process? Those using PleaseReview do. With metrics comes the ability to look at the business process – if only to show amazement that you have such a process!

PleaseReview v5.1 introduced additional analysis options including the ability to examine the data by document section using Excel.  Using standard Excel analysis features such as pivot tables, it is possible to rapidly produce reports on, for example, the number of accepted and rejected comments and changes per document section.

A simple sample report is shown below. The report details the number of rejected comments and changes per document section in the review. Using standard Excel filters this could, for example, be restricted to rejected changes, or comments, or any combination of desired search criteria.  This gives users a great tool for improving the quality of future documents, identifying training requirements, and so on.  

 

 

So it can be seen that PleaseReview can scale to very large user bases and review requirements.

However, of course, not every client is going to have such extreme requirements. Remember that the figures presented were averages. These clients run some very small reviews, with single documents as well.

The key point is that, without PleaseReview, the basic process of document review is an inefficient and cumbersome one. Highly paid and highly skilled medical and technical writers should not be spending their time copying and pasting! It’s hardly an efficient use of people’s time, energy and enthusiasm. With everyone pressed for time and having to ‘do more with less’, efficiency is mandatory.

Obviously the examples I have quoted are based around larger, heavily document intensive companies, but the same pain points and advantages are experienced by smaller companies with smaller teams. With smaller teams the relative percentage savings can be just as large. We have clients who gain significant benefits from just a user base of 30 people as well as those with thousands of people.

PleaseReview streamlines the process, saves everyone time and pays for itself in no time at all. Perhaps that is why, in an average year, 30% of our revenue comes from existing clients buying more licenses and 50% of our clients have purchased additional licenses.  Repeat business is the best endorsement a company can have and it acts as a great encouragement to the entire team.

So, many thanks to our clients – please keep up the good work and keep making the savings.  And don't forget to keep telling us about it!

 

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