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

The road trip awaits.....

Posted by David Cornwell on 31. October 2013 16:41

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


I’m about to start a three week road trip around the USA which will take in four conferences and two clients visits. This will require eight flights, two car hires and seven different hotels spanning Washington DC; Columbus, OH; San Diego, CA; Dallas, TX; Los Angeles, CA; and Orlando, FL – in that order!

As I sit here in the PleaseTech office quietly contemplating the task ahead and running through mental checklists, I do wonder why I do these things?

Someone needs to be out there educating people about the true value of genuine document collaboration especially when considered in the context of the document review process. 

For example, our recent SharePoint research highlighted the fact 75% of those surveyed said that SharePoint provides the document collaboration requirements needed, yet well over 50% are still using email for document review and 25% still using hard copy - this is despite document creation and review playing a 'significant' role in 66% of respondent's jobs! Just think of the wasted time and effort that these statistics represent. No wonder the adjective ‘pain’ is the one most closely associated with the document review process for many people.

Why is this so important? Well I just love this quote from Alan Pelz-Sharpe, of 451 Research: “A firm’s ability to innovate is closely tied to its ability to collaborate”.   And the people we surveyed agree. Over 90% of respondents agreed that enhancing document collaboration is important to their organization.

So collaboration and especially document collaboration is important and runs to the very heart of business success, and why? Because it adds real value.

Analysts such as Ovum recognize that, within document collaboration, “document review is a specialist area and document management and enterprise content management (ECM) platforms do not always include the required level of management and control”.

And it is a complex area. Our survey revealed that 56% of people have 6 or more people involved in the document review process whilst 27% had over 20 people involved in the document edit and reviewing process. Imagine having to manage the email correspondence of 20 reviewers and having to compile their comments and proposed changes into the master document! Yet this is what people are still doing!

So I’ll be at the ISPE conference (International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering) in Washington DC swiftly followed by the AMWA conference (American Medical Writers Conference) in Columbus, OH. Then the PMI PMO conference (Project Management Institute  - Project Management Office) in San Diego, CA followed by a couple of client visits ‘en route’ to the OpenText Enterprise World conference in Orlando, FL.

At these conferences I’ll be explaining to people that ‘yes, there is a better way’. We can remove the pain and make your document review process efficient, transparent and controlled – and a whole lot more.

 

The things we do to bring the message of collaboration to the businesses of America!

 

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.

 

 

The law of unintended consequences and customer feedback

Posted by David Cornwell on 20. September 2013 10:02

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


So the summer is over, the kids are back at school and business has got manic again. I’m writing this blog post from Budapest airport where I’ve been on a less than 24 hour visit to give a presentation at the Lorenz user conference called UserBridge.13. About 160 people from 21 different countries attended with visitors from as far afield as Australia, South Africa, the USA, Japan and Europe.

As always with Lorenz, the conference was immaculately organised with a beautiful venue, superb food and sessions which ran more-or-less on time!

I was presenting our document collaboration maturity model which allows organizations to check whether their collaboration process actually meets with their collaboration requirements.  We're going to be talking about this a lot of the coming months, so watch this space.

On Saturday I fly out to San Francisco for Oracle World.

So, to the title of my blog – the law of unintended consequences. 

One of the things CEOs and all others who make decisions are acutely aware of is that any process, set of rules, etc. will be subject to overly rigid interpretation, misunderstandings and a complete lack of common sense.

The story gets a little complicated, so follow carefully!

So, there I was, sitting with my wife on an Easyjet flight back from Barcelona, when I observed behaviour which illustrated this perfectly.

Easyjet have recently moved to an allocated seating model which allows them to charge people extra for the emergency rows and the front of the plane. I’m sure when the idea first came up, it seemed like a really good idea and, from a business perspective, it is. More revenue from the same people on the same flight – what’s not to like about that?

This particular flight was not full, nor crucially, were the two emergency rows in the middle of the plane. In fact the entire 2nd row of emergency seats was not occupied at all. As a frequent flyer, sitting one row behind the vacant emergency row, I noted this and indicated to my wife that it would be interesting to see how they deal with this because, as we all know, you need at least one capable person sitting in the row (in case of emergency).

Now, at approximately the same time, the strapping 20 something year old in the aisle seat next to next to us asked the crew if he could sit in the emergency row and was told ‘no’, as people have to pay to be there. Fair enough.

So, the doors close and the steward makes his move. A (very) large gentleman is asked to move from the aisle seat in the first (occupied) emergency row and does so gratefully, occupying the middle seat on one side of the previously empty emergency row. Score one for the steward.

Now what to do? He still needs an able-bodied person on the other side of the aisle. There remain two couples occupying the other emergency row on opposite sides of the plane.

But, our man was on to it. Alas, instead of doing the sensible thing and ask the strapping chap next to me to move (or indeed another capable individual) he split a couple up so that one had to occupy the empty row!  Unbelievable!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no body language expert, but given the fact that (i) she was leaning on her partner’s shoulder  with her arm around him when the steward came calling, (ii) the steward had to persuade the lady to move and kept reiterating ‘it’s only for take-off’, and (iii) given the long, dare I say, lingering kiss she gave her partner as she reluctantly moved back a row, I’d  guess that it was not how she had expected her romantic(?) weekend in Barcelona to end. Needless to say she was back next to her man the second the seat belt sign was turned off.

So, rather than a win for Easyjet: Strapping man next to me is happy as he gets an emergency row and more leg room for his long legs, aforementioned lady is happy as she gets to take off next to her nearest, I’m happy because the seat next to me is free, the, no doubt highly trained, steward managed snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

I have no doubt that no-one intended the above scenario. They assumed that the steward would take the common sense approach and move someone else.

What lessons do I take away? Simply, that, regardless of how clearly you define procedures and practices and regardless of how highly trained the staff are, you still need to rely on your staff to exhibit common sense. In this case the steward did not. Why not, we ask?

Well, of course, it may be an incorrect company policy. Perhaps he would have got into trouble if he let someone occupy a seat they hadn’t paid for. Answer, listen to client feedback such as this and re-think company policy.

Perhaps it is a misunderstanding/over rigorous understanding/interpretation of company policy and another steward would exhibit common sense. Answer: include the scenario in company training.

Perhaps he is a poor reader of body language and thought the woman needed rescuing? Answer: I’m sure that’s not the case.

In fact, I have emailed this to the CEO of Easyjet, told her I’d be including it in my blog and had a very nice response from a lady in ‘Executive Support’.

But I think that, other than the law of unintended consequences, there is another key point to emerge and that is, without customer feedback, you don’t get to know where you are going wrong or get the chance to put things right. So, I’m a great fan.  We rely heavily on customer feedback here at PleaseTech to establish development priorities so, customers, please do let me know if there are any unintended consequences from our software or, indeed, enhancements you want to see in future releases. .

Finally, I’m regularly asked ‘what mad venture are you up to next’? So, I’m pleased to announce that the answer is ‘driving sheep across London Bridge’ – I’ll bet you weren’t expecting that to be the answer!

But, it’s true.   On Sunday 29th September, in the company of the Master of the Worshipful Company of Woolmen, one of the oldest Livery Companies of the City of London, my wife and I and some friends will be participating in the traditional, annual sheep drive. Costumes yet to be decided but it will be either biblical or sheppardesque. I have firmly ruled out ‘Little Bo Peep’.

Needless to say any funds raised go to charity so hopefully we can have some fun and raise a bit of cash! I’ll report back in my next blog and will post pictures as proof on our Facebook page!

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! 

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