Posted by Sarah Edmonds on 14. August 2014 09:51
The other half of marketing...
It’s our job in our marketing to translate the magic. Over in techie heaven (as they’re fondly known in PleaseTech), once the team have delivered the latest product release, it’s up to us to communicate the upgrades to the end user. Sometimes it’s a tough gig, sitting in a meeting trying to understand what they mean when they talk about database transactions, continuous integration, encoding or regular expression… However, those are just some of the tools that have been used to design PleaseReview v5.1, but what do they mean and how do they benefit our customers?
A database transaction makes sure everything or nothing happens in a transaction. So, if you spend $100 on groceries, a database transaction makes sure the money is both debited from your account and credited to the store’s account. When thinking about PleaseReview it keeps the integrity of the data in sync, so if you and e.g. Tim are both online at the same time reviewing a proposal, and Tim then makes and immediately withdraws a comment, you aren’t able to reply to the comment. Sounds obvious, but if you could reply to a comment you’d briefly seen, that had then been withdrawn there could be lots of random responses applied to a document.
Continuous integration does what it says on the tin. It’s a development technique which continuously merges to our development servers the work developers individually do on new roll outs and integrations. Its main aim is to prevent integration problems and to avoid one developer's work in progress breaking another developer's efforts, thus allowing our teams in the UK and Malaysia to work more effectively together. For our customers, it means a higher quality product with fewer bugs. So for example, PleaseReview v5.1 provides ‘post review reporting’, which delivers metrics around a review such as ‘how many proposed or rejected changes were there?’ This ‘review data’ is delivered via an Excel spreadsheet. Another 5.1 enhancement called “sub-reviews” allows a reviewer on one review to branch off their own sub-review with their own set of reviewers and then merge consolidated comments back into the original “master” review. These things were being developed by different teams at the same time but, rather than only bringing them together when they are both complete, the process of continuous integration means that every day we can test the latest sub-review code with the latest post-review reporting code to make sure they work properly together.
Character encoding represents a repertoire of characters , which is used in both computation, data storage, and the transmission of textual data. At PleaseTech we use a universal coding (UTF-8) that handles letters from all alphabets. Lots of our customers require documents to be reviewed not only by many people internal to an organisation, but also people externally who may work in different countries. Encoding means that as a document passes between computers in different countries whose first languages may be different (French, Spanish etc.), the document doesn’t become corrupted.
What regular expression means to me, and what it means to our developers are two different things… To our techies, regular expression is a sequence of characters that forms a (potentially complex) search pattern. This supports the new context-based review feature of PleaseReview v5.1, which allows reviewers to search for a word or phrase within a document to ensure that e.g. lower or upper case is being used correctly, or that a word or phrase is being used in its correct context.
Of course, there are lots other new benefits that can be found within PleaseReview v5.1, which is rolling out as we speak, and was talked about by Dave earlier in the year right here on this blog. To find out more or to experience a little bit of the magic for yourself, please get in touch.
Posted by David Cornwell on 25. July 2014 12:51
Founder/CEO of PleaseTech Ltd - collaborative document review and co-authoring for the enterprise.
It’s clearly something to do with my age – but it doesn’t seem a whole six months since New Year. When I look at the wall chart (yes I still like a wall chart despite have my Outlook Calendar), I can see why the time has flown past. I personally attended eight conferences in the last six months and found time to do other stuff such as sell software and recruit a new sales VP!
So the continued success of PleaseReview means we are able to continue to invest in growing the business and recruit additional people. As our clients know, we are an organic growth business owned entirely by management and staff. This means we adopt a controlled approach to growth and have to ‘earn a bit to spend a bit’.
So the first bit of news is that on 1st July Barry Lyne joined PleaseTech as our Sales VP. Barry is based in Malmesbury but has travel on his agenda and I’m sure he’ll be making a few visits to existing clients as he embarks on a learning curve to understand why PleaseReview is so successful.
And successful it is! In the first half of 2014 we gained 14 new corporate clients from a range of industries. The detail and a couple of sample client names is captured in our news item here, however a key factor is that the new clients represent diverse industries including engineering, technology, professional services and, of course our core market, life sciences.
Our recent strategy has been to expand into other industries whilst not losing focus on life sciences. The practical implementation of this is attending different conferences which focus on different industries and tailoring messaging appropriately. This is paying off and is something Barry is keen to continue.
Another interesting trend has been the move to the cloud. Historically, we have had about 25% of our clients using our cloud services and the remainder being on premise. However, around 50% of the new clients this year have opted for the cloud service. It will be interesting to see whether that trend continues as the year progresses.
One of the headaches expansion brings is increased overhead. We have been struggling for space in our current offices for some time. With the staff additions both recruited and planned, more space is required. We have identified a suitable property and plans are underway to move in the autumn. Office moves require planning and are, as we are finding, very disruptive, so if the plans all work, we will have plenty of space to accommodate expansion over the next few years.
It’s important, however, that we don’t over expand and so our cautious approach means that we continue to hold a healthy cash balance so that both new and existing clients retain supreme confidence in our longevity!
Moving onto interesting observations from our various new conference visits ………..
At most conferences we attend these days we conduct a survey into people’s document related activities. One particular phrase we have coined is ‘the document workload’ and one of the questions we are asking is whether the individuals’ document workload is increasing.
Not surprisingly the compliance professionals surveyed from the banking industry, and the quality assurance professionals surveyed from a wide variety of industries, almost universally agreed that their document workload had increased. Increasing regulation was the most common factor when asked ‘why’.
However, again not surprisingly, the only sector not to agree that the document workload was increasingly was, yes you’ve guessed it, life sciences. Already heavily regulated, the life sciences industry probably represents the ‘pinnacle’ of regulation - so we can see that other industries are on the path to this pinnacle. This can only be good for us because where there is regulation there is documentation, and where there is documentation there is review and that’s what we do better than anyone else!
One final thing: PleaseReview v5.1 is, thankfully, finally on the verge of release. More on that subject next month.
Posted by Sarah Edmonds on 18. June 2014 09:56
The other half of marketing...
What’s your problem? No really, we want to know. What are the problems you’re experiencing with your document review process? Do you have a higher number of documents to review, how are you reviewing those documents, is the process working well for you?
It’s these sort of questions we’ve been asking prospective customers at the shows we’ve been attending this year. At PleaseTech marketing HQ, it not only helps us get our messaging right, it also educates us so we can fully understand the inefficiencies of other review options (PDF, track changes with email, SharePoint, etc.) and why they don’t provide a completely effective review process.
Our latest research was gathered at the APMP Bid & Proposal Conference in Chicago in May of this year and highlighted something we’ve suspected for some time; that the document workload is increasing. For proposal professionals, this means the number of documents they have to review is getting bigger and bigger.
Fine if the size of your team is increasing in proportion to the number of documents. Or if you have a process in place to effectively manage the number of reviews coming across your desk, but our research suggests this isn’t the case.
Lots of color team reviewers don’t have simultaneous access to documents, nor can they review whenever, wherever and on any device. Frustratingly, this means they’re sat at their desk waiting for a colleague to finish working on a document before they can begin.
Many also say they’d like to know which of their changes do or don’t make the final draft, and associated rationale.
From the perspective of managing a review, document owners still have to merge several sets of changes into a master copy; they aren’t using a system which allows them to automatically incorporate all changes in one go.
Often reviews are delayed when people forget about deadlines, and people tell us that a system that sent out reminders would be seriously helpful. On the flip side, using a system that also showed each of the reviewers’ status on a review is also highlighted as being extremely useful by respondents.
We know from past research conducted at SharePoint conferences that people are using legacy tools to review documents and this is the same for proposal professionals – tools of the trade include PDF mark-up, track changes with email or shared drives, and even hard copy.
This amounts to proposals that miss deadlines; take far longer than necessary to complete; cost valuable work hours and causes inevitable disharmony amongst reviewers.
Every year, lots of new users come on board and start using PleaseReview. Some of them from our existing customer base who see their colleagues using our software and want a slice of the cake, others new customers who come to us via our website, or who we meet at shows. What they all have in common was a poor document review process, and the knowledge that there is a better way. As for the rest of you, hopefully our research will begin to help you understand and improve your own processes. We look forward to discussing it with you at one of the next shows we’re attending.
Posted by Sarah Holden on 12. June 2014 11:33
Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.
PleaseReview is already extensively used throughout Life Science companies, but we have high hopes of expanding this even further thanks to our most recent integration with another significant and rapidly growing player in this sector, Veeva Systems.
Last week we announced the integration between PleaseReview and Veeva Vault.
A match made in heaven, well at least in the Cloud.
Whilst we have several platform integrations in place which are based around on premise installations, and have many cloud customers, this is our first purely cloud-based integration.
Veeva are specialists in cloud-based software for the Life Sciences Industry, and their Vault platform provides regulated content management applications that touch just about every part of a life sciences company - from clinical trials, to manufacturing, regulatory submissions, medical communications and marketing. PleaseReview tackles the specific task of collaborative document co-authoring and review which, in the document-intensive and heavily regulated Life Sciences sector, is also applicable across departments and disciplines.
The process is straightforward and user administration is managed in a single location. In practice, users simply login to PleaseReview, select documents stored within the controlled Veeva Vault repository, review and edit them within PleaseReview’s controlled collaborative environment and then check them directly back into Veeva without leaving PleaseReview.
As Life Sciences is such a regulated industry, control is a necessary consideration and a key element of both products’ success. In fact, the synergy between PleaseTech and Veeva is so strong that it led to customers asking for this integration. Now PleaseReview can be used in conjunction with Veeva’s Submissions, QualityDocs, eTMF, MedComms and PromoMats Vaults.
We are just finalizing plans with Veeva to host a joint webinar to show how it all works in a little more detail, and I hope to be able to share that with you shortly. If you wish to be kept informed, just let us know.
Posted by David Cornwell on 2. June 2014 10:44
Founder/CEO of PleaseTech Ltd - collaborative document review and co-authoring for the enterprise.
As you may be aware, PleaseTech attends a large number of conferences every year. Not only do we have a booth/stand to show our products and chat with existing and prospective customers, but also in order to get additional insight as to the pressures driving prospective clients, we conduct research at these conferences. This normally takes the form of a brief iPad questionnaire which we ask delegates to complete.
Where we get a statistically meaningful sample, we publish the results of this research as White Papers and webinars. The research tends to be geared towards the conferences’ specific industry or discipline, so the results from different conferences are not always directly comparable.
However, one of the recurring themes we see in this research is the increase in what we are calling the ‘document workload’. I’m thinking of the document workload as the number of documents required to achieve a certain goal. If that goal is running a successful business then let’s define it as the number of documents required to run the business. Another way to think of it is, the number of documents required to do your job, or that you come across in your job.
There is no doubt that the document workload is increasing. That’s what people tell us and it’s what we observe in our own business. Why? Well, the standard answer is the increased regulatory and legislative overhead and resulting increased emphasis in procedures and client auditing requirements.
The phrase ‘If it’s not documented it didn’t happen’ (or similar wording) is well known, especially in the FDA-regulated Life Sciences market, which historically has been and remains our largest market. This is the corollary of procedures where it’s commonly stated that: 'If a process is not documented it doesn’t exist’. Whilst these clichés have always been true in Life Sciences, if you search for the terms you will find them equally applicable to Legal, Government, Healthcare, etc.
So the good news is that the document workload is increasing. Good news? Yes, very much so if you are a vendor in the ‘document workload mitigation’ industry. Whilst I suspect that the ‘document workload mitigation’ industry isn’t an officially recognized industry sector, it’s really the reason why there is so much focus on document management and document collaboration - a recognized sector which PleaseTech is very much part of.
This increase in the document workload leads directly and unequivocally to an increase in the ‘review workload’. An increase in the review workload means an increase in demand for PleaseReview. In fact, we would argue that the review workload is a significant percentage of the effort required in dealing with the document workload.
We have previously documented the results of our research which suggest that people have a low expectation of document collaboration solutions. Everyone just assumes that there is no way around the ‘tracked changes nightmare’. As the document workload increases, so will that nightmare and the associated pain.
Mitigation is all about the reduction of pain and one of the things I’ve come to understand in my long career is that in order to sell a software product it must solve a pain point. If it doesn’t solve a pain point there won’t be a compelling ROI and it becomes a ‘nice to have’ - and no one has the time or budget for that stuff these days.
Whilst I was thinking about the document workload and collating the ideas as a subject for this blog post, I thought a bit of research of my own was in order. I was hoping to find some research which quantified the increase of the document workload on businesses. From that I reasoned I could work out the increase in the review workload. I was somewhat surprised to find that there doesn’t appear to be much, if any, research on the subject. A search for ‘document workload’ resulted in nothing meaningful. Likewise ‘document burden’ didn’t produce anything interesting. There were a number of vendors talking about the ‘document burden’ but no hard research.
So, I’m thinking that we need to start researching this. We need to find out by how much the document workload is increasing year on year. We need to ask people what percentage of the document workload they estimate can be attributed to the review workload and what the pain is, in real terms, of the review workload. The output of all this research is a marketing campaign!
If you wish to be a part of this research, please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org!