Posted by Sarah Edmonds on 30. June 2016 09:41
The other half of marketing...
How much of the technology in your life fails to work when you need it to, or simply isn’t up to the job in question? How many times have you wandered up and down streets looking for a phone signal, or nearly thrown your laptop out of a window when software that’s supposed to make your life easier, leaves you with a headache?
Whilst all we want is the technology we have to work properly, the focus seems to be on bringing more and more new tech onto the market. Our needs are now anticipated before we know we even have them, yet looking for the right technology to meet our genuine needs can sometimes feel overwhelming. Is it the right solution to the problem in question? How reliable is it? Is it easy to use or am I going to need a degree in computing to figure it out? Yes, it looks great, but HOW MUCH?
And what exactly is it that stops us seeking out the right technology? Are we now so burnt by all the negative experiences that we’d rather put up with outdated and sometimes clumsy IT solutions, rather than seek out an alternative? At PleaseTech we’ve researched this topic a number of times, and as you’d expect, time and money come up time and time again as the key barriers.
Specifically looking at this from a business perspective, it’s the chicken and the egg, on the one hand poor processes cost organizations millions of dollars a year in lost productivity, whilst on the other you have employees struggling with poor software tools who don’t have the time to research an alternative. All too often, even if a solution is found, the cost is simply too high to get it past management. They eventually get fed up, quit and the business in question then has to spend thousands of dollars replacing skilled workers. In fact on average, a study from Oxford Economics found that the cost of replacing a member of staff is $44,798, as detailed in a survey conducted in 2015 by Osterman Research for PleaseTech.
And it’s not just the cost of recruitment that’s a problem. The Osterman research found that 77% of workers say their organizations report problems finding workers to recruit, and that IT plays an important role in their retention and motivation – for over half of respondents, it plays an important or even critical role.
Quite simply, better IT tools mean better results. Osterman found that for 85% of respondents, it resulted in increased productivity; for 64% the ability to make decisions more quickly; for 55% better results; for 53% a happier and more satisfactory working environment, and for almost one in five, they would be more likely to stay with an organization.
So what happens when you have that magic moment, you’re surfing the web or you're at a trade show when you come across a solution that could be the genuine answer to your problems? We already know that cost is an issue, so how do you build a business case?
Following on from our 2016 research with Osterman, we’ve been looking at exactly this issue. The research is nearly complete and we’ll be holding a series of webinars in the fall to look at the findings in detail.
Meanwhile, we’d love to hear about your experiences. How did you prove the business case, what clinched the deal? What were the key stumbling blocks you came up against? What’s life like now you’ve found a piece of software you don’t want to throw out of the window? Let us know...
Posted by David Cornwell on 28. April 2016 09:51
Founder/CEO of PleaseTech Ltd - collaborative document review and co-authoring for the enterprise.
I gave an ‘Introduction to PleaseTech’ presentation recently in which one of the key points was that PleaseReview is ‘industrial strength’. Hundreds of documents, thousands of comments and scores of reviewers are the norm, I explained. Conveniently, a set of statistics crossed my inbox last week to confirm this.
Statistics of three relatively large hosted customers were in the email. Two of these are in the life sciences market. Two of the customers are each creating over 1,300 reviews per year. The other is creating just under 1,000. Across all three, each review includes an average of 2 – 3 documents and generates an average of just over 50 comments. So that’s, on average, per company: > 3,000 documents per year and > 60,000 comment/changes per year.
Firstly, imagine trying to do that by email? Or, if you are using an annotation technology, imagine copying and pasting over 60,000 comments/changes per year? What a waste of time!
In my blog in October 2014 I discussed the fact that a client had taken the conservative estimate that PleaseReview provides a saving of 8 hours per document for each review cycle. So, if we do the maths, PleaseReview is saving these companies, conservatively, 24,000 hours per year. If we then allocate an hourly rate of $88 per hour, (that’s an average salary of $105K per year with a typical business overhead of 75% on top of salary) that’s a saving of $2.1 million per customer per year. A fairly impressive ROI – and remember all these figures are conservative!
I think the key point here is that we constantly need to remind ourselves that document review is a business critical problem. It’s also a non-trivial business critical problem.
Over the years there have been various attempts to solve it. The annotation of PDF documents (or other such generic formats) is one option but, remember, that means that someone has to copy and paste the 60,000 + comments/changes per year! Directly editing the documents (co-authoring) is another option but that opens the document to substantive change by just about anyone involved in the process. None of these solutions has the degree of granular ‘control over who can do what to where’ which PleaseReview offers.
Copying and pasting is one thing. Reporting is another. Many companies manually produce reports on what happened to the 60K+ comments and changes. PleaseReview does that automatically. It’s available in several formats and, when delivered in Excel, is designed for analysis. Indeed some companies consider metrics so important that a number of our larger customers have developed reports directly from the database using standard corporate reporting tools.
However, despite its unique functionality and positioning and its impressive ROI, no company is going to invest in a product which isn’t industrial strength and not able to scale to the customer's requirements. Being confident in the performance of the tools one has is, of course, vital. When that critical document deadline is approaching no-one wants to be nervous about systems failing.
Whilst industrial strength and great ROI are very important, we must also recognize that there is a major push from corporate IT departments to reduce the number of systems a user ‘touches’ in their standard day-to-day activity.
So seamless integration with 3rd party systems is another key to success. We have a whole team dedicated to developing and improving integrations with other enterprise systems.
So, with the increasing document workload, businesses want solutions which are industrial strength, have proven ROI and work with their enterprise applications. It’s a tough ask - that’s why there are so few solutions out there that can solve this business issue: if it were easy everyone would do it - it’s not easy and that's why we do!
Posted by Sarah Edmonds on 15. December 2015 13:01
The other half of marketing...
We recently ran a PleaseTech user group meeting for our life science customers in Cambridge, MA. It was the first that we’ve done for a while and was always going to be a learning curve, but which elements of the day did we get right and what would we do differently next time?
Given the number of times we’d been asked about a user meeting, we were surprised that our greatest challenge was getting people to sign up to the meeting. We have well over 100,000 PleaseReview users, a majority of which are in the Life Sciences area and therefore count as the target audience. However, we are typically not in touch with any more than a handful of key account contacts at each client. We expected that promoting the event to these key contacts would spread the word and that this approach would be adequate. But it wasn’t and we weren’t getting anything like the expected registrations. So the issue we faced was how to effectively mass mail hundreds of customer contacts.
Over the years, we’ve used a couple of different e-marketing tools, neither of which seem to have got round the problem of corporate firewalls rejecting the email, or allowing it through but recognising it as spam. That said, a few emails must have got through as a handful (and I do mean a handful) of people signed up this way. But as for everyone else, to say it was like pushing water uphill to get a commitment is an understatement.
So we had a massive push to get a critical mass of delegates. Personal emails, phone calls etc. We succeeded but it was a close run thing. On the positive side it did mean that a vast majority of the people who registered did turn up and we had a less than 10% ‘no show’ rate. It’s a challenge to know how to get a closer relationship with the actual end users as most clients just get on and use our software without the need for constant support or assistance.
As the meeting showed, nothing beats one on one interaction with customers and this is certainly an area of our business we’re paying close attention to – over the last 12 months we’ve expanded our account management team and are actively trying to engage more closely with clients. Although, again this is limited to key account contacts as a vast majority of users have no desire, or indeed time, to spend valuable minutes chatting with us.
With better engagement with key account contacts, if we were to repeat the same meeting in 18 months’ time, maybe we would have more success in attracting attendees. However, for this particular event it took hours and hours of one on one emails and telephone calls to drum up just 21 people in total. To say we were surprised and slightly disappointed in equal measure wouldn’t be too far from the truth.
There are still lots of questions we don’t have the answers to; do customers actually want to engage with us in this way? Are we using the right marketing tools? Are there any other formats which might work better?
In the end, we were 24 people strong, including our CEO, David Cornwell, our VP of Sales, Barry Lyne and myself. So what about the event itself?
Starting with the basics, feedback suggested that the venue was good and easy to get to, although a couple of attendees commented it would have been better nearer to public transport stops. Food wise, we opted for healthier options rather than lots of bread and cookies, which was definitely appreciated. There were complaints about the coffee, but as this was provided by the hotel, I’m not sure what we could have done about that, short of finding a Starbucks!
A key piece of advice I’d give is to investigate, before booking your venue, whether there’s a minimum banqueting spend, and what taxes, services charges and other costs they add onto the bill - we were shocked at just how much this added to the final bill.
As we had anticipated a higher number of attendees it transpired that the venue was not ideal especially from a ‘cost per head’ perspective. If we were to do this again, for the small number of attendees we succeeded in getting, I would look into a restaurant with a private dining room (intimate presentation and round table discussions followed by a nice meal). However, it’s a difficult decision as you really need to settle the venue before the invite.
What about the timings of the day? We opted for 9am-5pm, but in a busy city such as Boston, we should have taken into consideration peak traffic times – in retrospect 10am-4pm may have worked better for people. Of course, if you’re providing overnight accommodation, this gives you greater flexibility.
In terms of the content of the day, we gave a number of presentations – a business update, an overview of the latest version of PleaseReview (v5.2) and an insight into our next major release, PleaseReview v6, which is due out next year. We also ran a couple of ‘Over to the floor’ sessions, which proved hugely popular.
Giving customers the time and space to ask questions and to discuss product improvements was invaluable both to us and them. Attendees genuinely appreciated being listened to, and if we could go back and make just one change to the day, it would have been to allow more time for these sessions.
Lastly, we also filmed each of the presentations so others who couldn’t attend would benefit. We anticipated the need for microphones for the presenters to ensure that the recording duly captured the wise words of the presenters, but failed to anticipate the many questions and interactions from the floor. With even the relatively small hotel room we used, wandering floor microphones are a must if you want to hear the questions being asked, so my advice would be to always have microphones to hand. The resulting film of the presentations have been made available to users via our PleaseReview LinkedIn User Group. This is a private, members’ only approved group.
So looking back, do we think it was worth running the meeting? Being able to spend one on one time with customers is something we genuinely enjoy and find hugely useful. We’re very grateful to all those who attended for taking the time out of their busy schedules to come along and hope they found it beneficial – we’ve taken their feedback and ideas back to our development team, and some of it will inevitably shape how PleaseReview functions in the future.
On the flip side it was a very expensive day when you work out the total cost per head. Will we run another one? With the benefit of hindsight and lessons learnt, yes is probably the answer, potentially for our European customers next, so watch this space and please sign up…
Posted by Sarah Edmonds on 3. March 2015 11:02
The other half of marketing...
Hopefully somebody’s reading this blog as it forms part of our marketing communications strategy. This strategy is based on a wide variety of activities such as insightful content management, analyst relations, exhibition presence, speaking opportunities, whitepapers, webinars, partner activity, our cartoon website, social media as well as a variety of literature, and of course our website. But amongst all this, what is the most effective method for really engaging with our customers and prospects and for getting a conversation started?
There is absolute value in producing whitepapers and conducting webinars, which can be viewed and listened to again on our SlideShare page. The proof is in the pudding as hundreds of people visit this page. Not all visits turn into leads, but some do. It also positions us as an authority and a market expert in the field of document review and co-authoring. This is broadly considered as ‘thought leadership’.
The same can be said for our YouTube page, here people can find the short animated films we’ve created which detail and demo the product, PleaseReview, and why you might need it. We know that reading presentations and whitepapers can be a little dry at times and, as you can tell from our cartoons, we are anything but ‘dry’. So we often animate the results of any research we’ve conducted. It humanizes our communications and projects our company’s personality. What we do is deadly serious but communicating it needn’t be dry. After all, our customers and prospective customers aren’t machines; they’re normal folk who absorb information in a range of ways from watching TV to reading a paper.
And these normal folk don’t want to spend their days solely thinking and looking at work related subjects, even when at work checking out their LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook streams – we all do it… Sometimes we just want a bit of light hearted fun, something that doesn’t tax the brain, something that makes us laugh. So, for example, we took a look at our database and segmented job titles against names to establish the most popular names amongst various job positions, such as medical writers (Heather by the way). And people loved it - they liked it, commented on and retweeted it. And the response to our online quiz which allows people to find out what sort of document review personality they are (Labrador, squirrel, lion or dolphin) has gone through the roof.
Hopefully whilst they’re on our website having a bit of fun, curiosity has got the better of them and they’ve had a little look around the site. And maybe, just maybe they found something else they quite liked…
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!