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 nightmare of 'tracked changes'

Posted by PleaseTech Guest on 27. June 2013 15:09

Our guest blogger is...


Andrew Barnes, Independent Marketing Consultant

 

I'm not prone to nightmares, and normally I sleep quite well.  But towards the end of last year I genuinely did wake in the middle of the night in a slight panic.

Over the years I've worked in a variety of different roles with many types of software companies.  From rapidly growing UK companies with great products to global organizations with products in need of refresh, I've worked in some sort of marketing position.

Throughout that time one thing has been more or less constant: the need to create, share and review documents.  Even now, as an independent consultant, I've always thought of myself as pretty adept at juggling documents to ultimately come out with a polished datasheet, press release, whitepaper or proposal as required.  But for some reason this time it was different.

I had been co-ordinating the creation and approval of a new whitepaper for a company that will remain nameless.  This involved taking input from a few different departments and working with a couple of agencies in different time zones.

There was nothing really out of the ordinary.  A draft had been created.  Like many companies there wasn't much of a process to follow.  They relied on the distribution of the whitepaper by email and using tracked changes in Microsoft Word to evolve it.

I won't bore you with the details of the rainbow of colors I had to resolve in the document as the emails came back and people edited edits.  I set about resolving the amendments and accepting comments where appropriate.  By the time I'd finished I felt pretty relieved.

So why did I wake with a start?  For some reason I suddenly realized that I'd inadvertently approved for external release a document that was still being modified by some fairly senior people.  And the situation needed to be corrected pretty quickly.

At the 11th hour an executive had decided the document needed a particular twist and had started a new email thread distributing the original version.  I'd been told this in passing, but it had slipped my mind and as a result the consolidation of some pretty critical amendments hadn't happened.  All my hard work had been messed up.

So first thing the following morning I still had the same deadline to meet, and I had to work out to incorporate amendments to amendments, quickly research responses to new comments and resubmit for further approval across time-zones.

I didn't have the luxury of an audit trail to work out what had gone on.  The lack of process had let me down.  So I painstakingly had to go about comparing documents, tracking down emails to see who had done what and chasing one person who was adamant they needed to be involved, but couldn't be tracked down (and yes the pun was intended).

I got there in the end. The whitepaper was published and well received by the audience.  So apart from some shredded nerves and extra work, no real harm was done.

Since then I've started doing some work for PleaseTech Ltd and have had my eyes opened to the value of a structured, controlled approach to document review.

I think it's time for me to stop juggling documents and drowning in the sea of tracked changes.  If only I can persuade my clients of the right way to control the document review process...

An IT illiterate gal joins a software company…

Posted by Sarah Edmonds on 11. June 2013 16:32

The other half of marketing... Google


I'm new to the IT industry, my background is consumer marketing. I think it's fair to say that when the IT boys in the office talk to me, I often look at them with a glazed expression that says 'I have no idea what you're talking about, just please make my computer work'. But I'm absorbing myself in the wealth of technology out there, and actually, I'm even starting to feel slightly cool for a mum of three floating towards the end of her thirties.  Not only do I know what Tumblr, Vine and Pulse are, I've even started to use them.  My website skills still leave a lot to be desired, but if you want to get into a conversation about GoogleDrive, Box, OneDrum or Acrobat, I could wax lyrical about why our product, PleaseReview, is so much better.  Get me.

I'll never fully understand the technical side of PleaseReview, but that doesn't matter, that's what IT departments and developers are for.  I probably have the same IT skills as most end users (reasonable Word, Excel), and that's the beauty of PleaseReview, that it's simple to use, you don't need hours of training that goes in one ear and out the other.

Hopefully it won't surprise you to know that we use PleaseReview all the time in the office.  It's a great way to get feedback on a document (Whitepapers, licensing manuals) from a number of colleagues without having to collate multiple changes, or for example, being on a deadline and having to get hold of Dave when he's in the US to resolve conflicting comments.

I've had no official training on how to use PleaseReview, five minutes maybe from a colleague when I first looked at the system.  And guess what, even I can use it. If only it was that simple to print when you press the PRINT button...

'blog.pleasetech.com': our blog finds a new home

Posted by Sarah Holden on 6. June 2013 14:04

Half of the PleaseTech marketing team.


Whilst Dave Cornwell, our CEO, has maintained an (almost) regular blog for several years, we’re expanding and inviting others from within and outside PleaseTech to join him.

The intent is to provide different viewpoints, cover various areas of interest and tap into the different mindsets of the individuals who work here or who are otherwise involved in document collaboration. Having been with PleaseTech for almost three years (goodness, already three years) I have come to appreciate and enjoy the very ‘special’ and diverse personalities I come into contact with and so look forward to reading what they have to say. 

To accommodate these plans, we have moved our blog from a generic provider so that it is now hosted directly by PleaseTech. There are several advantages to us including improved SEO, increased brand awareness, control of our content and freedom of design. Also, being a technology company, we have all the expertise on hand if anything breaks!

So, moving forward, you will see regular posts from PleaseTech, covering company updates, opinions, shared knowledge, industry news and more.  

From a marketing perspective, our blog will deal with some of the challenges we face and what we are doing to overcome them.  A recent survey of over 800 marketers conducted by the B2B Technology Marketing community on LinkedIn earlier this year confirmed what we face: 

‘The number one challenge for B2B marketers is generating high quality leads’

The full survey results are certainly worth a read and provide some pointers into what works better in terms of marketing activity. Our challenges specifically come down to:

Finding the right person to talk to – whilst for some industries this is clear, document collaboration is often managed by a diverse range of people across the organization.

Education – many use workarounds or solutions that enable basic collaboration, and, in doing so, put up with the inefficiencies and frustrations inherent with these practices/solutions. They know no better (or have not had the time to research an alternative) and so their expectations are low, especially if their IT department has told them that the existing solution is ‘state-of-the-art’.

Convincing the IT dept. – Dave has covered this in previous blog posts and it continues to be a challenge. Business users are the ones who experience document collaboration issues, but frequently have to ‘live’ with the solutions provided by IT who often have the final say in how the dollars are spent.

Finding our ‘voice’ – whilst we know our business inside out, we continue to strive to know more about the different industry sectors and business disciplines we work with. It’s all very well knowing why our product is better and different but we have to touch the right chords with those we speak with. How can we help? What’s in it for them? What can they learn from us?

In future blog posts we will touch on some of the activities we have planned and that are currently underway to meet these challenges. We will share research, customer insights, best practices and independent expert contributions.

So, to gain an inside view into the workings of a technology company and all the cogs that make the wheel turn, as well as industry insights, personal deliberations and more, do sign up to catch the posts as they appear. 

 

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!

Focusing on controlled document collaboration

Posted by David Cornwell on 24. September 2012 16:24

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


We had a marketing workshop last week and, following our decision to emphasise the ‘control’ we bring to collaboration, we addressed the tag line issue. In my last blog post I said it would be ‘controlled document collaboration’. Silly me.

Needless to say the marketing gurus felt they could do better. So a happy (?) time was spent with the whiteboard rearranging the three words: ‘controlled’, ‘document’ and ‘collaboration’. The result of an hour’s hard graft was: ‘Document collaboration. Controlled.’ 

So forget what I said back in August. Our new tag line is: ‘Document collaboration. Controlled.’ 

And here is the logo to prove it:

 

You heard it here first!
 
On a personal note, those of you who follow me on twitter will be aware that I’m no longer trapped on this island. Last month my passport became full. Literally, there was no further space for stamps. So it was necessary to apply for a new one. September was a travel free month, so I took the opportunity to send off the old passport and get a replacement. Thankfully, it has arrived just in time for my travels which start again in October. In the five weeks of October I’ll be in the USA for four of them. I’ll be at the following conferences: AMWADIA EDM and ERS/eCTDAPMP SPAC and RAPS(what a lot of acronyms!). Thankfully, I do get a week home in-between. If you are attending one of the conferences please do drop by our booth to say hello.
 
There has been a bit in the press recently about focus on the enterprise. The latest being from Jim Goetz who says he's “floored that so few entrepreneurs are focusing on building products for businesses” (see here). It brought to mind a report I read about this time last year which suggested that that the best start-ups had no experience of enterprise software and that this could be a good thing as it allowed 'outdated conventions' to be challenged.
 
This brings to mind one of the age old sayings: ‘If it was easy, everyone would do it’.
 
Let’s face it, building enterprise software applications is not easy! And selling to enterprises is not easy either! If I were bright enough to think of something which allowed me to build a great company without dealing with corporate IT departments and corporate purchasing departments, I’d do it like a shot!
 
From a software perspective, it’s particularly hard when you have to install the software on the client’s site. In other words, when you have to install the software in an environment over which you have no control.
 
So, build a functional, well tested software product which meets a business need and you are but half way there technically. Now you need to ensure it works in a complex corporate computing environment, integrates with the environment’s other components (such as directory services, etc.) and is sufficiently well documented that under-pressure IT staff can install and maintain it.
 
Then, no matter how compelling the product and no matter how great an ROI it has, you have to convince multiple people across the organization it’s a good and worthwhile investment. This takes time. In large organizations, wheels turn slowly and are driven by budget years.
 
Finally, you have the product, you have a willing purchaser and then you hit corporate purchasing and legal. Now the fun really starts. We have even had one purchasing department come back to us and tell us that they will place the purchase order if we deduct 5% off the quote. This is after we have been involved in lengthy discussions with the sponsoring department! Our response, by the way, was to tell them to *** off.
 
And people wonder why there aren’t “more engineers and entrepreneurs interested in enterprise”.
Please don’t think I’m complaining. I’m not. I’m just pointing out that conceiving, developing and delivering enterprise grade applications is non-trivial. And that is before you start trying to sell them.
 
From my perspective, the simple fact is that the built-in lag of the enterprise market means that it is simply not possible to grow companies in the same way that that it is possible to grow companies focusing on consumer stuff such as social media. If you are a ‘bright young entrepreneur’ and saw the explosive growth of Facebook and Twitter, and the slog of the enterprise focused companies, where would you focus?
 
I had planned to stop the blog there but I was told I shouldn't end on a negative note. So, on the positive side my share price hasn't crashed and focusing on the enterprise isn't all bad. Our software helps reduce the time it takes to get drugs to market and thus improves and saves lives. That's got to be good - right?

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