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

Introducing PleaseReview OpenSpace

Posted by David Cornwell on 6. February 2017 09:58

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


This blog post introduces a new concept we are adding to our collaborative review solution, PleaseReview. It’s the ability to initiate and manage an uncontrolled co-authoring step using SharePoint or Office 365. We are calling it PleaseReview ‘OpenSpace’ as we want to differentiate it from our standard ‘controlled’ PleaseReview review or co-authoring process.

The aim behind OpenSpace is to add some managerial control to a standard SharePoint or Office 365 co-authoring session. That means that this standard co-authoring session will use the existing PleaseReview review set-up which allows authors to easily define and control who has access to the document(s). It also means that there will still be a degree of process management as PleaseReview will provide its standard notifications, reminders, status monitoring, etc.

The main difference will be that PleaseReview will have no control over what happens inside the document.  The level of reporting will also be less comprehensive (as we don’t manage what happens in the document) but it will include, as a minimum, the basics such as who was in the co-authoring session, their associated status and, we are hoping, an indication of what was changed and by whom – although this latter bit does depend on Word’s settings.

What happens inside the document will be the standard SharePoint/Office 365 uncontrolled co-authoring functionality – just as if you had loaded the document(s) into SharePoint/Office 365 yourself.  Access to the document(s) will be via PleaseReview (i.e. the control panel) or directly via the SharePoint/Office 365 interface. In the setup process PleaseReview will have set the appropriate access permissions so that only those OpenSpace participants have access to the documents. We're hoping to bring the various document-level protections that Word provides into the PleaseReview set-up options so that the author doesn’t have to fiddle around with Word to, for example, force on tracked changes and lock this setting with a password.

You may think that this is a major change of strategy for PleaseTech. After all, hasn't our message always been about in-document control, where no one can overwrite others' contributions? And, isn’t PleaseReview competitive with the SharePoint/Office 365 co-authoring feature?

I’d reply by saying it’s not a change of strategy because we’ve always understood and accepted that different phases of the document preparation lifecycle require different approaches. Traditional PleaseReview is at its strongest when the document needs to be moved out of the authoring phase (where there are major alterations and additions to the document's content) into the review phase.

We have decided to undertake this development because it’s what our clients have asked for. They recognize the benefits PleaseReview offers but also, at the initial stages of document creation, want the flexibility and openness offered by SharePoint/Office 365's co-authoring capability. Once the initial document has been developed and there is a need for wider review, PleaseReview is brought into play.

So, bringing PleaseReview’s process and managerial control to this initial open co-authoring process is an obvious step. It has many advantages for those wanting to use both SharePoint/Office 365 and PleaseReview at different stages of the document development lifecycle. There are several broad points to note:

1. It reduces the number of systems people ‘touch’ in their day-to-day activities making their lives easier, lowering training overheads and increasing acceptance. In this context it’s worth noting that this OpenSpace will automatically be available via PleaseTech’s PleaseReview integrations and thus provide the capability to integrate with third party systems;

2. It adds value to the SharePoint/Office 365 co-authoring process by providing managerial control. This means that IT departments don’t have to develop and maintain custom workflow systems to control the process;

3. It will provide a single seamless environment for all stages of the document co-authoring and review process with three clear stages:

- Uncontrolled SharePoint/Office 365 co-authoring using PleaseReview OpenSpace;
- Controlled PleaseReview co-authoring (i.e. restricting author access to certain parts of the document);
- Review i.e. the ability to ‘mark-up but not mess up’ the document.

4. All document types can be reviewed in the same environment meaning there is no need to have multiple co-authoring/review systems for different document types.

An OpenSpace will simply be a specific review type within PleaseReview so those with relevant permissions will be able to easily set-up and manage an OpenSpace co-authoring session within SharePoint/Office 365.

In terms of timing, we are aiming to release PleaseReview OpenSpace by the end of Q2 2017.

We’re discussing this development further at the DIA RSIDM Forum (Regulatory Submissions, Information, and Document Management) this week and running webinars over the next couple of months. If it’s something of interest I’d love to hear from you. We're still working out what is technically achievable and precise requirements, so any bright ideas are welcome- please get in touch

I look forward to your feedback and ideas.

 


What is the future for document creation?

Posted by David Cornwell on 9. November 2016 10:16

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


As the CEO of a technology company I must constantly consider the future. Naturally, a major consideration is whether a disruptive new technology is coming along which could make our products obsolete. For example, at a consumer level, Uber is severely damaging, if not destroying the traditional taxi business. As an Uber user myself, I can see why.

I believe that only the paranoid survive and I’m forever scanning the horizon for the missile which is aimed squarely at our technology - that of document review. What is this disruptive new technology (or, as Nicholas Taleb would put it, black swan event) which will hurt us?

Before I go any further let me define ‘document review’ as the term means different things in different industries. For us, document review is the generic term for the process by which peers, specialists (i.e. subject matter experts) or other interested parties comment upon and suggest changes to the content of a document prior to its finalization, approval and dissemination. Specifically, it is the review element of the document creation process. It can involve a single person (unusual), a small team of, say, five to twenty people (common) or a widespread team of 50+ reviewers (unusual). There may be several re-work and review iterations before the document is finalized.

Whether the document is an internal policy, procedure or specification or an external facing regulatory submission or proposal, the basic creation process is the same: create, review, finalize, approve, and finally, disseminate. I simply don’t see this process changing in the foreseeable future. No black swans there.

Now the good news for us is that PleaseTech operates in the B2B market space where disruptive new technology takes time to infiltrate. Large corporates are considered slow moving in this era of ever accelerating innovation. However, that doesn’t mean we can rest easy. The corollary of perceived slow movement is that when change does come, if you're not part of it, you're out!

One area of disruption which does impact us is the ongoing Office suite apps battle between Google and Microsoft. The Microsoft Office Suite has, for the last 20 years, been the dominant application for the creation of documents, spreadsheets and presentations in the business world. Our competitive advantage is based around our deep understanding of Microsoft Word and, to a lesser extent, the remainder of the Office Suite. So is the Office Suite under attack? The answer is yes - of course. The real question is, how successfully?

A couple of years ago it seemed that Google was making decent inroads into Microsoft’s market share with commentators making a comparison with the relative decline of use of Internet Explorer compared with Chrome. Indeed, in early 2015, Google announced its plan to ‘steal’ 80 percent of Microsoft’s market share. However, with the undoubted success of Office 365, Microsoft is fighting back and, last October in this very journal, Mary Branscombe penned an article entitled “Why companies are switching from Google Apps to Office 365”.

It goes beyond this. In general, users are resistant to change and those entering the workforce over the last few years have been used to Word from an early age. However, there is some evidence that Google is winning the battle in new smaller companies with younger workforces. But it will take a very long time for this advantage to filter through, meaning the Microsoft Office Suite will be the primary document creation mechanism for the foreseeable future.

There is, of course, the whole cloud versus on premise debate. Whilst the cloud is a fine invention and our cloud business is growing rapidly, not everyone wants their valuable intellectual property in the cloud.

A case in point would be a regulatory drug submission which contains clinical trials' data. Or a high value proposal for a defense contract. Is a company really prepared to entrust these valuable documents to a generic cloud? Obviously not, so we course, is where Microsoft wins again with its Office Suite. Its commercial competitors are all 100 percent cloud based.

What about the future of documents themselves? With individuals entering the workforce now being classified as ‘digital natives’, does the whole concept of a ‘document’ go away? Is this our black swan?

I’m of an age where I recall typing pools. Professional Engineers (as I was attempting to be as I entered the workforce back then) didn’t type their own documents. They were submitted to a typing pool, where they were created, printed and returned to you for review. A red pen was then used and the cycle continued. However, the introduction of PCs and word processors was a disruptive technology and the typing pool vanished. Yet, despite the disruption, the concept of paper document format lived on electronically with Adobe Acrobat. The delivery mechanism may have changed but the concept of a document is still very much alive.

Do digital natives think the same way? The research suggests not. They think in social media terms and moving them beyond this is one of the challenges educators have to deal with. They need to replace the informal language with more formal language that they can use in their essays, dissertations and other such submissions.

Can we see contracts being agreed in informal language? I think not. One of the first lessons in business is, understanding that the way something is worded can form the basis of a legal contract or instruction. The language used is all important. If it’s a specialist subject area, there is ‘accepted language’ pertaining to that specialism. The nuances of wording whatever the target dissemination mechanism (i.e. formal document, web page, email or, even, tweet) are all important.

So it seems to be that the document creation process of create, review, finalize, approve, disseminate isn’t going to change anytime soon – certainly not in my business career and probably not in my children’s business career.

 

It’s hard to see something replacing Word even with initiatives such as the Open Document Format (ODF) supported by the UK Government. However, the whole point of a Black Swan event is that it comes out of left field and is extremely difficult to predict. So who knows what the future holds? The corollary of perceived slow movement is that when change does come, if you're not part of it, you're out.

What is the future of document creation?

Posted by David Cornwell on 15. June 2016 11:36

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


I thought I would share an excerpt from an article I recently wrote for CIOReview, an enterprise technology magazine, where I consider the future of document creation.

As the CEO of a technology company I constantly consider the future. Naturally, a major consideration is whether a disruptive new technology is coming along which could make our products obsolete. 

I believe that only the paranoid survive and I’m forever scanning the horizon for the missile which is aimed squarely at our technology - that of document review. What is this disruptive new technology (or, as Nicholas Taleb would put it, black swan event) which will hurt us? 

Let me define ‘document review’ as the term means different things in different industries. For us, document review is the generic term for the process by which peers, specialists or other interested parties comment upon and suggest changes to the content of a document prior to its finalization, approval and dissemination. Specifically, it is the review element of the document creation process.

Whatever the document, the basic creation process is the same: create; review; finalize; approve; and finally, disseminate. I simply don’t see this process changing in the foreseeable future. No black swans there. 

PleaseTech operates in the B2B marketspace where disruptive new technology takes time to infiltrate. 

One area of disruption which impacts us is the ongoing Office suite apps battle between Google and Microsoft. The Microsoft Office Suite has, for the last 20 years, been the dominant application for the creation of documents, spreadsheets and presentations in the business world. Our competitive advantage is based around our deep understanding of Microsoft Word and, to a lesser extent, the remainder of the Office Suite. So is the Office Suite under attack? The answer is: yes - of course. The real question is: how successfully?

A couple of years ago it seemed that Google was making decent inroads into Microsoft’s market share However, with the undoubted success of Office 365, Microsoft is fighting back with companies now switching from Google Apps to Office 365. 

There is, of course, the whole cloud vs on premise debate. Whilst the cloud is a fine invention and our cloud business is growing rapidly, not everyone wants their valuable intellectual property in the cloud. 

Is a company really prepared to entrust valuable documents to a generic cloud? Obviously not, so we see on premise being equally as important as cloud and, that of course, is where Microsoft wins again with its Office Suite. Its commercial competitors are all 100% cloud based.

What about the future of documents themselves? With individuals entering the workforce now being classified as ‘digital natives’, does the whole concept of a ‘document’ go away? Is this our black swan? 

I’m of an age where I recall typing pools. Professional Engineers (as I was attempting to be as I entered the workforce back then) didn’t type their own documents. They were submitted to a typing pool, where they were created, printed and returned to you for review. A red pen was then used and the cycle continued. However, the introduction of PCs and word processors was a disruptive technology and the typing pool vanished. Yet, despite the disruption, the concept of paper document format lived on electronically with Adobe Acrobat. The delivery mechanism may have changed but the concept of a document is still very much alive. 

Do digital natives think the same way? The research suggests not. They think in social media terms and moving them beyond this is one of the challenges educators are having to deal with. Can we see contracts being agreed in informal language? I think not. One of the first lessons in business is understanding that the way something is worded can form the basis of a legal contract or instruction. The language used is all important. 

So it seems to be that the document creation process of create, review, finalize, approve, disseminate isn’t going to change anytime soon – certainly not in my business career and probably not in my children’s business career. 

It’s hard to see something replacing Word even with initiatives such as the Open Document Format (ODF) supported by the UK Government. However the whole point of a Black Swan event is that it comes out of left field and is extremely difficult to predict. So who knows what the future holds?

If you believe that document creation is as important as I do, I suggest you contact us at PleaseTech to find out how we could help you better face what the future might throw at you.

SharePoint again

Posted by David Cornwell on 17. March 2015 15:40

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


AIIM recently published its latest survey on SharePoint ‘Connecting and Optimizing SharePoint – important strategy choices’ and it has provoked a lot of comment. 

The survey collates information from over 400 organizations and identifies the fact that, whilst a minority of organizations (11%) reports that they have been successful in their use/deployment of SharePoint and that the project met its objectives, the majority haven’t (63%). The remainder (26%) appear to live in optimism - that if they continue to plug away they'll get there eventually. Technically the category was called ‘Just about there as planned and moving forward’. 

This survey paints a worse picture than the Forrester survey last year, which found that over 40% of respondents reported that their deployments of SharePoint overran the project timescale, mostly due to technical difficulties. 

Various reasons for this lack of success are given in the AIIM survey including lack of senior management buy-in, lack of training, lack of planning, lack of user buy-in, etc. Various defenders of SharePoint point out that only 22% of organizations are running the latest and greatest, namely SharePoint 2013, and that this explains the lack of user delight! 

Personally, as a user of Office 365 (i.e. the very latest version), I think that it is, unfortunately, a very long way from delighting users. The old expression ‘as user friendly as a cornered rat’ comes to mind. My view is endorsed by the fact that only 25% of respondents agreed with the statement ‘We have a good level of adoption and the users like it’. A full 60% of respondents identified that one of the ‘three biggest ongoing issues for SharePoint in their organization’ was ‘persuading users to manage and share their content in SharePoint and not elsewhere’.

So what happens when users find the technology getting in the way of productivity? The answer, as we all know, is that they develop a workaround. And so employees are starting to use things like Box, Dropbox and even OneDrive to share documents. As, indeed, are we. 

Despite all this, the report notes that less than 10% of organizations have replaced SharePoint or are considering a replacement. Surely a triumph of hope over experience, if ever there was one.

In my blog post on September 2nd last year I shared my hope that we were entering the ‘realistic SharePoint’ era. Maybe I was premature.  However, one assumes that, if (as reported) 90% of organizations have no intention to abandon SharePoint, they will need to become more realistic in their SharePoint objectives. This, I guess, in itself would bring on the realistic SharePoint era. 

My blog further suggested that in the realistic SharePoint era the reality that SharePoint can’t do everything would dawn. The good news is that there is some evidence that interest in 3rd party ‘add on’ solutions is increasing. The AIIM report suggests that 36% of organizations are using 3rd party add on tools. Hopefully, as organizations become more realistic about what can be achieved with SharePoint, more will start seeking out tools such as PleaseReview to enhance their SharePoint experience. 

PleaseReview is available fully integrated with both SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. So if you want a SharePoint based collaborative review and co-authoring solution that really works and want to join the 11% of organizations reporting success in their use and deployment of SharePoint, you know what to do! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every little thing they do is magic

Posted by Sarah Edmonds on 14. August 2014 09:51

The other half of marketing... Google


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.  

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