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.