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

Document review is a non-trivial business problem for many companies

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!

 

The ‘realistic SharePoint’ era?

Posted by David Cornwell on 2. September 2014 12:54

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


Apparently when you are a CEO of a growing company there comes a tipping point when you stop telling everyone what to do and start being told by your staff what to do! "David, we need a blog entry from you on SharePoint" - was the command from marketing. So, being a dutiful, obedient servant to the cause, here it is.  

It was actually moderately topical because whilst on holiday with friends, a couple of us were chewing the cud over a glass or two and he was complaining that you can’t get SharePoint developers for love or money in central London. I questioned why they were developing in SharePoint but he didn’t know (he is an accountant and was only interested in the money side of the equation). Anyway, we talked through the ‘trough of disillusionment’ and whether we are entering the ‘post SharePoint’ era as some seem to believe. 

Personally, I don’t think we are entering the post SharePoint era but I do hope we are entering the ‘realistic SharePoint’ era. This is the era when  people work out what SharePoint does well and what it doesn’t do well. 

I guess it is what Gartner calls the ‘slope of enlightenment’ in its Hype Cycle model. In the model, the slope of enlightenment follows the 'trough of disillusionment' which follows the ‘peak of inflated expectations’. Check out this link for an overview of the model.

And, let’s be honest, expectations have been inflated. PleaseTech, along with many others I'm sure, suffers from IT departments the world over saying "SharePoint can do that ..... it’s the collaboration platform/it’s the records management platform/and it’s the [insert term here] platform."

In my opinion, this is partly the fault of the Microsoft hype. I’ve personally sat in presentations given by Microsoft personnel where they explain to the audience that SharePoint does everything and there is no need for anything else.  

Unfortunately, some people seem to have been listening to the presentations and appear to have been swayed by Microsoft's marketing. In the trade this is known as drinking the Microsoft 'kool aid'. They emerge from these sessions repeating in rote ‘SharePoint can do that’. 

No it can’t – not everything. Stop people. Take time to understand the problem (aka the requirement) and research the best method of delivering it. BTW, here is a clue: The answer is not always SharePoint. 

When it comes to PleaseReview and what it offers, SharePoint CAN’T DO IT.  Not out of the box, not with lots of clever development of workflow, not at all. And, the unfortunate thing is, organizations waste millions of dollars trying to make SharePoint do what PleaseReview does when all they have to do is buy a license from us, buy our SharePoint integration license, deliver to the business, save a load of development dollars and bask in the reflected glory of a job well done.  

Too often the end user client wants our software but has to fight tooth and nail with IT as their response is ‘SharePoint can do that’.

I am personally aware of several projects where thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars have been spent trying to make SharePoint do what PleaseReview does. Recently we had a series of emergency presentations with a prospect because the committee was meeting to approve a project which was going to throw ‘good money after bad’ and spend even more money on a failed SharePoint project. The project was trying to emulate PleaseReview functionality. I’m pleased to say that it appears, even at the 11th hour, that common sense has prevailed and PleaseReview looks like it will be the preferred option.

It seems that the basic problem is that, when it comes to SharePoint, the ‘Law of the Instrument’ (otherwise known as Maslow’s hammer) applies. The law is typified by the saying ‘if all you have is a hammer, all problems look like a nail’ and, what it means is, people become over reliant on familiar tools. 

This is perhaps why in their 'Collaborative Credentials'  report, the Mando Group (a UK based web design and SharePoint consultancy) have found that the majority of Microsoft SharePoint users are 'disillusioned' with SharePoint implementations. When you start to believe that every requirement simply needs hitting with the SharePoint hammer you lose sight of the fact that not every requirement resembles a nail. Sometimes it's better to screw things together, sometimes to glue them together and sometimes to weld them together. Hammers are blunt instruments, after all. 

So, I do look forward to the dawning of a new age, the age of ‘realistic SharePoint’. This will be an age in which there is a new sense of enlightenment, where there will be less kool aid consumed, where appropriate tools for the job in hand will be used and, as a consequence, where PleaseTech’s revenue will go through the stratosphere! Let the sun shine in!

For more information on how PleaseReview works with SharePoint, please visit our website or contact us.

  

 

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.  

Are you being served?

Posted by Barry Lyne on 31. July 2014 12:00

PleaseTech's VP of Sales


Hello to all our customers, prospects, followers and friends – it’s great to be part of the team at PleaseTech, working from our sunny (for the moment) offices in Malmesbury, UK.

My first impressions are that we have a great client base but there is much more opportunity for us to grow our revenues with new geographies and industry verticals. Product knowledge is vitally important in any sales role - I feel lucky that PleaseReview is so intuitive to use – and wish it had been available in previous companies, it would have made getting complex bids & proposals and other documents out such a breeze.

One of my key goals is to make it easier for potential customers to take advantage of our solutions, we recognize that in today’s ‘post-recession’ economy nobody is buying software unless they can demonstrate tangible business benefits and that is why we continue to focus on building tools to help our clients in this area.

David Cornwell, PleaseTech’s CEO observed in his latest blog post that clients are reporting their ‘document workload’ is increasing, mainly due to greater regulatory pressures and the growing need to be compliant. Close to my heart is how we, as a team, help our clients to evaluate, and importantly quantify the business benefits of PleaseReview. Some of you may be familiar with our Collaboration Questionnaire which helps individuals and companies assess their collaboration needs and the document processes they have in place within their organization. If you’ve completed the questionnaire please get in touch - we can also help you to quantify the real business benefits to your organisation using our ROI (return on investment) calculator. It’s a great tool developed using metrics gathered over many years so take advantage of this experience and discover how to solve the problem of your escalating ‘document workload’.

We have a very active conference and exhibition program and as my diary begins to fill up I am really looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible over the coming weeks and months. And if you’re not a customer yet please get in touch or watch our movie and let’s see if any of our solutions can help to make your job easier at the same time as helping your company be more efficient.

A decent ½ year and a couple of reflections

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.  

 

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