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A Useful Solution for Document Collaboration

One of the fundamental tasks for an information worker is creating and revising documents based on the feedback of multiple users. In my own case, I am frequently working on documents with multiple reviewers, such as white papers that are sent to several clients for feedback. We normally go through several review cycles on the typical document, sending each draft via email, with the need to incorporate feedback—sometimes on the same sentences or paragraphs—from several different people. While there are some useful tools available in Microsoft Word to facilitate the review process, the tools are fairly basic and lots of work is required to ensure that all of the feedback we receive is accurately integrated into each new draft.

I recently was briefed by PleaseTech, a UK-based firm that focuses on solutions specifically designed to address these types of problems. The company offers two products:

  • PleaseReview is a document review tool that manages the process of reconciling multiple reviewers’ changes, comments and annotations. The solution enables multiple reviewers to work on the same documents simultaneously, both online and offline, using a browser-based interface.
  • PleaseAuthor is a component-based authoring tool that enables the creation of documents using pre-authored blocks of content.

PleaseReview offers a number of useful features, such as confidential review, in which each reviewers’ comments and changes are not available to other reviewers; and the ability to limit particular users’ edits to specific “zones” within a document. Because the review process tracks changes in a database and not in the native document application (Word, PDF, etc.), an independent audit trail can be established for all changes to a document. This is particularly important in compliance-focused environments.

The fundamental benefits of tools like those offered by PleaseTech are time and cost savings for those who create and review documents—PleaseTech claims that the use of its tools can reduce review cycles by up to 65%, and that it can deliver savings of 35% in the cost of producing documents. Moreover, the ability to create, review and publish documents more quickly can provide a number of less tangible benefits, such as faster delivery of proposals, an enhanced ability to comply with specific legal requirements, eliminating at least some of the disconnect that can occur when collaborators are separated by geography, better version control, and less reliance on emailing documents to collaborators.

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