Back at the beginning of May, I was interviewed by Tino Da Silva Business Radio - an online radio station based in the UK. We got into some high level discussions about what document control and project control are as well as Tina5s (of course!). Below you'll find the audio version as well as edited transcripts if you prefer to read.
Here's The Audio:
Here's an Edited Transcript:
Tino: Okay, well welcome back to Business Radio, my name is Tino coming to you today from Holbrook. For those of you who know me, I always come from Holbrook, for those of you who don't, welcome to the show. I'm privileged to have with me today Steve from Tina5s who's all the way over in Canada and I'm really excited because it's the first time I've done one of these so Steve, welcome to the show.
Steve: Hi Tino, how are you?
Tino: I'm good. I'm really, really excited, can you tell by face? Would you please just tell us what is it that you do?
Steve: Sure. Our software is all about helping engineering project teams manage and control the documents and files that they’re authoring and processing throughout the project. Tina is in the Cloud, which is awesome because we can connect people and their project information very quickly from anywhere. Tina comes with all the features of Dropbox with a pile of additional features that give the engineering project team everything they need to take care of all the challenges associated with authoring, processing, releasing and archiving their project documents.
Tino: All in one place?
Steve: Yes – all in one place.
Tino: Must be really handy then in terms of file sharing without having to send stuff around.
Steve: Yes. Electronic File Sharing and Synchronization solutions like Dropbox are popular. We start where EFSS solutions stop and are focused on file management and control. There are a lot of issues that we're solving for. One of the big ones is search. Engineering teams are typically reusing the information they create and they have to find it and version it up. Finding information's quite a challenge if you're still using network drives Windows file folders to take care of and warehouse your information.
Tino: What's the price? Do people sign up on your website and then they logon and then upload the files?
Steve: Yes, absolutely. Typical of most Cloud solutions, the signup process is very quick – it takes about a minute. The first two accounts are free and we charge $39 per user per month for additional accounts. Tina’s quite sophisticated and there's a little bit of hand-holding required so we offer a free service to help people get on board, start using Tina, get it configured to meet their needs. We've driven a lot of features into the product to automate document control activities. Document control itself is a specialized discipline. Typically engineering and project managers hire document controllers to take care of a lot of the administrative aspects of managing and controlling information. Tina helps the document controllers streamline their day and ultimately reduces the administrative burden for getting these project documents authored, processed, released and ultimately archived (or versioned up).
Tino: To a lay person, could you explain or give us a better understanding of document control?
Steve: Sure. There are no formal definitions out there and depending on who you ask they're going tell you a different story. Here’s mine. At a very high level, document control really is all about knowing where information is, where it has been and what its state is and was at any time. While engineering documents are being authored they have to be locked down and controlled by the person who's authoring the information. This prevents file overwriting. From an access control perspective, you certainly don't want to have folks who are building things accessing information that has not yet been approved and released. Just knowing and understanding where documents are at all times, what life cycle state they're in, who's got them, where they're going, where they've been. That type of traceability underpins document control.
Tino: So you're talking areas where you have designers designing something and then you've got a production team who will be able to see that information at some stage?
Steve: Right. You've typically got two types of people: people who are authoring or creating the content and people who are going to consume that information; the shop floor, the manufacturing team or the construction team so they can actually build whatever has been designed.
Tino: Typically who are you looking for?
Steve: Organizations who really need Tina are companies that recognize that they have a need for document control. They're either paying good wages to document controllers, or thinking about hiring them. Without tools like Tina, document control is labor intensive with lots of running around. That’s because the document control team will be using primitive tools like Network Drives, email and spreadsheets. That's primarily what a lot of the document controllers are doing, they're running around to make sure people have the right information, that whatever information that’s created is progressing and moving along as it's getting authored because everyone's working towards a document release point. Engineering projects are all about the scheduled release of documents and files. So, we’re looking for engineering companies that recognize the need for document control and see value in moving on from a primitive tool set – network drives, email and spreadsheets.
Tino: In a way it also takes care of your project management because it kind of does that as well for you, doesn't it?
Steve: Yes, that's actually a big piece of Tina. Because we're in the Cloud and the way we've designed and built Tina, we have an analytics engine that's always gathering useful information behind the scenes. For example, we know when a file gets saved, we know who saved it and we know what was saved. So we can track document work package progress based on a simple parameter like file saves. If files are not getting worked on they're not getting saved and that type of information's going be important to a project manager who's trying to track a pile of documents that ultimately are due for release say next week. If the PM can see on his dashboard that there are three or four documents that are just not getting any attention, that's very useful and important information – the PM can see what’s amiss, ask the right questions early and steer the project to keep it out of the ditch.
Tino: A while ago there was a big issue with Cloud being hacked and so on, what sort of security do you offer people who want to come on your Cloud website?
Steve: Good question. We're rolling out a product right now for a defense contractor and security's top of our list for that reason. We do have a lot of business in the defense sector so paying attention to and addressing all those security concerns has been very, very important to us from the beginning.
Ultimately there's a lot of things that can be done and we do from a design and deployment perspective to make sure that security is fully addressed. The weakest link is often the user so giving user the right tools to make sure that their account does not get hacked is important. We all have the nightmare of 100+ passwords and if you're not doing things right you might have one password you use for 100 different accounts, that's when you run into a lot of problems. We’ve built in two-factor authentication which requires users to validate through their mobile phone or device when logging in. This a big defence against spear-phishing and threats along those lines.
Tino: Okay so what we're saying is that people who register will have a two factor and two factor means that a mobile phone may be used to be sent an authentication as well as having to logon.
Steve: That's correct.
Tino: In the UK we have something called Data Protection Act, which Congress has to comply with. What do you guys have in Canada?
Steve: Well that's a good question. We have a Privacy Act and most countries have some sort of variation of what you just described. We don't share any personal or business information with anyone ever. Users pay affordable monthly user fees based on the number of users and for that reason we do not sell customer information – we don’t make any money off of advertising. It's extremely important at the end of day, locking our systems down to make sure all customer information is safe and secure. Ultimately we're very customer-focused; customer data and information is theirs. We're not a Facebook, we're not Google; we're not in that market. Our customers pay for the service they get and we understand the imperative to be very, very careful with their information.
Tino: I'd like to move away from the secure side of things. I really would like to focus more on the benefits of using your Cloud system.
Steve: There are three key things that are going to be important to companies that sign up for Tina. The first key benefit is productivity. Studies have shown that people working on engineering projects can spend up to an hour a day just looking for information. Based on my experience as a working engineer, this is valid. Tina has potent search features – users can find what they need very quickly. This means the same team of engineers can get the project finished more quickly at a lower cost – which makes their clients happy.
We work in Alberta right now so we're going through a fairly significant downturn in the energy sector and for that reason people are becoming a lot more cost-conscious. The clients of the engineering companies we're selling our software to are squeezing the them to get things done at lower costs. Productivity is getting a lot of attention as the moment.
The second key benefit is compliance. If you're an engineering company that's working in a regulated environment, compliance is quite important. A big piece of what Tina does is it just automates all the record keeping which sets you up extremely well for audits by outside parties. Tina makes audits painless.
The third key benefit is safety. Safety means different things to different people. I used to work as an aerospace engineer. I spent the first two decades of my career working as a structures engineer so the implications of, say the shop floor using an old stale version of one of my repair designs could be quite profound. Worst case, a repair built to a stale version of a repair document could bring down an aircraft and people could die. So these types of things are very, very important in the aerospace sector as well as other industries where the misapplication of information, the wrong version, could result in loss of life or an asset or loss of revenue because an asset is out of service.
In summary, there are productivity benefits, compliance benefits and safety benefits.
Tino: Sounds like there's huge cross-segment there for any manufacturing company?
Steve: Yes. Getting engineers off of network drives and Windows file folders is really the ultimate aim of Tina. This approach to organizing information is not new – it came from the Vertical Filing Cabinet, which was invented in 1898. You're talking about a 120 year old approach to information management. This is how many engineering companies are working nowadays, network drives, Windows file folders, Excel spreadsheets, email and a lot of people scurrying around trying to find the information that they need. That's really the problem that we're solving.
Tino: Steve, how did you come up with a name such as Tina5?
Steve: Tina is an acronym that stands for Team INtegration Architecture. However, I’ve come to see Tina as a human name – the indispensable project team member who will help engineers find what they need and keep everyone organized and up to speed on what’s going on with the project. '5s' is a term that was pioneered by the Japanese, in support of Just-In-Time manufacturing. It's the five things that you need to do to improve workspace efficiency and effectiveness: short, send in order, shine, standardize and sustain, so it's really all about organizing your information.
Tino: I'm on your website now, it looks very informative, there's lots going on here. There's a blog there and contact us, support and pricing so people can get a good idea of how much it's going to cost straightaway.
Steve: We've been working hard to boost our online presence. We're putting a lot of time and effort right now into digital marketing. We're focused primarily on inbound marketing at the moment, which really is all about getting blogs written that are going to help people navigate down the sales path to ultimately choose a solution like Tina. That's the focus of the blogs right now, so we're heavy, heavy into the blogging at the moment.
Tino: I think I'd like to point out also that you have two free accounts.
Steve: Yes, we do. Our objective is to remove as few barriers as we can to getting businesses to explore and check out Tina. Not only do we offer the two free accounts but we give them enough storage so they can go and actually do a full assessment of Tina. And we offer free support to help them get up and running. Our objective is to show people that Tina can be a valuable member of their team and get them to a point where they're ready to actually dive in with live data as quick as possible.
Tino: Steve, one more question - why should I choose cloud software over installed?
Steve: That's a great question, I'm glad you asked it. When you buy software, you can buy it the old way which really means that you're going to pay lots of money up front to get executables; software you're going to load up on your network, individual PCs and laptops. You’ll typically pay substantial annual maintenance fees. You’ll be responsible for buying and maintaining the servers and hiring the people to do this. That's the traditional way of buying.
The Cloud's blown that paradigm up, really over the last ten years and I think the Cloud has really come into its own now. Cloud solutions remove all the IT headaches because they’re hosted on the vendor’s infrastructure. And cloud solutions are usually offered as a service – we charge $39 per user per month with no up-front fees. And you only pay for what you use. This has greatly simplified the buy cycle so you don't have to talk to as many sales guys, it's not a traditional sales approach. You can basically try stuff now at very little cost and very little risk using cloud products like Tina. There's nothing that you have to install. You typically get big company features for very low monthly fees so it's a very low risk purchase.
Because you get a very powerful software package that is delivered to you at ultimately a very low cost and you just pay as you use, so that's a huge, huge benefit to people. Big company features at a very low cost. There's no IT overhead so that's massive too. If you have no installed software, you don't have to go buy servers, you don't have to upgrade your hardware infrastructure and you don't have to hire people to take care of -
Steve: Exactly, support. It's actually a very quick way to unify global project teams and different companies. Basically if you have an email account, and I’m the Project Manager, I can get you sorted out with an Tina5s account and on my system and provide you with access to my project data and information within minutes, so it's a very quick way to unify teams around the globe. Those are really the big benefits of the Cloud.
Tino: How long have you been in business?
Steve: We started off as a service company only and we kicked that off in 2004. We started development of our Tina cloud solution in 2012.
Tino: What sort of plans do you have over the next 12 months?
Steve: It's a big heavy marketing focus at the moment. Tina's going to live and grow through inbound marketing. Eventually I'll be growing out an inside sales team. We're automating as much as possible right off the hop here so we're leveraging tools like HubSpot to help us get things moving that much quicker. I'll be hiring in a sales team over the next 12 months. We'll be getting a business plan refined, we have one, of course, already but refinements are going to be made to that based on what we learn over the next 12 months and we'll be seeking out investors to help us grow the company far more quickly after we get through the next 12 months.
Tino: Steve, wonderful having you on the show. How do people find out more?
Steve: Check out our website at tina5s.com.
Tino: Amazing. Steve from Tina5s, it's a pleasure. Have a nice day.
Steve: Thanks very much Tino. Nice to meet you.
Tino: Guys, this is Tino from Business Radio. Stay with us or visit our website which is businessradio.co.uk. Thanks for listening, enjoy the rest of your week.