Lessons We Learned at Enterprise World 2014 OTEW2014

Four days ago, they cavorted at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at University Studios in Orlando, Fla.

Today, they are probably in front of their computers, logged into their OpenText Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system, managing, storing, archiving, finding and tracking enterprise information.

Goodbye Harry Potter Hogwarts Express. Hello Harry the IT guy.

It's a cruel dichotomy. We know. 

We learned after attending last week's OpenText's annual Enterprise World conference at the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort. 

And it wasn't the only thing we learned.

ECM's Hard

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For the 2,000 or attendees of the conference, we learned this is not easy work. It's tough as an ECM manager. Thankless. Get me information. Get me the right information. Comply with government rules and restrictions from hundreds of clients. With a small staffs.

Oh, and get it now.

It's not pretty, either. As much as OpenText and other software companies have done to make the UI experience better -- the company's senior vice president of engineering, Muhi Majzoub, boasted to us about some "modern interfaces" -- it's still document management at the end of the day and usually looks something like this:

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It's not a bad thing. It's just life in ECM.

That's the sense we got mingling with the OpenText users last week in Orlando. Like the IT colleagues who work for a medical-device company whose enterprise information data capacity is in the terabytes. 

There's about a handful of them -- managing information for about 15,000 employees worldwide on the technology behind OpenText's Content Server. They're not on the latest version and don't plan to be.

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Avoiding the upgrade headaches are worth it for some, like Alaina McKnight, a systems analyst at Jacobs Technology who told us told us an upgrade on a platform like Content Server is "never easy." 

The numbers for the 8,200-employee Waterloo, ON, provider speak for themselves. They're growing -- after the $1 billion acquisition of the 3,000-ish-employee GXS earlier this year, OpenText still plans another $3 billion in acquisitions, company officials told us this week in Orlando.

They still have loyal customers, too.

One 15-year veteran of the OpenText technology -- who also works in the medical industry with state and federal compliance responsibility -- has used the tech since it was Livelink, OpenText's first flagship ECM suite now called Content Server.

He called OpenText one of the true original ECM providers because of the fact they've stayed true to that space -- while, of course, expanding a bit.

Customer Support Matters

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CMSWire caught up with Donna Andonian, application specialist for San Diego, Calif.-based McKenna Long & Aldridge. She switched from the Autonomy ECM product to OpenText following a corporate acquisition.

Initially, she was not happy initially with OpenText's customer support. Three years later, however, she said she's pleased with the improvement. She cited the increased access to engineers.

OpenText's Majzoub told us the efforts of James McGourlay, OpenText's senior vice president of worldwide customer service, has helped. He called him a "world class support executive," and OpenText's engineer leaders and support staff chiefs are "connected at the hip."

Further, OpenText's customer advisory board proactively communicates with end users, even those not privy to the company's "knowledge" community. OpenText, and Majzoub himself, often each those customers on social circles like LinkedIn.

"We take customer service to heart and are doing a lot better," he said.

Core a Boon?

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OpenText's big reveal in Orlando was its business information management service that sits on a private cloud and offers secure social and collaboration features -- OpenText Core.

Alister Grigg, managing director of OpenText technology partner and Cremorne, Australia-based Fastman, said he doesn't see customers diving into the OpenText platform just because it's got a cloud offering. 

The most important pillars of an ECM? Risk, compliance and operational efficiency, according to Grigg.

"When people buy the product, you can boil their business case to one of those three things," Grigg said. "OpenText like all other vendors has to live in the modern world. People want cloud for operational efficiencies, cost and speed of deployment. But every vendor does that."

So in other words -- OpenText's bread and butter will always come back to Grigg's three pillars for ECM technology -- and not necessarily the cloud. He said it'll be interesting to see adoption rates of the OpenText Core platform at this time next year.

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Tiago Gavinhos, CEO at Sao Paulo, Brazil's VILT group, an OpenText partner, told CMSWire Core's a "step in the right direction."

Though he had yet to take a deep dive into the offering, he wondered if it would be limited in things like records management, workflows and metadata.

"It's probably not there yet, but I think they'll cover it in time," he said.

Majzoub told CMSWire that anything OpenText builds on-premise it can extend into the cloud in the future.