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May 17, 2013updated 19 Aug 2016 9:26am

Marc Benioff is wrong: all-cloud is too extreme

A Q&A with Mark Barrenechea, the CEO of Canadian enterprise information management firm, OpenText.


Mark Barrenechea

How is OpenText staying relevant given the latest megatrends like Big Data?

We have the world’s top three shipping container companies as customers. They’re dealing with two to four million invoices per day. Every customer, every piece of cargo in every container – you get into trillions pretty fast. They need to store, search, secure [their data] and handle payment processing too. That’s an original Big Data problem, and that’s the core of what we’ve always focused on.

I know analysts started with three ‘v’s of Big Data: data’s volume, variety and velocity. Since then I’ve heard others add value, and voracity. You could probably add more…

Veni, vidi, vici? It’s at least a five ‘v’ problem but I think we’re taking a slightly different approach. Big Data analytics are getting a lot of noise, how you analyse Twitter and that sort of thing. But we think the next generation of software is enterprise information management. CIOs have extracted the value out of their ERP systems but 80% of a firm’s information is unstructured. They need to find it, manage it, secure it, and build apps around it. Case management, contract management, asset management.

We think there are three main information pillars: ERP, enterprise information management, and email.

But look, everything we build is available on-premise or in the cloud. We offer a hybrid solution. There are some who like the idea of Software as a Service [SaaS] and some who are more traditional and want to keep it ‘on-prem’. Our cloud business is profitable. We make more money than NetSuite and Workday.

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There are those though who would argue that it’s impossible for a software company to effectively be both a cloud provider and offer more traditional client-server software. Marc Benioff [ CEO] for example, would say cloud is the future…

He’s wrong. There’s no other way to say it, and Marc is a friend of mine. The world does not live in those extremes of all in the cloud or all ‘on-prem’. Take something like DropBox. There are some customers who would never put their data in the cloud. We work with the European Central Bank, with the Bank of England. They’ll never put their data in a cloud hosted in America.

Cloud is really an American phenomenon if you think about it. Customers like the ease of use and the business model, but I think Marc is wrong. Another of our customers is Bundesbank; are they going to put stuff in the cloud?

OK what about another big trend then, social?

I do think social is transformative. It’s not just a new module, it’s ‘re-platforming’ whole enterprises. It’s like portals – the way employees and customers rethink how they interact with each other. They were a new way of gaining access. Social is just as important.

We have something called OpenText Tempo Social, which is like a private Facebook for enterprises. That’s going to be the interface to all of our software. The G20 already uses it, it’s a completely new way to interact. We’re moving social componentry into our developer kit, too.

The CEO of Atos Origin wants his firm to do away with internal email altogether and use more social type tools…

While I agree social is powerful and another way to communicate, one wonders whether it will eliminate other forms of communications. Time will tell but I’m skeptical. As a CEO it’s his role to set out extremes to make a point. That said, I have 4,000 users on Tempo Social [in OpenText]. Engineers share information between India and the US, project teams share ideas, presales folk talk about opportunities.

How does mobile impact the content management space?

Mobile is how you run your life, how I run my life. Employees are on the move and interacting with many different systems: Android, iOS, Microsoft. It’s any device, any time. It’s also a whole new way of thinking about apps. Mobility will see a whole new class of apps; we’re all over mobility.

In the information management market you are competing with some of the industry giants: IBM, Oracle, HP, EMC and so on. How do you compete with their deep marketing and R&D pockets?

Markets evolve. We think our focus is our differentiator. I have 5,100 employees focused on enterprise information management. EMC also has to think about hardware, virtualisation. It’s the same thing at HP, which by the way has written off almost the entire value of its Autonomy acquisition.

OpenText has made a fair few acquisitions over the years – Hummingbird, Global 360, Vignette. Are acquisitions still high on the agenda?

We’ll continue to grow organically as well as to acquire. In each case we assess the time to market to decide whether it’s better to build or buy. We bought Resonate Technologies in March because it had been a fantastic partner offering the visualisation of unstructured information, and we wanted to bring that to all of our customers.

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