Chicago Tribune
12 March 2023

Document rules become bonanza for firm. By Jon Van

Once upon a time, corporate managers could pick and choose data management strategies they believed would boost productivity. If they didn’t want to bother, that was their business.

Those days are gone.

Federal requirements enacted since the September 2001 terrorist attacks and a spate of corporate scandals now leave public companies no choice but to automate data management. Federal prosecutors who want to see all correspondence about any given topic won’t take “we can’t find them” for an answer.

What is a burden to most businesses is proving a bonanza for Open Text Corp., a Lincolnshire firm that specializes in what is termed enterprise content management.

Open Text was founded in 1991 as a search engine firm based on Internet search technology developed at the University of Waterloo in Canada. It evolved into document management software, helping to engineer systems that enabled people to share documents created in disparate computer systems.

“We serve multinational clients like Motorola, Siemens and Boeing that do collaborative work around the globe,” said John Shackleton, the firm’s president and chief executive.

Now Open Text is getting a lot of business helping clients comply with information storage and retrieval requirements imposed by the Patriot Act, Sarbanes-Oxley and other federal laws.

“Public companies must have a process in place to save information and to find it,” said Shackleton. “It’s a huge task. Some banks generate 3 million e-mails daily. You have to archive meaningful documents–anything from e-mails, information from Web pages, Power Point presentations–and eventually voice mail messages will be included.

“Some describe this as similar to the preparations made for Y2K, except this isn’t a one-time event.”

About five years ago Open Text began helping clients from highly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals and aerospace comply with government record-keeping requirements. That experience helped the firm develop its information-management technology.

Open Text has about 13,000 customer deployments of products across 114 countries. It employs more than 2,100 people worldwide and projects revenues of $420 million to $450 million in fiscal 2005, more than double revenues for fiscal 2004.

While the information-management requirements are expensive, smart firms can use increased knowledge about operations to identify and promote best practices, Shackleton said. The ability to pull up just about any tidbit of data can have unexpected competitive advantages, he said.

“We had one client that calculated how many employees with disabilities it had working on projects,” he said. “That information helped to land a contract with a customer that valued workforce diversity.”

Competition quandary: Competitive pressures on telecom and tech companies–industry consolidation, disruptive new technologies, new foreign-based entrants–are well known to industry executives, but their response has been underwhelming.

A survey undertaken by the BPM Forum, the CMO Council and consultant A.T. Kearney found that two-thirds of executives said their firms haven’t instituted formal practices for tracking and analyzing competition.

“U.S.companies risk falling behind global forces that are reshaping the competitive landscape,” said John Ciacchella, a Kearney vice president.

In the survey, executives rated their firms’ response to competition as fair to good.

“This is not good enough,” said Ciacchella. “Too few are putting in place the formal processes needed to adequately assess, act and measure their progress in this more intense competitive environment.”