Interview: How OpenText ECM Extends Content Services into Business Processes

A longer version of this Q&A, with OpenText's Muhi Majzoub first appeared in CMSWire.

When Gartner declared enterprise content management dead in January 2017, some saw it as a publicity stunt, others saw it as a natural progression. Whatever your opinion, it marked a turning point for those in the content management industry.

Content management vendors, such as OpenText, are going through a fundamental change.

Content management currently is undergoing a transformational change, driven by new capabilities and functionality and a growing awareness of the role effective information management plays in many current initiatives.

I've been speaking with leaders in the content management field to hear their take on the changes underway. Over the course of the year, we’ll be posting interviews by Lane of industry leaders at Alfresco Software, IBM, Veeva, Microsoft and others.

The OpenText view on extending content services into business.

Today we speak with Muhi S. Majzoub, executive vice president, engineering and IT at OpenText. Majzoub is responsible for corporate and commercial IT, including cloud services. Prior to joining the company in 2012, Majzoub held executive positions at NorthgateArinso, CA Technologies and Oracle.

Lane Severson: It’s an exciting time in the content management industry. Businesses are adopting capabilities like cloud, open source software (OSS), machine learning, as well as innovative ways of working, like DevOps and Agile, to experiment and deploy new solutions more quickly. It seems like we might be at an inflection point. What are you seeing that gets you excited these days?

Muhi Majzoub: Two things get me excited right now. The first is the mind shift across the industry when it comes to content services. OpenText has been a long-time advocate of using content services to extend ECM into business processes and into the applications where that business process happens. Our customers have been incredibly successful using this model, and it is exciting to see how content services now are being used to transform their digital business processes.

Artificial intelligence is the most exciting development in ECM.

The second, artificial intelligence [AI], is the most exciting new development in the industry today. We have just scratched the surface here. AI is changing the way we look at information and automation. It is changing human to machine interactions, it is changing how we automate processes and it is providing advanced analytics, insights and predictions.

AI will be at the heart of intelligent enterprises. OpenText is investing in making the information we manage more valuable by mining structured information from unstructured content and automating business processes that humans typically have not really been very good at.

Severson: There’s a lot of pressure on organizations to deliver products and services at a lower cost with a higher level of quality and customer experience, while also providing value to their shareholders. Where should your clients be looking within their portfolio for high value opportunities?

ECM and the automation of business processes.

Majzoub: Automation brings many high-value opportunities. The automation of business processes affects many of the metrics shareholders care about. Automation improves productivity, lowers costs, and improves quality and compliance.

Automating mundane and/or time-consuming activities improves employee satisfaction and allows people to focus on the higher-level tasks that typically lead to things like better customer experiences.

Severson: Every time I talk to a client about issues they face, information security and customer privacy are at the top of their list. Do you see anyone who is really cracking the code on this issue? What are best-in-class firms doing to address these issues with content management?

How security and customer privacy have become top of mind for businesses.

Majzoub: With regulations like GDPR and the recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal capturing headlines recently, security and customer privacy are top of mind for all businesses. Information is the agent of change in the digital world. Organizations must manage information, but the regulatory landscape is complex.

At its root, data privacy protection is about good information management. Amongst our customers, we see that those organizations that have committed to information governance programs have a good handle on security and privacy. They can already answer questions like: what data is considered sensitive? Where is it? Who has access to it (and should they)?

Organizations that already have the best practices and have been using our technology to manage the lifecycle of information already have a lot of the tools necessary to respond to the requirements of new privacy regulations like GDPR.

We are taking many of the best practices developed with our customers over the years and making them available through security and privacy readiness programs to make sure organizations that are just starting these programs can have the right processes and technologies in place to garner trust from their customers.

Severson: Gartner claimed last year that ECM is dead and content services are the way of the future. In my mind, ECM always has been a strategy that had a variety of technologies supporting it. Semantics aside, where do you see the content services approach providing value to the industry?

Is ECM, as a concept, to be replaced by content services?

Majzoub: I agree with you. A major benefit of Gartner’s redefined view is that it places business outcomes at the heart of the definition. This has always been our approach: looking to enhance business processes and applications with content services.

Content services will have the greatest impact in overcoming many of the shortfalls and issues associated with content management in the past. Many of the things that were done in good conscience in ECM projects have been disastrous to success and adoption. In the name of control and findability, we have all seen onerous metadata, complex folder structures, confusing permissions.

For a view of the future of ECM, see my post earlier this year: A Look Ahead at ECM in 2018, from Both the Vendor and Customer Sides.

Modern content management helps add value to information.

Severson: A huge failure of content management projects in the past was the focus on just archiving a final copy of a piece of content after the business process was over. We talk to people all the time who haven’t gotten value from their investment in content management. Doesn’t the magic happen when you combine flexible process engines and a scalable archive?

Majzoub: This is exactly what we have been building to: changing the way we look at content management is the real magic. For too long, we have based our view of content management on the analog process of filing paper in physical cabinets. Once the business process is complete, we file the important information, most likely never to be used again, but safely stored for audit, compliance and continuity purposes.

When we look at content services as a way to embed content management directly into a business process, making it completely transparent to the end-user, we see great things happen when it comes to adoption. We also see great things happen when it comes to the value of that information.

When we contextualize documents with information from the business process, we can surface them automatically in down-stream processes. Our customers can report on them, and we are even seeing customers using their archives as part of their data lakes, combining it with other information to create new value.

Digital transformation is the platform to bolster business innovation and customer success.

Severson: “Digital Transformation” means a lot of different things to different people. But at the core, the issue facing organizations is they have lots of siloed processes and legacy technology investments and somehow they need to turn those challenges into opportunities. What tips can you offer to organizations struggling with this issue?

Majzoub: First off, businesses need to look beyond the term and think about what the process truly means for them. Digital transformation is much more than replacing paper-based processes. Digital transformation has become the platform to bolster business innovation and customer engagement for success.

Efficiency, usability and insight are three foundational pillars that help support and drive digital transformation.

Severson: We can imagine a world where artificial intelligence becomes a common part of the toolkit. What would it look like if you were to imagine really good AI working in concert with all of these elements of content management we’ve been discussing?

Majzoub: OpenText helps customers manage enormous amounts of structured and unstructured information, we connect and automate supply chains, we manage and secure IoT devices, and we already use AI and automation to tackle really big problems like legal review, intelligent capture and contract analytics. We see AI as a way to understand and open up this information.

We are thinking about things like conversational queries. We also see AI and automation as an exponential force on data, creating a cycle of more data, more use cases, and even more AI.

The next decade is going to be very, very interesting!


Rich Medina
Lane Severson
I’m a Practice Leader, managing relationships with Doculabs’ West Coast clients to improve information management and security.