Episode Thirty-Six: Gaining An Information Advantage

Why Every Software Company Is A Data Company

Every software company is a data company. And if you're just a software automation company and you're not paying attention to your data, then you're not going to reach your full potential.

We are joined by Mark Barrenechea, Vice Chair, CEO and CTO of OpenText who shares his view on how a post-COVID world will ignite an information advantage in business, as well as a fundamental change to the nature of work. He also discussed the importance of ensuring strong ethics and trust in the multi-layered aspects of supply chains and M&A activity.

(Please note that this podcast was recorded remotely.)

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The Power of Data Podcast

Episode 36: Gaining An Information Advantage

Guest: Mark Barrenechea, Vice Chair, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer at OpenText
Interviewer: Sam Tidswell-Norrish, International CMO, Dun & Bradstreet

Sam 00:00
Hi, welcome back. You're joined by me Sam, international Chief Marketing Officer at Dun and Bradstreet. And today I have the huge privilege of being joined by a captain of industry from Canada, Mark Barrenechea, Vice Chair, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer at OpenText. Welcome, Mark.

Mark 00:18
Sam. Hello. Great to be with you today.

Sam 00:20
Thank you. And this is a real privilege and one of the few silver linings from COVID-19. Normally, we would have to be in person to do this. And now we get to do a transatlantic podcast over zoom. And other than being there and having the rapport in person is just as good. So one of the things we'll be talking about today is the power of technology and communication, of which both of our firms are at the heart of so you've had an extensive career, you've held very senior positions in companies like Oracle CA Rackable Systems. Could you tell us a little bit about your career and your journey to becoming the chief executive of Canada's largest software company?

Mark 00:57
Yes, Sam would be delighted to you know, I started As a programmer, writing C and c++ code, and you know, through time had a variety of mentors and good career pathing became, you know, a manager, then an architect, and then began to lead and engineering divisions made my way to Oracle, where I led a good portion of the applications division, working for Mr. Ellison directly at Oracle. And we just have always kind of maintained a view that, you know, I try to wake up every day and, and make a difference and have an impact. And that sort of led me to connecting with OpenText and getting to know the board and the leadership, and then joining them as CEO and CTO about 10 years ago.

Sam 01:45
Wow. And if I'm right, you became the President and the CEO in January 2012. And then it was like four years later, you took on the role of Chief Technology Officer, which is clearly a testament to your deep understanding of technology as we just heard. What was it that made you personally want to take on the CTO role?

Mark 02:02
Well, we're a technology company. And I want to continue to stay very close to the technology. You know, it's still early days in digitalization and cloudification. And just as you know, you kicked off today. Look at all the accelerated conversations around digitalization. How work from home is going to forever change the nature of home, which is home and work, and a playground, and a gym, and a school and the technology that's going to drive behind it. So being CTO allows me to stay very close to help shape our direction and engage deeply in customer and transformation discussions.

Sam 02:42
Yeah, you're absolutely right. And I've been looking forward to this conversation for a while. I was doing a bit of research for this earlier this week. And you were speaking on the podcast and it was called speaking of business about a month ago. And the tagline was, there's gonna be a new normal, and I couldn't agree more. I mean, I'd be naive not to, but we're heading a lightning pace towards this digital singularity. We're never gonna be able to slow it down again. And yes, it is early days in digitization, and it's early days ultimately for technology companies like OpenText or even 108 year old data business like, like D&B, but we've never needed or been so reliant on technology and the connectivity that enables you guys were recently actually named a leader for customer comms by IDC earlier this month, which is an amazing accolade, in terms of social distancing. So can you maybe tell our listeners a little bit about OpenText, how you empower companies to drive growth and productivity, particularly in a time like this?

Mark 03:41
Yeah, happy to kind of brainstorm a little bit here with you. You know, I used a sort of a moniker pre-COVID where I was articulating in the early days of digital, we've never been this busy, but we'll never be this slow again. And just talking about the pace of change and the pandemic is just going to have structural shifts, it's going to create structural shifts, hybrid work will be here forever. You know, home is no longer home, right – it’s home, it's work, it’s a school, It’s a gym. The direct to consumer is going to get just completely accelerated. Supply chains - you know, after the Great Recession supply chains got reordered to just in time, this great lockdown will transform supply chains. So, I mean, I think there are going to be a couple of very pivotal technologies that are just gonna accelerate digital. One is data companies, you know, such as Dun and Bradstreet. The second is the automation around data. And those are the things that we do at OpenText. We’re a platform to help enable remote work, to help manage and create agile supply chains. We’ve got a big security and data protection practice as well. So pre-COVID the world was about really getting the process advantage. I think post-COVID, and in the new normal, it's going to be about the information advantage. And I think the world is going to shift in digital to kind of getting the processes right, to getting the data and information, right.

Sam 05:13
I love that. You've just said that the data businesses and automation businesses will accelerate the New World normal. And I think you're right, if I remember correctly, it's part of your company slogan and identity, unlocking the information advantage, I think. Yeah, I often talk to people about this, you know, Dun and Bradstreet is a very old business, it's almost an oxymoron to say it's 180-year old data business. But the reality is, its time is just coming. It has never been a more exciting time to be business intelligence. And I really do believe that the atrocities unfortunately of COVID-19 are going to accelerate the necessity of what we as companies do, to help other companies survive, to help other companies grow to help other companies continue to employ and it's going to be exciting This there's a huge responsibility. I think for firms out there. Do you feel that responsibility?

Mark 06:04
Oh, absolutely. I do think in technology, there is a kind of a clear distinction between kind of process automation and data automation, they are two very different things. And no doubt that, the better the process, the better the data you produce, and the better the data you produce, the stronger the process, so they sort of live in simpatico. And every software company is also a data company. And if you're just a software automation company, and you're not paying attention to your data, then you're not going to reach your full potential. And I think with that comes great responsibility. Now we look at this era of pandemic and it's about trust and truthfulness; that the reason you and I can do our podcast today's we know each other, it's a trusted relationship. So, we're going to lean on trust and truthfulness really hard in this era. And that translates not just to how we behave and how we interact, but what we automate and how we use the data that we generate. It needs to be truthful, it needs to be trusted. And it needs to be used for the good.

Sam 07:05
Poetry because one of the things I've been talking about actually and I was speaking to one of the big four chairman earlier this week, and we spoke about how the world's going to change. And I think there's a scary generational divide, that could be coming between the elderly and the young generations and juxtaposed financial versus physical healths. But one of the other big, interesting areas I think, is going to be how public and private sectors will have to be far more tightly integrated as government wants to become more deeply involved in business in terms of long-term value. And at the very heart of that is what OpenText and D&B have been doing for a long, long time. It's creating trust and credibility and knowing who you're doing business with and what you're doing. It's a really, really important business principle, the trust piece. And actually, that brings me nicely to a partnership that we recently announced. We announced it just over a month ago at a meeting or just under in fact, where we integrated D&B data and insights to build trust and minimize risk in supply chains into your OpenText trading grid capability, which is a super powerful supplier sourcing and onboarding platform. Can you tell us a little bit about the platform and the importance of combining our two capabilities as you kind of spoke a little bit earlier?

Mark 08:22
Very happy to. So, we're a leading provider of a business network that brings together, digitally, trading partners. And this community, this digital community, runs the world's largest supply chains. From Procter and Gamble, Nestle, Citibank Cash Management, Auto, Airlines, all the top industries. And what our platform allows is to set up those who you trade with, be able to connect that to all your systems and then manage your digital supply chains. One of the things we saw together with Dun and Bradstreet was - let's get to an industry standard to recognize those companies, those trading partners, and let's get a unique ID that's trusted. So, we've integrated Dun and Bradstreet into our trading community. So, we can now identify through a trusted leader, yourselves, to validate trading partner. And that was important in the world of digital. It's important in the world when we're working remote. Second thing we wanted to do was to enrich our data. So, our supply chain runs in a network and how do we ensure sustainability? How do we ensure strong ethics and trust in the multi-layered aspects of the supply chain? With Dun and Bradstreet data and other enriched data that we can bring - when you decide to trade with someone in that network you can have a stronger reliance on are they trusted, are they ethical are they sustainable? So, we're delighted to bring the partnership together with Dun and Bradstreet and integrate the technology. We're live - and I'll give a kind of a proof point; over the last 30 days we helped an auto manufacturer within six days onboard 200 new trading partners, 2000 new parts and transition their auto line to creating ventilators. And that was a world record, that we could see, on refurbishing a supply line and a production line to a new set of products. The physical restructuring of the supply line was pretty straightforward. But we got all the systems and all the training partners working in seven days digitally. That's just a proof point of bringing the partnership together.

Sam 10:47
That's awesome. I love that and it's wonderful to hear some of the great work that you guys are at the center of around COVID-19. We've been similar to you thinking about how to best use our unique assets in similar ways and One of the things we've done in Canada, in fact, and in the US and in the UK and Ireland is build a COVID-19 impact action platform where we have made our universal business data available to governments to help them assess the business universe and help them think about the stimulus packages and who needs help where and when to segment against the most needy and the least, it's been super rewarding. And I think like you a great display of data for good, which is a big theme within our firm and yours. You talked a little bit earlier about the difference between data processes and data automation, it jogged my memory. So on March 12, we made an acquisition of an organization called Co-Action that helps our clients Well, it's a core component in the automation of credit to cash processes and driving improved efficiencies. And it's effectively a provider a revenue cycle management software for quotations. And at the same time, lots of memory jogging going on here. I remember looking through all of your acquisitions, and the one I love, which I would love to hear a little bit more about, because I think this firstly, some synergies with our firm, and some opportunities, but really because I just think it's a really cool business is Carbonite, which is the cloud-based data protection firm you acquired last year in December last year. Can you tell us a little bit about Carbonite, and a little bit about that M&A strategy you've got for your overall digital roadmap?

Mark 12:25
Yeah, for sure. Maybe just starting with our approach to M&A. And then a little bit about Carbonite. We're a young company at OpenText. We're 28 years old, turning 30 soon, I'd love to celebrate my hundredth birthday at some point. But we're still in our 20s and soon to be in our 30s. Our customers have a lot of requirements. So, we're not bashful around filling those functional needs through strategic M&A and it's become a core discipline in our company and over our, you know, 28-year history we've completed near 80 acquisitions. And we grow organically, we have $350million R&D budget per year. But we're also going to put our capital to work to keep expanding our portfolio. You know, we're top 10 software company in the world today. But our customers have great need around Information Management. So we're just going to put all our capital to work both organically and through M&A, smartly, of course, to keep expanding our portfolio. Our most recent acquisition of Carbonite, and all the things that we've talked about of accelerating digitalization, of the work from home explosion, probably a re-swizzling of supply chains, you know, post pandemic, customer experiences, contactless retail, all these processes need to be secured, and the data needs to be protected. And that's what Carbonite does. Carbonite is a cloud-based platform for data protection and threat protection. They are market leader in the space primarily North American based company. And we're working hard on the integration and bringing that platform globally. But of all the things we've talked about from process automation, data, information advantage, all these structural shifts, we believe they just fundamentally need to be secured, and the data needs to be protected. And that's what Carbonite does.

Sam 14:24
And so I've got so many things I want to ask you, but probably shouldn't on a recorded open line for the public. When you talk about Carbonite protecting data, there are all these incredible ideas.

Mark 14:34
A fun fact here is we save a company every hour from ransomware in our technology, right? So we have a little clock in the office that runs of the companies we help save, you know, there's a special place in you know, Dante’s many layers for those who try to exploit this pandemic. But we're saving a company every hour from ransomware as an example.

Sam 14:58
That's awesome if I was an insurer, I would be biting your arm off for a cyber insurance partnership. You got I got one of those that this leads into I'm sure. We always end the podcast with some more lighthearted aspects. You mentioned earlier, and it really is a topic close to my heart, the talent side of things. And I spent a lot of time thinking about next generation talent in a world that as you said, we'll never move this slowly. Again, it's not an easy thing to equip the next generation with the right skills that will end up being relevant for a career. In fact, it's going to be near impossible. I think, particularly when like me, you don't have that many skills. It's a pretty daunting thought. It sounds to me like a young age. You spend a lot of time with people. You took a lot of rich lessons from including Larry Ellison, and others who have some of those mentors being and what are some of the lessons that you've learned from?

Mark 15:51
Yeah, great question. I think we strive to be masters at what we do, and I certainly look towards Mr. Ellison as a mentor in my career. And one of the lessons I learned was make a difference every day, bring your best self every day, and really strive to master what you do. And if you combine that energy, that ability to bring your best self to the biggest problem every day, and set yourself on a path to master your discipline, whether it be marketing, whether it be engineering, whether it be sales, whether it be a tax professional, go master what you do, and I think you'll find great enrichment on that. In my journey as well. And I'm very happy to share this, you know, I recovered from leukemia five years ago, and went all the way through a bone marrow transplant, and I'm graced with the survival from a very difficult cancer. But I've also learned through time to not just lead with our heads but also to lead what our heart and to have great empathy and great connection to our people and the network in which we live. So maybe those are two lessons or two life journeys I can share with your listeners today.

Sam 17:07
I think Mark the part with leading with your heart as well as your head is, is the sign of a leader that I think can transcend the day to day business world that becomes sometimes so difficult to cope with. And we're in a place where that kind of leadership is essential at the moment. With teams of people in houses and apartments, in many cases, homeschooling, working around the clock because their colleagues are one in front of their laptops and productivity has gone through the roof, which on one hand is a good thing for the company, and on the other hand is a terrible thing for mental health. And largely, the parents and often women in these situations are the most disadvantaged. But rather than ending on a morbid note, lets end on a positive one. And I wonder if you could share with our listeners who are some of the leaders and companies that you've been inspired by in the recent months through coronavirus?

Mark 17:59
Well I think Microsoft's done a great job, you know, both from their technology, their Team's technology and of course, their zoom and other technologies as well. But I think Microsoft has really done a fantastic job of standing up, communicating, leading the way both in responses and in marrying that with technology. I tip my hat to Microsoft; they've done a real nice job.

Sam 18:25
I’ve got a lot I could say about Microsoft, the chairman John Thompson is on an advisory board that I'm involved with and he actually also is a subscriber to the phrase he said never is it been this busy nor be this slow again, he said it in fact, on a podcast I once did with him. But John and Satya are a wonderful pair, which is a perfect place to end because the pair that is at OpenText Mark Barrenechea and Tom Jenkins are also a great pair. And I would be remiss if I didn't thank Tom for the original connection to you Mark. He very kindly after a meeting at the World Economic Forum connected us, said it would be a fruitful conversation and we would get on well, and that is so true. So huge thanks to Tom.

Mark 19:04
We’re great partners in OpenText and he sends his regards today.

Sam 19:07
Awesome. Mark, thank you so much. I really appreciate the time and the rich content.

Mark 19:11
Yep. Sam, thank you very much. It was a pleasure.