Yes, “the world has changed” — now it’s time for business leaders to start making moves. Such was the prevailing theme at last week’s OpenText World Europe, one of the globe’s largest information management conferences, hosted by Canada’s largest software company, OpenText. Issues exacerbated by the coronavirus emergency were top of mind, including the hazards of remote work, the dangers of cyberattacks and the collapse of supply chains.
2021 marks OpenText’s 30th anniversary since being founded as a research project at the University of Waterloo. What better time, then, to commemorate the tech community’s achievements so far and discuss the hard work to come on the road to recovery.
Here are five things we learned at OpenText World Europe:
OpenText CEO and CTO Mark Barrenechea opened the conference with a keynote talk on the future of information management. The pandemic has shown the power of innovation to make changes quickly. “We have never worked this fast, and we will never work this slow again,” said Barrenechea, adding that we now have a great opportunity to rethink how we approach everything from work to healthcare and the environment, and technology can play a key role. Barrenechea noted that while remote work has brought higher productivity, it’s also exhausting employees — people are working harder and longer, minus the benefits of socializing and taking breaks. All of this strains employees’ mental health as well as employers’ bottom line. Barrenechea wants the tech sector to imbue innovations (including digital tools like spreadsheets and file folders) with features that promote “trust, empathy, resilience and gratitude.” Indeed, the CEO asserts that information management is itself a strategic platform that can nurture and advance institutions of all sorts. And it’s why OpenText is investing U.S.$1 billion in research and development over the next three years to improve its suite of products.
When the world went into lockdown back in March 2020, Sabine Roduit was faced with an Everest-sized challenge. Roduit, senior vice president of IT at Nestlé North America, needed to upgrade the corporate giant’s e-commerce tech to handle increased demand, as well as maintain operations while shifting 50,000 employees to remote work. Pre-pandemic, it was estimated that such a task would take 12 months; Roduit and the IT department did it in four weeks. “The pandemic forced us to take calculated risks,” she says. “We ended up being faster and better than we thought, and the adoption rate across the organization has been incredible.” Rejuvenated, Roduit sees newfound enthusiasm manifesting in the workers of Nestlé’s sub-brands, creating what she calls a “connected factory” of more than 350,000 international employees.
Remote living has been a boon for cyber criminals, with security breaches at an all-time high, according to Matt Aldridge, principal solutions architect at Carbonite and Webroot at OpenText.
The numbers are staggering: 50 percent of organizations are reporting increased attacks, and these are just the groups with software capable of detecting the threats. One-third of companies are not sufficiently securing their remote workers, Aldridge says. The most recent Facebook breach contained data on more than half a billion users. Generally, Aldridge says, the “chain of compromise” starts with just one person, or a group of people, in the form of an email or text-message phishing attack. From there, it can spiral across business operations, and in nightmare scenarios, even take down massive networks like international supply chains. Employers need to educate their staff in cybersecurity on a continuous basis. They can also invest in security software, such as anti-phishing products that detect and block foul play on webpages, even before users can see those web pages.
Time saved, better-quality results, security and pleasant user experiences — these are the obvious benefits of first-class software. And as OpenText executive vice president and chief product officer Muhi S. Majzoub told the audiences in a keynote address, dealing with this crucial everyday infrastructure early can be a tremendous competitive advantage. Majzoub points to Novartis, a global healthcare company, which needed to embrace new ways of working during the pandemic. It accelerated investments into digital capabilities in drug development and automated certain processes. But now Novartis is more productive than ever, says Jim Rayner, an IT executive with the firm. He sums it up this way: “You need business processes to align with business goals. It’s so good to have partnerships with experts — information management is too important to go it alone.”
A2A is an Italian renewable-energy company that does mind-bending things, such as craft digital twins of cities to plan for sustainability. But before A2A can win the green race, it must first walk the green walk — and that means going paperless, or what Marco Moretti, CIO and CTO at A2A, calls “dematerializing.” Speaking at OpenText World Europe, Moretti laid out the scope of the project: more than 1.5 million work orders and 200,000 documents per year, not to mention millions upon millions of bills. But so far the job has gone smoothly. In the energy sector, many utilities struggle to keep up with the pace of innovation, often relying on century-old infrastructure. But Moretti claims that the efficiency created by dematerializing has already put the company ahead of its competition. Most importantly, it’s better equipped to deliver on its environmental promise.
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