Waterloo, Ontario-based Open Text is no stranger to online customer service — for quite some time, the company has run an online Knowledge Centre where IT professionals and support staff could gather information on products, participate in forums, and keep abreast of the latest downloads. This track is now one of the three available in the Open Text Online (OTO) initiative; the other two tracks are for general Livelink ECM users, and partners. The program was launched in early 2006.
According to Martin Sumner-Smith, Open Text’s vice-president of customer partnership programs, the community includes forums, blogs, wikis, and downloadable webinars.
The site has picked up in popularity, with 9,000 members in total, and hundreds more joining each month. Smith attributes the site’s popularity to the fact that it requires self-registration (which means customers only join if they want to), and has reached a critical mass when it comes to information, offering a breadth of topics and an easy-to-use interface to find it. (There are also separate communities with topics of interest for specific groups, like lawyers.)
The OTO itself is a subtle sales pitch, as it runs entirely Open Text’s own Web-based ECM platform. “It’s a very successful deployment!” said Smith.
OTO member and business analyst and Jeff Brown has been a Livelink ECM user for many years, but recently oversaw at the Toronto-based BMO Financial Group a nationwide rollout of Open Text’s products to manage the commercial lending approvals process. He said that he has benefited from the discussion groups, and has a blog he occasionally posts to (blogs are offered to frequent forum posters). He also downloads webinars often. Recently, he used a lot of the material from a webinar of Motorola’s manager of content management and collaboration systems for Motorola, Brad Bosley, to help show his boss some ways to another Open Text customer has changed the mindset of users during a deployment. “Primarily what I get out of it is that I can look for new ideas,” said Brown.
Brown has found the site is a great resource. He said, “It’s really about building communities. People aren’t on there pushing modules, and I’ve never seen any ‘please contact our sales staff’ or anything.” This type of user community is especially useful, he found, as many users are new to ECM; the site can act as a resource for managers and project team members who want to learn some tips on how to foster adoption of the technologies and encourage a change in the mindset of users.
And, Smith agreed, these managers and project members are increasingly the ones calling for and managing the implementation.
Smith said that ECM adoption is now typically being driven by managers and executives, rather than by IT staff. “People typically purchase (ECM software) to support a particular process; before, people just wanted to buy whatever cool new thing, but it’s now being driven by business needs. Project leaders are really the ones thinking how best to use it. When we look at the sales side of this, it’s very much changing: instead of being driven by IT, it’s being driven by the business side (including finance and legal). They’re looking to the software to solve problems — IT has become more of a support function.”