Lenore Kerrigan, Sales Director OpenText: preparing for the Digital First World

“As companies prepare for a Digital First World, the CFO will play a key role in providing the financial underpinning of this digital transformation, says Lenore Kerrigan, Sales Director for Sub-Saharan Africa at software company OpenText Corporation. “It is controversial, but in many companies CFOs are still mainly reporting on historic facts and figures. The role of modern CFOs, however, is forward looking and includes a very strong focus on understanding risk and financial growth. Our Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Enterprise Information Management (EIM) systems can help them accomplish this.”

Canada-headquartered OpenText is a global leading software firm that helps companies of all sizes and industries to manage, secure and leverage their unstructured business information, in their data center or in the cloud. With a vision of creating a Digital First World, OpenText wants to be a trusted advisor to customers by helping them simplify, transform and accelerate their business.

"Where are the documents in your organisation? They are sitting in files," Kerrigan says. "But ideally every document should be digitized. Using our systems, users can store everything digitally and clearly see who has edited what material - and when. That makes document control and approval routes much easier too. Information is a core asset to each enterprise - and the value can only be totally realized if the information is discoverable, managed and a core part of enterprise processes and communication."

Although OpenText only established itself in South Africa about 7 years ago, South African liquor distributor Distell has been working with its solutions for considerably longer. "They embarked on a process with us 15 years ago to better understand their content. To be an effective global player, they needed to be able to reach the right people. As Distell, with its iconic brands like Amarula, has grown globally, we have been able to help them with our technology - they use pretty much all our products and are even introducing video into their business processes," explains Kerrigan.

The Distell example can help South African firms "to understand the value of OpenText", Kerrigan says. "Another example is the work we do with the Western Cape Health Department to improve service delivery at the provincial hospitals. Using our technology, they did a very successful pilot around patient records. People used to stand in queues for 5 to 6 hours waiting for their antiretroviral drugs. That process has now been cut back to 15 minutes and the newly built Khayelitsha hospital was designed around this drugs distribution model. It is very exciting to be part of such developments."

Kerrigan says CFOs have an "extremely important role" to play in streamlining how their company works with data. "For a lot of people it requires a mindset change. Traditional bookkeeping systems like SAP and Oracle are mainly historical, says Kerrigan. "Those ERP systems do not make you privy to unstructured information from other documents, from contracts to legal procedures. That is where our ECM comes in. SAP is our biggest partner. They recognize that while they do the transactional part of the job very well, OpenText contributes systems that really help companies manage their information. Our offerings extend the functionality of SAP, integrating unstructured data and process workflows to enhance the value of information to the enterprise and the CFO."

"We are bringing unstructured information into a structured world, within a meaningful context for that information," explains Kerrigan. "That aids companies enormously when they are debating strategic and financial decisions. It also helps companies to meet a myriad of compliance and regulatory requirements. CFOs have a huge responsibility relating to risk these days and the digitization of information processes really assists when charting and limiting risk. There is a new school of accounting coming through where this new thinking is common. This presents a huge opportunity for the CFOs of today - and those progressing into senior roles in the future.

Kerrigan explains that OpenText software allows companies to record, file and analyze all discussions, meetings, emails and other communications strategically. The Enterprise Information Management (EIM) platform enables organizations to discover and manage information to spur growth and innovation across their organization, increasing time to competitive advantage. "We might have a conversation about a problem that is similar to an earlier problem, but if previous solutions are not properly documented, we won't be able to tap into that knowledge. That is why we build the social discussion into the actual documentation process. Further down, everybody can see who had what conversation and which executive gave approval."

Initially OpenText has mostly worked through partners in South Africa. "Datacentrix is one of our longest standing partners. Initially the ECM side was our focus and that neatly fitted their business, but they have grown with us into the so-called omnichannel of the EIM. That combines ECM with Business Process Management (BPM), Customer Experience Management (CEM) and Business Intelligence (BI). Another great South African partner is EOH and we also work with some of the large integrators like Deloitte and Accenture. We have smaller partners for specific areas like customers experience."

These days OpenText focusses more and more on "the changing investment climate in fast-growing markets", says Kerrigan. This has led to the opening of a proper OpenText office in Johannesburg, which will serve as African headquarters. "Businesses in these growth markets - including countries in Africa - have opportunities to leapfrog because they don't have legacy issues. Companies have an opportunity to compete on equal terms in a Digital First World - location is no barrier! The connectivity is dramatically improving in Africa, which makes our products increasingly interesting here."