Five questions with Tom Jenkins

Open Text executive chairman and chief strategy officer on cloud computing, his new book, and the role Canada should play on the world stage

By Peter Wolchak
November 23, 2010

Backbone: You recently released Managing Content in the Cloud, your first book in five years. What prompted you to write it now?

Jenkins: There has been enough evolution over the last five years that I needed to write a new book. The evolution centres on Web 2.0 and the tremendous changes in social media. Everyone knows Facebook and Twitter but what they maybe don’t know is that those are only a few years old. We take them for granted now but these developments are coming at us incredibly quickly. I wanted to write a book that updated us about the cloud. Five years ago we didn’t even have the term “the cloud.” If you look at just the last five years, Web 1.0 is done; we call it the static Web or, jokingly, the “dead Web,” when we simply took corporate brochures, made them into PDFs and put them on the Web.

Now with Web 2.0…we create interactive sites that are two-way communication, and that is the biggest thing about the cloud: the two-way communication. That has changed everything, from collaboration inside a company to interaction between Web sites and to people outside the company.

And five years from now, Web 3.0 will be here. That will be the semantic Web; we are just getting clues about it now, with mobile devices with GPS and us as humans having a persistent connection to the Internet. The cloud will then morph from being two-way information to being highly personalized and pushing information to us.

Backbone: With the book, are you introducing this concept or guiding people who are already committed to the cloud?

Jenkins: The fact that I wrote a book as opposed to doing a set of blog posts tells you that part of the audience—the business users or managers—don’t know a lot about the cloud. If they did, they would go out onto the cloud to learn whatever else they needed. We are trying to inform a generation who are not digital natives. These people ran their companies, their organizations, their government ministries very well for decades, but the cloud is really forcing a change in productivity upon them.

Backbone: How does your new product, Open Text ECM Suite 2010, address that?

Jenkins: The product is about the tools that help an organization create their own social media and their own clouds, but do it safely. Most of the Web 2.0 revolution has been about us using a service: we started using search engines before we had them inside our organizations: it was a service. The same thing is happening now: we’re all going to have our own Facebook, our own YouTube and our own Twitter, because we are going to start making them for the organization.

Backbone: And that is necessary because those are consumer offerings and not designed for business use?

Jenkins: As a consumer you can use any social network tool you want, but organizations can’t put communications with suppliers or consumers inside a Facebook or YouTube, because of regulatory and litigation ramifications. Organizations have to build their own versions of what they use in the consumer world.

That is the heart of this suite: tools that allow organizations to create their own social networks. They need to keep information proprietary but they also have to use it.

Backbone: Some attendees at this year’s Canada 3.0 conference expressed concern about the digital economy in Canada. What is your assessment?

Jenkins: I am optimistic about Canada. Canadians have an amazing capacity for collaboration and the technology world is moving towards social groups. Canada will blossom in social media: we will tell the stories and our tent will be an open one. Also, we have a huge advantage: we have the diaspora of the world in our country. And our ability to act globally is second to none.

But the challenge for us is how do we harness that, and the criticisms and critiques we go through are very important. If the emperor has no clothes, then let’s say that and get on with fixing it.

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