The Six Five On the Road with OpenText EVP & Chief Marketing Officer Sandy Ono

By Patrick Moorhead - December 4, 2023

On this episode of The Six Five – On The Road, hosts Daniel Newman and Patrick Moorhead welcome OpenText’s Sandy Ono, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, for a conversation on the company’s Partner Ecosystem, OpenText Aviator and the unveiling of the OpenText Partner Network during OpenText World 2023.

Their discussion covers:

  • OpenText’s AI strategy around their partner ecosystem
  • How they see their partners engaging with OpenText Aviator, and some background on where the name Aviator comes from
  • The unveiling of the OpenText Partner Network and what it means
  • What Sandy is most excited about at OpenText World this year

Watch the video here:

Or listen to the audio here:

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Patrick Moorhead: The Six Five is live in Las Vegas at OpenText World 2023. We are on the road, Daniel, talking about our favorite subject. I won’t confuse you this time.

Daniel Newman: That’s fun.

Patrick Moorhead: Because we only have… Well, that, but for technology’s sake-

Daniel Newman: It’s in Las Vegas.

Patrick Moorhead: … it’s all about AI.

Daniel Newman: It is all about AI, and it is great to be here in Las Vegas at OpenText World. It’s been a really good couple of days so far, Pat, and it has been AI-centric, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about companies figuring out how to put their data to use, and how to drive enterprise growth and development. And it’s with a company that’s been doing this for three decades.

Patrick Moorhead: I know. It’s great, Dan. Data and information management is paramount as you and I have both said in our papers, and our articles and our videos. And I think this event was a great snapshot of why you have to have all of your data information together, and particularly in this age of generative AI, crossing all types of data from all walks of your business. So, with that said, I’d like to introduce Sandy, Chief Marketing Officer and EVP at OpenText. How are you?

Sandy Ono: Very good. Thanks so much for being here at OpenText World.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, first time Six Fiver, hopefully not the last.

Sandy Ono: Definitely not.

Patrick Moorhead: This is a great event. Somehow, I think this whole event has been masterminded by you and your team. So, congratulations, it’s not over yet.

Sandy Ono: Not over yet.

Patrick Moorhead: But so far, really enjoyed myself. And for an industry analyst, it’s not just about having fun, but it’s also about the level of information. It’s the level of access. And although sometimes industry analysts say they’re not educated by things, I think that we all get something out of these events in addition to giving the company a, hopefully, very sage advice. So, welcome to the show.

Sandy Ono: Thank you for having me.

Daniel Newman: I’m glad you used sage instead of great. Usually, you just suggest you give great advice-

Patrick Moorhead: Well, no.

Daniel Newman: … which you do, you do.

Patrick Moorhead: I didn’t want her to look down or shake her head.

Daniel Newman: It has been great. I’m still full from dinner, so thank you for hosting. That was terrific. Pat, the burrata was great. You did miss it.

Patrick Moorhead: I know.

Daniel Newman: But I want to talk a little bit about ecosystem. We’ve had the chance to spend some time with your CEO, Mark Barrenechea here on the show. And by the way, if you’re watching this and you want to hear that, you can click over when you’re done with this one. But one of the things we didn’t have a chance to talk to him about I want to talk to you more about is the partner ecosystem system. In your, just give for instance, search, your content search, you have connectors and plugins to tons of different applications. Talk a little bit about OpenText’s strategy for building a really robust ecosystem for AI.

Sandy Ono: Yeah, great question. In addition to leading marketing here I have the pleasure of leading our partners and alliances team.

Daniel Newman: Two jobs.

Sandy Ono: Two jobs, and one of the things that we also talked about this week with our partner group is really this notion of OpenText partner network. And it’s really ingrained with who we are because we have strategic partners that are application partners. And so important, right?

When you talk about data, you think about the transactional data. That gets housed in your Oracles, your SAPs, your Salesforces. All those ERP and CRM systems out there, they’ve been our strategic partners for many years. And we actually pride ourselves on one of the things is being deeply integrated. So, our engineering team spend a lot of time working together with Google. We recently did integration with Google Workspace. And all that power is what allows data to be actually connected in the workflow. So, that’s a foundation of our ecosystem. And of course, it expands into our system integrators that we work with, our resellers and our MSPs as well. So, we’re really excited to be doubling down in our OpenText partner network and what that really means to our future together going forward.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, I’m glad you pointed out the new network. And I think if nothing else, one big lesson we’ve learned over the past 30 years is that it takes a village, right? And no longer the days where, “Oh, they’re our competitor and I’m not going to talk to them or work with them.” We’re seeing mainframe software deployed in the public cloud. We’re seeing public cloud services deployed on-prem. It’s just this mishmash, but good mishmash in the way that it’s benefiting the end customer at the end who just wants everybody to just get along.

The star of the show was Aviator and it was Ice, who represents that, which is so cute. I want a little stuffed version of him, but a question is how do partners engage with Aviator? Meaning, is it bidirectional in how that data flows and the opportunities work?

Sandy Ono: Yeah, it’s a great question. There’s maybe three ways that partner’s going to be able to engage with Aviator. One is Aviator is being embedded into our applications. So, as releases come, partners who help us resell and implement our applications are naturally going to be able to bring these capabilities to our end customers and clients.

Second, we also announced something today called Aviator Thrust, which is all of our APIs. And we spent three years building these APIs, which is really the headless versions of information management. It’s the ways to connect those information flows. We think a lot of our partners are going to need these tool sets in order to help end clients with their AI journey. Like you said before, Patrick, the information needs to get organized, metadata needs to be created. You have to capture it, ingest it, turn it into something that you can work with. And we hope our partner ecosystem can actually take advantage of these APIs and Aviator Thrust to be able to bring that next level of what clients need.

And certainly, I go back to, lastly, the third thing is just trust. I think having trusted partners and that means something different for everybody out there. Sometimes that’s a reseller that you’re working with, sometimes that’s an SI you’re working with, and having that trusted partner, both the technology partner, and us, and an implementation partner in our ecosystem is going to be really important.

Patrick Moorhead: Thank you.

Daniel Newman: So, you had a partner summit, by the way?

Sandy Ono: We did, yes.

Daniel Newman: I felt like we were partners.

Patrick Moorhead: I know.

Daniel Newman: We were close by.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah.

Daniel Newman: So, we were in proximity. But you had a partner summit, you’ve rolled out a new partner network program that you… Talk a little bit about what you rolled out and maybe some early feedback. Eventually, we’ll hit her up as a chief marketer, but for now, we’re just going to keep-

Patrick Moorhead: Exactly. Well, she has two jobs. We can’t do two jobs at the same time.

Daniel Newman: By the way, I’m noting this whole concept.

Patrick Moorhead: I know.

Daniel Newman: One person that can do two jobs.

Patrick Moorhead: No, I know. I’m going to put that in my back pocket.

Sandy Ono: I have a yeti.

Daniel Newman: I like this. I like what I’m hearing, but how did the partners react? What was the thought? Did it help the Aviator story land more and share a little bit about this partner summit?

Sandy Ono: Yeah. So, one of the important things we needed to show our partner network yesterday was just that our commitment to the ecosystem. Anytime a large company gets acquired by another one, it’s really reaffirming for our ecosystem and to our partners to say, “We’re here for you and we want to grow together,” and to show the path to growth.

So, we announce some things, whether it’s cloud program, whether it’s been market to see this path to growth. And we hope they’re excited about Aviator. We wanted them to know that they’re a part of this Aviator story because ultimately, most companies are on the earlier stages of adoption. And I think we’re all trying to figure out what are the right use cases that are going to be repeatable and we need our partner’s ecosystem to do that. So, the early reactions has been fantastic in terms of just excited to hear the OpenText vision and strategy. Since the acquisition, they hadn’t heard from us in person quite yet. So, we were super excited to just deliver that message and reaffirm our commitment to them yesterday.

Patrick Moorhead: Okay. So, we’re going to take off the partner hat and we’re going to put the chief marketing officer-

Daniel Newman: Any other jobs?

Patrick Moorhead: … hat on. I don’t know.

Sandy Ono: Not to date.

Patrick Moorhead: Maybe. First of all, congratulations on an exceptional keynote. Dan and I literally have sat in, I don’t know, 125 keynotes-

Daniel Newman: That’s like this year.

Patrick Moorhead: … virtually and remotely this year. And it’s easy to throw stones. I really liked the way that you interspersed the elements of AI and brought it from 1 up to an 11. I thought that was very clever on that because it actually aligned with what you were talking about. And the second of all is integrating Las Vegas. I’ve seen a lot of cheesy integrations of Las Vegas. I really like this one. So, thank you for, again, back to the entertaining and educating. I felt very entertained too, and I got a front-row seat, so thank you. But let me actually get to the question here.

Aviator is not only your premier offering for AI. We had a great conversation with Mark and also your chief product officer, but can you talk about where did the thought… I mean he’s a cute little furry animal, and a lot of the software and SaaS shows we go to, there’s a lot of cute furry type of mascots. So, why Aviator and why Ice?

Sandy Ono: Great question. So, first, why Aviator? We just internally have had this love for aviation, but I go back to this quote we said to ourselves a couple months ago. “A pilot’s a technician, an aviator loves flight.” And really, this notion of AI should lift and AI should elevate is really the spirit behind Aviator. The characters, as I call them, they’re navigators.

We’ve actually had this concept of having OpenText navigators for a very long time. It’s what we call our partners, our most esteemed customers, and we give out navigator awards. So, the navigators are part of the Aviator journey and we really do believe in customer successes at the core. And what we’re trying to show customers is that obviously, the notion of it’s a multistep, and our aviators and navigators are here to help them.

Patrick Moorhead: It’s cute.

Daniel Newman: Bonus jeopardy.

Patrick Moorhead: Yes.

Daniel Newman: All right, so let’s ask a question that’s not about AI. Are you ready?

Patrick Moorhead: Are you sure we can do that?

Daniel Newman: I don’t even know.

Patrick Moorhead: I’m going to try it, all right.

Daniel Newman: Let me cue this one up. No, but seriously, you guys have a rich history. And by the way, AI’s not new. It’s been around for a long time. And you’ve been doing it-

Patrick Moorhead: In fact, the first algorithms were created in the ’60s.

Daniel Newman: In the ’60s, like when you were 20. But AI, you showed a really good journey map of the company, and how it went through processes of maturity with machine learning, and business intelligence, and AI. And so, of course, it’s the highlight moment and as a marketer, we’re going to get behind the marketecture. We do this too. But there’s got to be other things here. So, as the chief of all partner things, and the chief marketing officer, and any other titles we come up with before this is over, what else at OpenText has you really excited, and what do you want to share out there with The Six Five community?

Sandy Ono: Well, there is so much. I feel like every 90 days we do a release and there’s usually too much for everybody to absorb. So, as the chief marketing person, I will say that part of what’s really exciting is also all the integrations we’re doing and our movement to the cloud. We’re committed to making sure our content platforms, which have been great in on-prem and in the private cloud is now public cloud SaaS ready. And we’re doing a bunch of integrations that I’m super excited about. We’re bringing together service management and content management. So, you’re in IT service management, now you have access to all your content repositories. We’re bringing together Voltage and NetIQ, which is our cybersecurity products with content. So, now you’ve got content management that is the most secure information management out there with the identity access management, superb integrations that we’re doing.

And the last one I would just say, it’s also this notion of we’re moving towards our experience, digital experience products and our content management products. It’s really going towards that total experience because we think that a lot of these things are interrelated. So, to the notion of data’s at the heart, but these integrations make you really be able to imagine what’s next. And that’s all the other things we do besides AI, but each product line has got its own journey and we have a lot to bring. One last thing I’ll bring up that I’m super excited about is in IT operations management, our ITOM group. We are launching fully two offerings. We call it FinOps and GreenOps. So, think about the ability to actually scan across all of your cloud infrastructure and be able to say, “Okay, this is the amount of money that you could potentially save and here’s the actions to go take.” And that is coming out starting this release, and we used it on ourselves. I love being our first customers. And we were able to find X million dollars in savings and we’re implementing that. But I think those really practical things, as people are moving towards cloud, and infrastructure, and the movements really, hopefully, the security elements and the integration elements are beneficial for them.

Patrick Moorhead: I Love it.

Daniel Newman: That’s pretty fantastic. She only said AI once.

Patrick Moorhead: No.

Daniel Newman: And she was only mentioning how she wasn’t going to mention AI, so that was really good.

Patrick Moorhead: No, I know. No, that’s hard to do when your headline is AI, but it is nice to even get reminded, hey, it’s not just technology for the sake of technology. It’s technology for actually doing good on behalf of companies and I don’t know, maybe even society as a whole.

Daniel Newman: By the way, you can’t spell Aviator without AI, just letting you know that.

Patrick Moorhead: Ooh, Dan.

Daniel Newman: So, you can use that one.

Sandy Ono: I can.

Daniel Newman: First one’s free.

Sandy Ono: I might steal it.

Daniel Newman: Sandy, thanks so much for joining us here on The Six Five.

Sandy Ono: Thank you so much for being here at OpenText World.

Daniel Newman: All right, everybody, hit that subscribe button, join us here for all the coverage at OpenText World 2023 in Las Vegas. And of course, subscribe because The Six Five has so many great thought leaders like Sandy that join us each and every week on the show. But for this episode, for Patrick Moorhead and myself, we got to say goodbye. See you all really soon.

Patrick Moorhead
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.