In this interview, we have the pleasure to find out more about Ascensio System SIA – the cloud and on-premises software developer of ONLYOFFICE, a suite that brings innovation and security into collaboration on documents for teams and enterprises of any background.
Galina Godukhina, Head of Sales with Ascensio System SIA, tells us what ignited the project at its inception and how these ideas continue to take business collaboration to the new level.
Q1: Could you tell us a little about ONLYOFFICE? When did it all start, and what sparked the idea of your project? What impact did you want to make in the office world?
It all began in 2009, with a project called TeamLab that focused on team collaboration tools. In a first few years of its existence, the platform grew into a complete collaborative cloud with project management, CRM, calendars, and document management, and had already reached a notable worldwide popularity. However, our real game started in 2012, when we announced the world’s first HTML-5 based online document editor on CeBit. This was when we took off into a completely new era.
ONLYOFFICE as a brand was born in 2014, when we opened its code and decided to join the open source community, pursuing the ideas of transparency and providing our knowledge in collaborative technologies as an asset available to everyone. With OOXML formats as a core for our processors, and the option to host ONLYOFFICE on-premises, we believed that ONLYOFFICE would become a powerful and secure open alternative to fully proprietary, cloud-centered office solutions. And it did.
Q2: ONLYOFFICE is frequently featured around the web by some sound platforms: Gartner Frontrunners, and four years in a row in PCMag. It seems like it’s seen steady success. How do you keep up it up and what’s up next?
It takes a community to prove a product’s success. Every story you see behind the features in the review platforms and consumer or business tech media is a result of the trust of the end users and their spoken experience. We are glad that many of those who work with our tools every day are willing to express themselves, tell what they like, what they don’t, and what they expect us to do with that.
We stick to the principle of proactive responses to what our customers ask for, trying our best to correctly prioritize milestones in our roadmaps and leverage the resources for that. We believe that’s what makes people say good things about ONLYOFFICE.
Q3: Obviously, document editing and collaboration are in the center of it all, and you keep expanding your stand-alone suite integrations. What’s the strategy? What lures the new users to the suite?
When we realized that our on-premise editing suite does well in combination with Sync&Share platforms, we released ONLYOFFICE Integration Edition – document editors specifically built for the infrastructures where interoperability and scale matter the most.
During the CS3 conference back in 2019, one of the topics we picked was about the extensive and the intensive ways of integration, as these are basically the two roads we take: on the one hand, we constantly extend the number of integration apps ourselves and provide the API for easily building them for whoever wants them; on the other hand, we go deeper into the wishes of a particular platform’s customers to enhance the functionality we deliver in that platform.
Over the past year, ten new integration apps were released as a result of collaboration with our partners: Seafile, Liferay, HumHub, Nuxeo, JCloud, Plone, kDrive, OpenOlat, Agorum and Maarch. And we are definitely hungry for more!
Q4: Online collaboration has been around for a while. What is the added value that ONLYOFFICE has brought?
There’s a whole universe of effective co-editing instruments that compete tough, and providing the classic toolset with real-time editing, comments, chat, change tracking and versioning as an entry level for the industry. Having all of these, we wanted to make another step and provide a smoother way to collaborate – and it was possible thanks to the smart architecture.
In ONLYOFFICE, everything happens on the side of the user, not the server. This helps us keep the user inputs independent and lets them choose to work in the same document openly or privately, without problems with undos and redos, and work together with a whole department at once on the same text if they wish, with no hassle.
Q5: Name one of your biggest challenges and one of your biggest breakthroughs in your rich history?
The biggest challenge we had was when we introduced end-to-end encryption powered by blockchain technology. It was something new and radical, the technology was young, and as a pioneer we had no ready examples to look to. Still, we did that, using our own technology and even jumping a bit further than the initial idea, with encrypted collaboration.
At present, we are working on the new approach to make it a ready-to-use, mature tool for all security-savvy users. This will be the breakthrough, in the future.
Q6: The COVID-19 pandemic. How did that challenge impact your business and what achievements did it possibly bring?
Just as for any other business, we had to prepare for this turn and mobilize whatever resources we had to keep up with the new conditions. Surprisingly or not, we use our own products for everyday tasks down to the last component, and it genuinely helps us stay up as if nothing has changed, even in the comfort of our own homes.
And it has been a truly busy season, as we were eager to prove to the world that we are here to help with the remote work, serving team collaboration instruments for documents, project management, communication, and other tools for organizing work naturally in the cloud. We are currently giving away our cloud service for free to everyone in need for the next six months.
Q7: With this complex matrix of products and licensing, how do you nurture your monetization model while still offering some entirely free solutions for commercial use?
Being an open-source project, we let teams deploy ONLYOFFICE editors and the collaboration platform as a community product, which works well for increasing the project awareness and distribution of our products.
At the same time, ONLYOFFICE is monetized through the flexible and transparent plans which help tailor the solutions to every customer’s needs and budget, and that offer the extras: scalability, advanced features, and complete professional tech support from our side.
Q8: We noticed quite a mature partnership model and numerous examples of “worldwide agents,” as you call them in your blog. How do you bring the new allies in and what have been the fruits so far?
First and foremost, ONLYOFFICE is a trusted product that has had a chance to show itself on the market. We offer products that find use in a variety of industries and fit clients of all shapes and sizes, we give honest commissions, and we offer ready promotional materials for our affiliates. This makes ONLYOFFICE easy to offer and sell.
Q9: The statistics of working with Avangate Affiliate Network are impressive. What’s your advice for the freshmen?
Here, we’d rather give some hands-on advice. First, it’s important to establish a clear affiliate policy and show the real benefits that working with the product can bring. Secondly, it’s crucial to take care of proper program promotion, a web asset which is easy to find, navigate, and understand. And last but not least, give your partners all they need from the start to make the path from purchase to sale as swift as possible: provide the applicable graphic materials, videos, and guides.
Your goal is to establish a partnership that benefits both of you, so do everything you can and give everything your partner needs so you can celebrate your common success in the future.
Learn more on how 2Checkout helped ONLYOFFICE boost international sales!