Lev Bannov, the Founder and CEO of ONLYOFFICE, kindly agreed to an interview where he helped us learn more about ONLYOFFICE, how the company evolved, and where it is heading.
What is ONLYOFFICE?
The main ONLYOFFICE component is surely best-in-breed online document editors – ONLYOFFICE Docs for text documents, spreadsheets and presentations. ONLYOFFICE Docs provides users with multiple editing tools and collaborative features ensuring greater team workflow and seamless work with complex formatting and objects.
We also provide a collaboration platform with multiple productivity tools (document and project management, mail, CRM, calendars, chat, etc.) that is used like a shell for distribution of the editors.
What’s more, we are actively engaged in various integrations: we have quite a big pull of customers who are using ONLYOFFICE online editors within other sync&share / ECM solutions like Alfresco, Confluence, Nextcloud, Seafile, etc.
Other developers and companies can also integrate our editors into their applications. For example, you have your own document management system and would like to edit documents inside it, but creating your own powerful editors will be a hard and time-consuming task. Here we come and offer our editors.
And we offer our editors and collaboration platform to hosting and service providers who want to deliver cloud office services to their customers.
Please describe the story behind the company: What sparked the idea, and how has it evolved so far?
The story of the ONLYOFFICE project started more than 10 years ago. We wanted to create something really cool and it was not just about standing out of the pack. Our goal was to build a truly high-quality product. We felt there was a lack of reliable and powerful online document editors. And we understood it was our source of inspiration.
Looking back on those times, we think that we were like pathbreakers. We took a risky step and decided to create the first online document editors in the world based on HTML5 Canvas. And we succeeded! Surely, this technology will not surprise anyone nowadays but back then it was a real breakthrough. So, ONLYOFFICE online editors became the heart of our project offering a vast number of ideas and multiple ways for further development and improvement.
As for now, ONLYOFFICE rose to universal office apps used by millions of people worldwide on their personal computers, mobile devices, local networks, in public cloud.
How do you envision the future of your industry?
A new system of division of labor is being formed now. Any operations and actions with documents are being moved to the cloud – it is very convenient since there is no need to have/print/store any receipts, certificates, papers, etc.
What companies will be successful in this case? Those which will manage to earn the trust of users by providing a high level of technology and security, at the same time offering a user-friendly and easy-to-use solution available for any platform. It’s not an easy task, of course, to fulfill these three conditions within one solution.
So, the trend is obvious – simplification and time saving. And after a while all documents and papers will be kept in electronic form – we will come to completely paperless technologies.
Which trends and technologies do you find to be particularly intriguing these days?
At first, I would say – artificial intelligence. I think this field is really promising. AI can be used for processing large databases and can greatly facilitate the work with documents.
The second interesting technology is blockchain. Initially, they wanted to use blockchain and bitcoins only for money, so to say. What is happening now in the blockchain field – for example Ethereum 2.0 launched on December 1st – gives us the hint that blockchain will get a second wind and this technology will be used to confirm the authenticity of any documents, to store digital signatures, so, for secure document exchange and collaboration.
How has COVID impacted your customers and business?
COVID is an absolutely sad and horrible event. Unfortunately, among our employees there are affected people as well.
At the same time, the pandemic spread accelerated a switch to remote working and using online technologies. During the crisis, we understood how important it was to combine the efforts and decided to join IT companies in their willingness to support businesses and help people around the globe follow work-from-home policies.
We extended the free trial of ONLYOFFICE cloud service to 180 days to help remote workers and distributed teams stay connected and productive. Besides, we joined several remote collaboration initiatives of our partners.
I think we’ve covered all of my questions but if you have anything else that you want to point out or highlight, please go ahead.
Some plans for the future?
We are planning to create multi-functional forms, or templates, for business. And we don’t talk about these simple forms for making polls. Instead, are planning to create a tool for working with serious online documents that will allow quickly building any document template (e.g. insurance application, contract, form W-9, certificate, etc.) and will help automate lots of business processes both within one company and between several companies.
And what else you need is to securely store and work with confidential docs. You’ve surely heard of Virtual Data Room Software. From our point of view, the existing virtual data room software can’t ensure ultimate security, since user data is still available to the providers. That’s why we are working on such a feature that will go to the next level of security for document editing and co-authoring. The first version of ONLYOFFICE Private Rooms is already available – every user can test really secure document co-editing (more info at www.onlyoffice.com/private-rooms.aspx). And we’re planning to further develop and improve it.