In Memory of Daniel Larocque – Information Management Visionary in Canadian Public Sector

Mar 14

Last week the ECM world lost one of the most big-hearted and passionate evangelists I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing personally. Daniel Larocque, most recently VP of the Canadian public sector at Open Text, passed away after a tragic accident. His memorial service in Ottawa last week was a funny and sad mix of stories, anecdotes and tributes to a man who truly loved the world of content management, and put genuine heart and soul into his work.

Dan had a big impact on my career in ECM. After a year-long leave of absence to work on a PhD, I returned to work full time at Hummingbird (since acquired by OpenText)  in spring 2002. I took a new role that had just been created: Product Manager for Public Sector. 2002-2005 was one of the most exhilarating times in my career. A dedicated team of sales, services and product managers worked diligently to deliver one of the first ever “Whole of Government” ECM deals. Canada, for a short time, was a superstar in public sector information management. And I was lucky enough to travel the world to tell that success story.

Being with the vendor was great. But none of it would have happened without the tireless internal evangelism, requirements gathering, cross-departmental collaboration and innovation that happened inside our government accounts. Dan was one of the leaders of this ECM movement inside public sector as a manager at Agriculture Canada, and later at Public Works. He and his team at Agriculture transformed their work processes, delivering application after application to show that ECM was more than check-in and check-out. Executive Correspondence Management, Issues and Agenda tracking, his solutions-minded approach and ability to get his team on board is what made the difference between generic DM/RM installation and real improvement in how mission critical government business got done.

Fast forward to 2006. The industry solutions role for public sector was a success, so we expanded the team to include specialists for oil/gas, financial services, corporate legal. I accepted a promotion to Director to lead this new team, but was reluctant to let go of my public sector responsibilities. I loved it, had been successful at it, and didn’t really want to hand over the role. I didn’t trust anyone else to take care of it.

Until Dan expressed interest in joining private sector.  There was no one else I could have trusted more to keep the momentum going and bring an entirely new layer of depth and first hand public sector knowledge to the role. So I was his first boss at Hummingbird, getting to know his wonderful sense of humour and genuine love for the world of content management as we traipsed from Washington DC, to Austin Texas, from Toronto to Alberta. It didn’t take very long for him to make all the right connections in the sales team, and demonstrate his knowledge. Acquisitions are always a bit nerve-wracking in the technology world, so I was tremendously relieved when my whole industry team survived intact when OpenText bought Hummingbird in fall 2006.

Just a few weeks into the acquisition, I was sitting in my brand new Waterloo office at OpenText HQ when my door opened. It was Tom Jenkins, the Chairman of the Board himself. “eek!” I remember thinking to myself. “Tell me about this Dan Larocque character”, Tom asked… and so I did. Tom had a vision for Canadian public sector, and needed the right person to lead it. Someone with experience, depth of knowledge, great connections and the personality to bootstrap a new business unit. To Tom’s credit, he pushed me to provide a complete picture of Dan the personality – both positives and negatives. And so Dan got the job.

It meant more to me than anything that I stayed at the top of Dan’s speed dial list anytime he had a key customer meeting or conference presentation invitation. “Come do your thing”! he’d say. “What thing?”, I’d ask. “You know, Candy and Aspirin. Come do your Candy and Aspirin talk… they’ll love it”. And so I would.

My one regret is that we didn’t stay as close as we could have after I left OpenText in fall 2009. Facebook messages, quips and comments on pictures, being the first person he followed on Twitter were all great things. Just wish we could have sat down one more time face to face and shared our mutual love of this crazy world of ECM in public sector.

Dan’s family asked that anyone wanting to respect his memory make a donation to Habitat for Humanity. A great pick for a charity. You see, Dan loved houses. His most infamous ECM presentation diagram, in fact, was that of a house. (If you look carefully on the left-hand wall of the picture, you’ll see it). Building strong foundations was important to him. Here’s the link to donate.

(photo credit – Debra Power)