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Enterprise Search is Never Magic

How is it that the blockbuster deals for acquiring software companies that rank highest in their markets spaces seem to end up smelling bad several months into the deals? The latest acquisition to take on taint was written about in the Wall Street Journal today, noting that HP Reports $8.8 Billion Charge on Accounting Misstatement at Autonomy. Not to dispute the fact that enterprise search megastars Fast (acquired by Microsoft) and Autonomy had some terrific search algorithms and huge presence in the enterprise market, there is a lot more to supporting search than the algorithms.

The fact that surrounding support services have always been essential requirements for making these two products successful in deployment has been well documented over the years. Hundreds of system integrators and partner companies to Microsoft and Autonomy do very well making these systems deliver the value that has never been attainable with just out-of-the-box installations. It takes a team of content, search and vocabulary management specialists to deliver excellent results. For any but the largest corporations, the costs and time to achieve full implementation have rarely been justifiable.

Many fine enterprise search products deliver high value at much more reasonable costs, and with much more efficient packaging, shorter deployment times and lower on-going overhead. Never to be ignored is that enterprise search must be accounted for as infrastructure. Without knowing where the accounting irregularities (also true with Fast) actually lay, I suspect that HP bought the brand and the prospective customer relationships only to discover that the real money was being made by partners and integrators, and the software itself was a loss leader. If Autonomy did not bring with it a solid service and integration operation with strong revenues and work in the pipeline, HP could not have gained what it bargained for in the purchase. I “know” nothing but these are my hunches.

Reflecting back on a couple of articles (If a Vendor Spends Enough… and Enterprise Search and Collaboration…) I wrote a couple of years ago, as Autonomy began hyping its enterprise search prowess in Information Week ads, it seems that marketing is all the magic it needed to reel in the biggest fish of all – a sale to HP.

HP to Acquire Autonomy

HP and Autonomy Corporation announced the terms of a recommended transaction under which HP will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Autonomy for £25.50 ($42.11) per share in cash. The transaction was unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both HP and Autonomy. The Autonomy board of directors also has unanimously recommended its shareholders accept the Offer. Based on the closing stock price of Autonomy on August 17, 2011, the consideration represents a one day premium to Autonomy shareholders of approximately 64 percent and a premium of approximately 58 percent to Autonomy’s prior one month average closing price. The transaction will be implemented by way of a takeover offer extended to all shareholders of Autonomy. A document containing the full details of the Offer will be dispatched as soon as practicable after the date of this release. The acquisition of Autonomy is expected to be completed by the end of calendar 2011. Founded in 1996, Autonomy is a provider of infrastructure software for the enterprise with a customer base of more than 25,000 global companies. Positions HP as leader in large and growing space‚Äî Autonomy has a strong position in the $20 billion enterprise information management space, which is growing at 8 percent annually and is uniquely positioned to continue growth within this space. Furthermore, key Autonomy assets would provide HP with the ability to reinvent the $55 billion business analytics software and services space, which is growing at 8 percent annually. Reasons for the acquisition were cited as‚Äî Complements HP’s existing technology portfolio; Provides differentiated IP for services and extensive vertical capabilities in key industries; Provides IPG a base for content management platforms; Enhances HP’s financial profile; as well as Autonomy should be accretive to HP’s earnings. http://www.hp.com/ http://www.autonomy.com/

Search Industry in 2010

Just in from Information Week is this article (Exclusive: IBM Reorganizes Software Group ) that prompted me to launch 2010 with some thoughts on where we are heading with enterprise search this year. When IBM does something dramatic it impacts the industry because it makes others react.

I don’t make forecasts or try to guess whether strategic changes will succeed or fail but a couple of years ago, I blogged on IBM‘s introduction of Yahoo OmniFind, a free offering and then followed up with these comments just a few months ago. IBM makes their competitors change, try to outsmart, outguess, or copy, just as Microsoft or Google changes cause ripples in the industry.

Meanwhile, OpenText, another large software company with search offerings, is not going to offer search outside of its other product suites. [More is likely to come out after the scheduled analyst meetings today but I’m not there and can’t brief you on deeper intent.] We have recently seen an announcement about FAST being delivered with new SharePoint offerings, the first major release of FAST announced since Microsoft acquired them almost two years ago. While FAST is still available as a standalone product from MS, it and other search engines may be steadily moving into being embedded in suites by their acquirers.

Certainly IBM has a lot of search components that they have acquired, so continuing to bind with other content offerings is a probable strategy. Oracle and Autonomy may soon come up with similar suite offerings embedding search once again. Oracle SES (Secure Enterprise Search) does not appear to have a lot of traction and it’s possible that supporting pure search offerings may be a burden for Autonomy with its stable of many acquired content products.

All of this leads me to think that, since enterprise search has gotten such a bad reputation as a failed technology, the big software houses are going to bury it in point solutions. Personally, I believe that enterprise search is a failed strategy and SMBs can still find search engines that will serve the majority of their enterprise needs for several years to come. The same holds true for divisions or groups within large corporations.

Guidance: select and adopt one or more search solutions that fit your budget for small scale needs, point solutions and enterprise content that everyone in the organization needs to access on a regular basis. Learn how these products work, what they can and cannot deliver, making incremental adjustments as needs change and evolve. Do not install and think you are done because you will never be done. Cultivate a few search experts to stick with the evolving landscape and give them the means to keep up with changes in the search landscape. It is going to keep morphing for a long time to come.

If a Vendor Spends Enough on Full-page Ads: Ink will Follow

Earlier comments in this blog referred to Autonomy ads in Information Week. They have continued throughout early 2009 with just the latest proclaiming “Autonomy Dominates Enterprise Search” in bold red and black, two of my favorite, eye-catching colors. Having read the publication for over ten years, I notice things that are different. Seeing a search company repeatedly showing up keeps me noticing because they are the first to spend on major advertising like this in an IT publication.

This week the predictable happened, it was an article by Information Week‘s Sr. VP focusing on Autonomy’s terrific business run in a tough economy. Fair enough – it happens all the time for big spenders.

I just want to remind readers that if you are a small unit in a large organization or a small or medium business, there are dozens of enterprise search solutions that will serve you extremely well, with much lower cost of ownership and startup effort than Autonomy. You do not need the biggest or fastest growing company’s products to get good or even excellent solutions. Furthermore, the chances of getting superior customer support and services from a more modest company, which is focused exclusively on search excellence, are much better.

Be sure to check out the offerings at the Gilbane Conference in San Francisco next week. A lot more guidance and good case studies will give you an earful of what else to consider. The search headliners at the conference with Hadley Reynolds moderating are:

E8. Search Survival Guide: Delivering Great Results
Speakers: Randy Woods, Co-founder & Executive VP, non-linear creations, Best Practices for Tuning Enterprise Search and Miles Kehoe, President, New Idea Engineering

E9/I5. The Next Big Thing: Tomorrow’s Search Revealed
Speakers: Stephen Arnold, ArnoldIT, What You Need to Know About Google Dataspaces and Jeff Fried, Senior Product Manager, Microsoft

E10/I6. Bringing it All Together: Perils and Pitfalls of Search Federation
Speakers: Helen Mitchell Curtis, Senior Program Director of Enterprise Solutions, MacFadden, Federated Search in a Disparate Environment, Larry Donahue, Chief Operating Officer & Corporate Counsel, Deep Web Technologies, Federated Search: True Enterprise Search and Jeff Fried, Senior Product Manager, Microsoft

E11/I7. The Special Case of Categories – and Where To Find Them
Speakers: Joseph Busch, Founder, Taxonomy Strategies, Taxonomy Validation, and Arje Cahn, CTO, Hippo, Find What You Need in Unstructured Content with the Help of Others (and your CMS): Demo of Wikipedia with Faceted Search

E12/I8. It’s Easier with Structure: Leveraging Markup for Better Search
Speakers: Dianne Burley, Industry Specialist, Nstein Technologies, Semantic Search and J. Brooke Aker, CEO, Expert System, A 3-Step Walk Through ECM Using Semantics

E13/I9. Improving SharePoint Search & Navigation with a Taxonomy and Metadata

Autonomy Unveils Expertise Location Capability for iManage Universal Search

Autonomy Corporation plc (LSE:AU. or AU.L) unveiled a new Expertise Location module for its iManage Universal Search (IUS) solution, the company’s pan-enterprise search solution tailored for law firms. With this new module, lawyers can connect with other subject matter experts within the law firm, enabling the firm to efficiently staff matters and match the right talent with the needs of a case. Powered by Autonomy’s Meaning Based Computing platform, IDOL, the IUS Expertise Location module supports a law firm’s complete practice support needs on a single platform. IUS leverages IDOL’s ability to automatically build conceptual profiles of users based on the understanding of information. As lawyers interact with information as part of their daily routine in the iManage WorkSite document and email management system or IUS such as create or view documents, respond to emails, create time entry systems, etc., IUS can automatically build a profile of the user in real-time. As a result, IUS can identify experts within the law firm and connect their expertise with the most relevant information from multiple content repositories. With IDOL’s meaning-based approach, a user can find an expert even if the exact search terms are not included in the users’ profile. For example, searching for an expert in ‘copyright law’ will also show experts in conceptually related areas, such as ‘trademark’. The Expertise Location module is an add-on to iManage Universal Search and is available now. http://www.autonomy.com/imanage

Autonomy Delivers Cloud-Based Web Content Compliance Solution

Autonomy Corporation plc (LSE: AU.) announced a new solution that allows businesses to automatically record and archive dynamic website content. Designed to address the complex regulatory requirements for businesses presenting dynamic content on the web, the solution combines Autonomy Digital Safe with Interwoven TeamSite to form an offering for including web content in a comprehensive compliance policy. Autonomy leverages the capabilities of its Digital Safe Archive and TeamSite web content management solution to provide an automated, secure, and scalable solution that helps businesses meet the compliance requirements of the modern web. For example, an insurance company can now produce a record of the exact premiums it offered online to a particular segment of customers during a marketing campaign conducted several months ago. Digital Safe is a hosted archive service that enables customers to outsource the storage and management of email messages, rich-media files, audio files, instant messages, and all forms of web content. TeamSite’s web versioning capabilities enable businesses to capture snapshots of content delivered to customers at exact points in time, including rolling back to content delivered several months or years ago. This information can now be ingested and indexed by Digital Safe to help organizations meet strict eDiscovery and audit compliance requirements, including COBS 11.8 (Conduct of Business), SEC/FINRA regulations, and the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act. This solution is available now. http://www.interwoven.com/http://www.autonomy.com

Enterprise Search and Collaboration, or is it Compliance?

For two weeks in a row I have been struck by the appearance of full page ads on the inside cover of Information Week for Autonomy ControlPoint. For a leading search vendor, this positioning is interesting and raises a number of rhetorical questions about Autonomy’s direction and perhaps even the positioning of search in the marketplace. Top of my mind are these:

  • How will Autonomy be viewed by IT folks, whom I assume are the principal readers of Information Week?
  • Is this a shift away from an emphasis on search as “search” by Autonomy?
  • Is Autonomy just expanding its range to broader business interests to gain better enterprise penetration?
  • Will their deep technical competence in search be as rich in the areas of governance and compliance?

To try to get a handle on all of this, since the second ad had no URL, I went to the electronic version online at Information Week archives but discovered that the ads don’t appear in the PDF. No problem; I went to the advertisers’ index and clicked on the Autonomy link, thinking that the link would take me to the ControlPoint pages on their Web site. It only took me to the main page for Autonomy where there was nothing referring to ControlPoint, compliance, regulation or governance (all words prominent in the magazine print ads). I tried the drop-down for Products; nothing there either. At least Autonomy uses IDOL as its search engine on its own Web site, so I tried it. Yea! ControlPoint appeared in the results; the first entry got me to a page describing it.

But what else did I learn by following the breadcrumbs? A step back to the “products” level brought me to an Autonomy Electronics Records Management description and I began to notice the logo in the upper right said “Autonomy Meridio.” Lots of clicks later, I discovered that Meridio was acquired by Autonomy in 2007, which I probably would have known if I had paid more attention to “non-search” stuff. ControlPoint belongs in that family of products. When I clicked on this sidebar link, Autonomy ControlPoint: Information Governance for SharePoint and this one, Meridio eDRM for Microsoft Office, more questions came to mind:

  • Is Autonomy, the search company with its Meridio and Interwoven acquisitions, having a serious run at Microsoft by entering their traditional markets?
  • If an office tools software company like Microsoft slides into the search market by acquiring FAST and then leverages its great success with SharePoint by making FAST its default search offering, why shouldn’t Autonomy turn the tables?
  • By appealing to IT professionals will Autonomy be able to gain mind share that pits them directly against Microsoft with language like “Named Email and Compliance Vendor of the Year by Financial-i” and “Is SharePoint enough?”

Yes, we are going well Beyond Search, aren’t we?

Churning in the Search Sector – Two BIG Events in One Week

Analysts having been projecting major consolidation in the enterprise search marketplace for a couple of years. What is interesting to me is how slowly this is evolving. For every merger or acquisition, whether small or large (acquisition of Mondosoft by SurfRay or FAST by Microsoft), other companies emerge or evolve with diverse and potentially competitive technologies (e.g. Attivio, Connotate, Expert System, EyeAlike, Truevert, Temis).

We have seen companies like Exalead, ISYS, and Vivisimo gain on former leaders. Microsoft is often listed as an industry leader because it acquired former leader FAST while companies with solid products for verticals, like Recommind in law and financial services, are often overlooked because they lack the total company revenues of a Microsoft that sells a lot more software than enterprise search.

This past week two industry news items caused me to reflect on the potential impact of announcements that, while not surprising, can upset the plans of buyers of search technology. The first was the announcement that Autonomy is planning to procure Interwoven. That Interwoven is being acquired is no surprise, since the company was being groomed for acquisition. However, this appears to be the first instance of a “search” company acquiring a “content management/document management” company. The norm has been that search companies get bought to fill a need by ECM or CMS vendors. For anyone planning to procure Interwoven because of its embedded Vivisimo Velocity for Universal search in its Worksite product, this does put a wrinkle in the fabric. What a shame because it is going to be a while before the actual impact is really known and could slow sales. The cost to buyers having to accept Autonomy’s IDOL instead of Velocity could be significant. The effect could be on both licensing and deployment because Velocity has been an efficient install for most enterprises. Autonomy has got a big ramp up to shift from being a search company to becoming an ECM supplier and some will take a wait and see attitude, regardless of the Idol reputation.

The second big announcement, of course, is the departure from Microsoft of John Marcus Lervik, a co-founder of FAST and recently named Executive VP in a newly created position for Enterprise Search at Microsoft. I’m sure you’ll be seeing plenty about the reasons elsewhere. However, the difficulty for those buyers who are depending on FAST‘s search technology to be integrated sooner rather than later in Microsoft‘s offerings has just been made more complicated as one of the original leaders of FAST is leaving the team.

Two years ago I commented to FAST executives about the need for vendors on a rapid growth path to make the buying, business and support experience for customers a priority, beyond technology enhancements; so, I take little consolation in seeing this turmoil. If you are a buyer, take a good hard look behind the technology to see what else you will be dealing with as you make plans to acquire software.

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