The US$ 10.4 billion acquisition of UK-based Autonomy by US-based HP has been one of the most discussed events in the industry over the past 18 months. Unfortunately, the discussion has focused largely on allegations of corporate malpractices. Now that the acquisition is now a done deal, we decided to find out what exactly HP is going to do with Autonomy in the coming years and spoke to Autonomy General Manager, Robert Youngjohns.

Autonomy GM and Autonomy

If the name Robert Youngjohns seems familiar, its hardly a surprise. HP lifted him straight out of Microsoft’s sales department where he was Head of Sales for North America, and plonked him down in the manager’s chair of Autonomy, making him senior vice president with HP.

Already, HP was making its intentions clear; Autonomy is a core part of HP and its purpose -- like any company its purpose is to make money.

The first question that springs to mind in this respect is the ongoing problems around the acquisition of Autonomy. Rumors have been circulating the Web for months, suggesting that HP was going to cut its losses and dump Autonomy. Youngjohns was quite emphatic about it:

"There is no truth to that at all… Meg Whitman has reiterated the fact that HP is completely committed to Autonomy and I think the best way to think about it is that its not just about Autonomy as a business, it's also about the value that Autonomy brings to the rest of the HP portfolio…

"And that is something I have been working on very hard for the last six months with the business -- not just to ensure that we are leveraging the advantages of HP in terms of customer and all that, but that we’re also leveraging our technology into other things that HP does, whether it's printers, PCs storage solutions, enterprise services and so on…”

HP, Autonomy Objectives

Since the acquisition, building the business value of its products has been a key goal, and the way to achieve that is integration he says. Until last September, the number of integrations had been very limited and much of the speculation about Autonomy had been based on the fact that no one could really see anything practical from the buy.

But it is this that Youngjohns has been specifically tasked with:

…one of the missions I was given was to sensibly integrate the two…by sensibly, I mean integrate at the right pace and speed so that we get the benefits of integration with HP but that we don't derail the things we are doing.. we've been engaged in doing that and I think we've made a fair amount of progress.."

To do that, three distinct objectives were outlined:

  1. Focus on customer and customer satisfaction. This aims to ensure that Autonomy customers are getting the most out of the license.
  2. Properly developed roadmaps for the products in the family. In parallel to this, Autonomy has built up its R+D investment significantly to ensure the roadmaps and points along the map are met.
  3.  Leverage HP not just in terms of access to markets but also in terms of making sure Autonomy technology is embedded in as many technologies as possible.

IDOL and Autonomy’s Future

And while the Intelligent Data Operating Layer (IDOL) server technology is the muscle buried below the products that everyone can see, it is not really what Autonomy is marketing. Most of the income generated by Autonomy is from information governance, backup and recovery products, archiving and compliance enterprise content management, and records management.

Its principal areas of activity though, will not change, and will fall into three principal areas:

  1. Big Data: Solving information management problems contained and associated with big data
  2. Information governance: This is getting the most short term traction, Youngjohns says, as problems around regulations, compliance and the associated issues of discovery and records management quickly become real issues for many verticals.
  3. Web content management: Autonomy will continue to build this, with plans in the pipeline for the addition of real-time analytics. He says to watch out for HP’s Discovery conference in June for some interesting news here.

Information Governance

More generally, Autonomy has a bunch of point products whose direction will change slightly in the medium term:

What I'm doing at the moment is trying to pull them together into a slightly different strategy that starts with a policy manager, which will be the central point at which you decide your policies for managing content within the enterprise..and we already have a great product in ControlPoint... from that you can develop a cycle that sits around it…"

And we're back to IDOL again, because at the head of all that is the capabilities of IDOL that can relate and contextualize both structured and unstructured data. So much so that Youngjohns goes as far as to describe IDOL, not as server, but an operating system.

You can imagine the critics are just lining up to take a pop at that one. But there is a lot of sense to it:

IDOL is an operating system for Human Information.. an operating system is quite a good description because what an operating system does is abstract common functions and manage those functions within the operating system…Applications then talk to that operating system through standard interfaces.. and that is what we intend to do with IDOL .. the standard interfaces being around categorization, search and all the other things that IDOL does well…”

HP, Autonomy Integrations

The other part of developing Autonomy is through HP and working out what products Autonomy is going to work with. Since the acquisition, there has been relatively few integrations for the price that was paid, although the pace is now starting to pick up.

Its recovery and discovery products are beginning to find their way into HP storage products, there is ongoing work around mobile and document capture, and there is the Autonomy Flow product that was originally built for legal professionals that would manage documents in a defined workflow through a desktop or mobile device.

Now being marketed as HP Flow CM Enterprise, it has been integrated into some of the HP multifunction printers (MFP) so that printers now become an active part of the workflow by finding and printing documents as required.

Corporate Culture

A final issue that goes back to acquisition is about speculation in the media that one of the things that really clashed was the corporate cultures on either side of the Atlantic. On one hand, there was Autonomy, the brainchild of Mike Lynch. On the other hand, there was one of the US’s largest companies with a very set corporate ethic and culture that goes back to its creation in 1939. There was speculation that Autonomy would never fit, that UK workers would never settle into corporate America with the high number of departures from Autonomy in the UK cited as evidence of the problem.

However, for Youngjohns there is another story:

The first thing that not many people realize is that 70% of Autonomy's business and 75% of the people, even before the buyout, were in the US.. and most of those people welcomed the deal and were happy to be part of a US corporation and the things that US corporations take for granted.. that side of it hasn’t been difficult at all…

We are moving people onto HP terms and conditions right now and generally the response has been very positive.. we put a lot of effort into making people feel good about the transfer and they feel good about the things the get as a result of it…"

He also cites the example of a sales seminar with some of the sales people in Autonomy who told him afterwards that it was the first training they had received in 10 years. And there's more, but here it starts getting into the territory around the disputed acquisition which is best avoided, even if its only because views on that are determined by who you are and who you are working for.

In the meantime, generally speaking, the roadmap over the next year or so is marked with some interesting points that we will be looking at as they happen. When asked what the priorities are, Youngjohns said:

Sharpen up big data analytics with a theme that will be machine augmented human intelligence, and which aims to provide enterprises with solutions to problems and contained in the vast swathes of information tacked in there…and we'll be tackling that using IDOL and our expertise [in this]. There will be a lot more in the information governance space that will involve linking all the components and putting policy management at the center.. and in WCM… new capabilities in June and that is going to be real exciting.. we're going to provide the enterprise back end with great analytics…”

There is clearly a lot more coming down the road but these are the essentials. More on Autonomy and HP as soon as the integrations become available.