HP has finally announced a boss for Autonomy as it struggles to make money from the acquisition. As of next Monday (September 17), Robert Youngjohns, currently head of Microsoft sales in North America is to take over.
According to a statement from HP, Youngjohns will take up the reins as general manager and senior vice president of the Autonomy and Information Management business in HP. He will answer to George Kadifa, executive vice president of HP software.
The choice of Youngjohns is an interesting one. Youngjohns is head of sales and marketing at Microsoft's North American division, but is British born and comes from one of the UK’s prestige universities — in this case Oxford — in contrast to Mike Lynch’s Cambridge and has spent much of his life working in corporate America.
In this respect, his appointment may indeed be a canny one. Since HP took over Autonomy in the US $10.2 billion deal, leaving aside criticisms that it paid way over the odds, one of the major issues appears to have been problems associated with transplanting HP’s culture onto a very different Autonomy.
Autonomy vs HP
Depending on the who you listen to, Autonomy was faster moving, more aggressive, more dynamic than the slow moving, management heavy HP. Autonomy and HP sales teams are said to have had problems communicating and finally, while US and UK cultures — business and otherwise — have always been quite distinct once language similarities are set aside.
The result is that a huge number of people have left Autonomy since the takeover. By some estimates it's close to 25% of staff and more expected to leave in November once the moratorium on selling corporate stock runs out.
It is into this that Youngjohns is stepping. And he really has a tough job ahead of him. Autonomy has not been performing well, and in the recent Q3 figures released by HP in August, HP CEO Meg Whitman said the company still “needs attention”.
It's hard to know where Youngjohns is going to start, although the fact that he bridges both British and American business culture is good and something that many other qualified candidates may not have had.
Apart from Microsoft, he has worked with IBM, Sun and Callidus and with this corporate experience under his belt he has been assigned the task of integrating Autonomy into the corporate whole that is HP, while at the same time increasing sales of Autonomy products.
While HP, through Meg Whitman, has reaffirmed its commitment to hardware overturning former CEO Leo Apotheker announcement that HP was pulling out of hardware in 2011, HP is still looking for profits in software, and software servicing.
To say Youngjohns is under pressure here would be a massive understatement. HP is not shy of dumping people when they don’t perform, or when they are considered superfluous to the future of HP, as the 29,000 people that are to be made redundant in its massive restructuring can testify.
Lynch, Autonomy, IT
As for Mike Lynch, there is no definite news on him despite ongoing signs that he is still working away in the shadows of IT. He has said nothing definite except to indicate that he is working with former Autonomy colleagues
In a recent interview with the UK-based Business Weekly he dismissed rumours that he would set up a new Autonomy, but did suggest that there were other areas of technology that have piqued his interest. He also confirmed that he has founded a new UK-based fund that is vetting international technology propositions.
He certainly has the money to follow-up on those propositions — about US$800 million — so no surprises if we hear something concrete back by Lynch soon.
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