Autonomy and IDOL are Too Expensive for Most Enterprises

I have been meaning to comment for some time now on Garnter’s contention that, “Autonomy is not practical for smaller enterprises.

Fate would have it that this past week, while talking to the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of mid level Global 2000 enterprise, I was actually asked my opinion on the “true cost” of implementing Autonomy as the foundation for a Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) and eDiscovery proactive Electronically Stored Information (ESI) Management platform. My answer quickly moved the discusssion to the cost of implementing Autonomy’s Intelligent Data Operating Layer (IDOL).

First of all, I want to state that the comment “Autonomy’s vision for the value of its Intelligent Data Operating Layer (IDOL) at the largest enterprises and for strategically engaged OEMs remains irreproachable and exceptional. Its practical value in many smaller installations remains problematic, as it is a challenge to implement and adopt” that I am referring to came from a Gartner report released on July 13, 2009 by Whit Andrews, titled “Autonomy IDOL for Information Access: Effective for Strategic Use; Difficult for Smaller Implementations”

Back to my discussion, the annual sales for the company that this CIO works for is in the $5 Billion range and therefore has a rather hefty IT budget even in these troubling economic times. However, I was quick to point out that because Autonomy’s solution sits on IDOL, it requires a multi-million dollar investment, a 12 month implementation plan and a team of IT professions to maintain. As such, my caution was that he not view it as a casual decision. And, moving my thoughts to companies in the less than $1Billion in sales range and smaller, I am hard pressed to see how the Autonomy solutions is even an option (And, know people that either work or have worked at Autonomy, I would suggest that would agree with this positioning).

As backup for my opinion, I also cited a Blog posting by Aaref Hilaly on August 31, 2009, titled, “When It Comes To E-Discovery, Beware Of IDOL Worship” and threw in the disclaimer that Mr. Hilaly was the CEO of Clearwell which has a somewhat competitive and much less expensive eDiscovery solution that competes with Autonomy.

The full text of Mr. Hilaly’s post is as follows:

There is no greater euphemism than the word “strategic”. Whenever a company announces a “strategic acquisition“, you know it paid a ridiculous price which cannot be justified any other way; when someone does a “strategic deal“, it means the economics favor the other party; and, when someone says a product is good for “strategic use”, it means the product does not really work or deliver any value today, but might in the future. So it was with great interest that I read Gartner’s recent research note entitled “Autonomy IDOL for Information Access: Effective For Strategic Use; Difficult For Smaller Implementations“. The author is Whit Andrews, who is not only one of the most cogent observers of the electronic discovery market, but also articulate, erudite and given to occasional poetry-writing. So the nuance of the word “strategic” is not lost on him.

IDOL, which is the underlying technology behind Aungate, is a powerful, flexible, extensible platform. But it only works if you spend several millions of dollars on software licenses, and dedicate a full-time team of at least 3 people to maintain it. Autonomy has sought to address some of these issues with a lower-priced package called Retina, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any successful implementations of it.

So, who IS using Autonomy and powering the company’s strong financial performance? And what are they using it for? The answer, from my own experience, is very large companies and government agencies that make multi-year, multi-million dollar commitments. In return, Autonomy becomes a “strategic partner”, an extension of a customer’s in-house IT team, and works closely with them on installation and customization. Typically, the product is used for large scale, complex, enterprise search, and proactive information management.

Like all of us, Autonomy is a product of its time. Started in the late 20th century, it is a traditional enterprise software company, like Siebel or PeopleSoft, which offers a product which is powerful, flexible, but expensive, hard to use, difficult to implement. By contrast, modern 21st century web-applications, like salesforce.com or Netsuite, come from the opposite end of the spectrum. They make simplicity, and ease-of-use their design center, and seek to offer the subset of functionality you really need at a small fraction of the cost of traditional software.

From a customer perspective, either can work – it’s all a question of what you want. Are you more comfortable with an easy-to-use, quick-to-deploy, low-cost web application for e-discovery, or do you place “strategic value” on the flexibility and infinite customization of traditional software? This note from Gartner will help you make the right decision.

So, I got my chance to talk about this issue. However, since I am actually much more interested in this topic, over the next couple of months, I plan to try and find some real financial data and true comparisions. Clearwell is definitely one of the less expensive next generation competitors to the eDiscvoery part of Autonomy.

However, there are many many more and even new eDiscovery solutiuons on the market. As an example, you are going to start hearing about Venio Systems who has an exciting new Early Case Assessment Tool (ECA) that will compete with Clearwell and therefore by Clearwell’s own definition, compete with Autonomy. I plan to provide a complete review on Venio Systems and other next generation ECA tools in the weeks to come. If anyone would like to submit their ECA product or a case study of the cost of implementing either Autonomy or one of the next generation ECA solutions, I would be more than happy to publish them.

About Charles Skamser
Charles Skamser is an internationally recognized technology sales, marketing and product management leader with over 25 years of experience in Information Governance, eDiscovery, Machine Learning, Computer Assisted Analytics, Cloud Computing, Big Data Analytics, IT Automation and ITOA. Charles is the founder and Senior Analyst for eDiscovery Solutions Group, a global provider of information management consulting, market intelligence and advisory services specializing in information governance, eDiscovery, Big Data analytics and cloud computing solutions. Previously, Charles served in various executive roles with disruptive technology start ups and well known industry technology providers. Charles is a prolific author and a regular speaker on the technology that the Global 2000 require to manage the accelerating increase in Electronically Stored Information (ESI). Charles holds a BA in Political Science and Economics from Macalester College.