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).
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.
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.
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