Thursday, October 4, 2012

HP Gives A Peek Into Autonomy

I got a question about the "Autonomy demo" at the HP Analyst Day.  I happened to see the demo on the webcast.  Let me give a setup to what I remember.  Chief Marketing Officers of large corporations are now supposed to be sensitive to, and savvy about social media.  "What are customers saying about our product?"  "What's the buzz about Benneton's new ad campaign?"

Instead of hiring an agency or devoting corporate resources to monitoring Twitter, blogs, and the river of digital information, the marketing officer would use Autonomy's IDOL technology, which is an indexing engine much like Google deploys, to provide the user with a real-time dashboard.

The audience saw a real time demo of IDOL monitoring every Internet news, broadcast news, online services, blogs and Twitter.  As it monitored, it found key words or phrases, aggregated and counted them; then, in what looked like a streaming ticker, more frequently occurring terms or phrases appeared in caps or in different colors.  It was a real time "heat map" summary of market sentiment. 

Leaving out the cost-benefit analysis of tracking social media to begin with, there's no doubt that this kind of real-time, high volume coverage, tracking, sorting and indexing couldn't be done without a powerful data gathering and analytical engine in the background.  This would be the IDOL technology, which is one of Autonomy's three or four core technologies. 

The demo certainly did put meat on the bones of the presentation that talked about IT spend going beyond the CIO.  One could easily have imagined a similar kind of monitoring being done for a compliance officer in the corporate legal department. 

There is an asset in Autonomy.  CEO Meg Whitman made a remark about the migration to the cloud requiring HP to be "ahead of the curve."  Building something like Autonomy had inside HP would have been a long, expensive distraction from the focus the CEO wants.  The board must have felt that buying it, even at an outrageous price, was the only way to go.  It will take two years to turn around Autonomy to make it a sustainable source of profitable revenue; after that, we'll know for sure if it was a good decision.

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