While Hewlett-Packard continues to wrestle with how to handle Autonomy, its $11.3 billion 2011 acquisition, the systems, software and services provider has pledged its ongoing support for the big data wrangling entity. As eWEEK’s Jeffrey Burt recently reported, despite unexpected baggage, Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman reportedly sees Autonomy as an important part of the company’s future.
Last year, HP announced an $8.8 billion charge in connection with the acquisition due to allegations that Autonomy officials fraudulently overstated the software maker’s value in the runup to HP’s buying it. When HP officials announced the charge, they said $5.5 billion of that was due to “serious accounting improprieties” at Autonomy.
“We remain committed to Autonomy; we remain committed to the brand, to Cambridge, to the U.K. [where Autonomy is based],” Whitman said, according to the news organization. “It is an almost magical technology. … It plays into a big shift in the market, the area of big data, which HP should be in.”
In this Q&A with Robert Youngjohns, general manager and senior vice president of HP Autonomy, eWEEK senior editor Darryl K. Taft delves into some of the issues Autonomy has come through and looks at where the organization is headed.
HP Autonomy went through a rough patch near the end of last year. Where are things right now?
Obviously, we received a fair amount of “publicity” about HP Autonomy at the end of last year. My mission as the lead of HP Autonomy is to set that story aside so the team can focus on what’s ahead of us, and on delivering for our customers. And frankly, that story has subsided, and I think the market is seeing us make great strides on several fronts.
So I don’t know that I would call it a rough patch, but I think it is fair to say that the publicity that we received at the end of last year made for some interesting times.
As we entered 2013, the focus of the HP Autonomy team is to position our business for growth and success. We have three priorities: making customer success the heart of everything that we do, building great products with a clear, funded road map, and leveraging the rest of HP to gain access to markets and customers. Our priorities are aligned with both HP Software as well as the larger HP, and I am pleased with the progress we’ve made so far and I’m very optimistic about the future of the business.
We have over 800 engineers around the world generating great new product, code and functionality. We have the vision, the technology, and the people to make HP Autonomy an increasingly important, pivotal player in the new information age.
What role will HP software and Autonomy play in HP’s turnaround?
We are really excited about our role in HP’s future. As Meg Whitman has reiterated on multiple occasions, Autonomy is an absolutely critical component of HP’s go-forward strategy. We are part of HP Software, and we are core to HP’s long-term strategy around big data, cloud, mobile and security. Our R&D investment has increased significantly in the last two quarters, we are reinvigorating our entire suite of products, and our software is being integrated in multiple ways across the entire HP portfolio.
In the software and solutions space, what problems are you solving?
The world has changed dramatically in recent years. Human information, which is unstructured data in the form of email, social media, video, Web content and audio, is pervasive in our personal and professional lives. And what I call the “Internet of Things”—in which everything, from bridges, trains, planes and retail stores, is filled with sensors measuring every move of human society—is now giving rise to astronomical growth rates of machine data.
HP’s Autonomy Focused on Big Data, Cloud, Mobile, Security: GM
So the world is getting bigger. Not bigger physically, but bigger digitally. This bigger digital world presents big risk and big opportunity. HP Autonomy sits in a tremendously exciting position in this new world. Quite simply, we help organizations make sense of all this information, understand it in all of its context and meaning, and act on it so that they can be more successful. Ultimately, in a new, bigger, digital world, we help organizations increase their “return on information.”
Your big differentiator is IDOL. Can you explain briefly what IDOL is and does, and how it sets you apart from other enterprise players?
Sure. If you reduce what we do down to basic concepts, we are in three distinct businesses.
The foundation of our business is IDOL and helping customers extract value from vast amounts of largely unstructured information. We call IDOL “the OS for human information,” because IDOL acts as a service layer containing a wide variety of capabilities that can be applied to solve a diverse range of business problems.
The technology provides a single processing layer for all data, with continuous learning ability, built-in security and massive scalability. IDOL’s ability to understand meaning makes us totally unique in the market. It’s really the secret sauce of HP Autonomy.
So our first business is all about helping customers solve their deepest big data challenges—for example, identifying insurance fraud, or finding a better and more effective way to run a health care system. Organizations are overwhelmed with data of all types. We excel at coming in and helping them take a novel look at all this information, ultimately making them more successful.
Our second business is around information governance, where we help customers set policies for the acquisition, disposal, retention, discoverability and access to all types of information. And we make this possible by providing the most important part: delivering the tools to implement and enforce these policies. In information governance, I believe we go farther to meet the needs of our customers than pretty much any other solution out there right now.
Our third business, around digital marketing, looks at the way individuals interact with the Web and our ability to transform their experience with great analytics based on IDOL and Vertica. This is about Web content management, rich media management, multivariate testing, call center and multichannel analytics products, as well as the work we are doing with Aurasma. Our goal here is to give users a more personalized experience that helps businesses increase their conversion rates from visit to purchase.
What are you hearing on customer calls these days?
What really gets me so passionate about this business—what confirms my belief that HP Autonomy is at the center of a sea change in how organizations will operate—are our customers. We have tremendous success stories, where companies are truly betting their business on Autonomy.
For example, we work with most of the largest insurance companies on the planet. With the passing of health care reform in the U.S., one of our largest health insurance customers realized that it is more important than ever to deliver a compelling, engaging and helpful online experience. This is vital to their ability to retain and grow their customer base. So, they turned to HP Autonomy to overhaul their entire Web presence to better communicate with their 70 million visitors. It’s been a huge success, and their team credits HP Autonomy with the role we’ve played in helping them realize their vision.
HP’s Autonomy Focused on Big Data, Cloud, Mobile, Security: GM
Then we have financial services. Most of the world’s largest banks depend on HP Autonomy to keep their information house in order. We’re really the only solution that can archive, govern and retrieve the mountains of data they produce every day. Being a global, publicly traded bank is a high-stakes business. You are operating on a 1,000-foot high wire. You have to deal with a massive global web of international regulations and compliance laws. Failure to comply can mean huge fines, jail time or even the end of the company. And, of course, they operate in hair-trigger markets that move with punishing speed.
What are some other examples of technology integration between HP and Autonomy?
I am really excited about the concept of using our Aurasma augmented-reality technology combined with HP printers for something called Live Paper, which is about enhancing user experiences by triggering engaging digital content on a mobile phone or tablet by holding it up to a static image.
Another example is how HP integrated Autonomy’s archiving and data protection software with its storage solutions. Now, we can offer a single, standardized deduplication engine that runs across the enterprise from the edge to the corporate data center to the cloud. Also, HP and Autonomy have integrated Autonomy’s enterprise content management solution with HP Flow [multifunction printers (MFPs)] for the legal market. We also see this pairing as relevant for any regulated industry like health care and government, where it’s crucial to manage the flow of documents and information, keeping in mind the complex security, storage and compliance requirements. Pairing HP hardware with Autonomy software takes care of the whole picture.
Tell us about the recent Aurasma news.
From SXSW last month, we announced version 2.0 of the Aurasma augmented-reality platform, which includes better object and image recognition, plus a fuller suite of cloud and social features. Aurasma now has more than 16,000 customers in 100 countries using augmented reality in everything from interactive advertising campaigns to bringing fans closer to recording artists, sports teams, and fashion and retail brands. Huge names, including GQ, Marvel and Subaru, plan to use 2.0 in forthcoming marketing campaigns, and it’s one of the most exciting emerging technologies coming out of HP Autonomy on the marketing front.
I also should mention that HP released an app for iOS called HP Live Photo, which lets you take a video, pick out a still frame from the video, share the image on Facebook or print it, and when a user scans the image, the whole video plays back on the user’s device. So, for example, your business card could come to life with a video of you speaking, or you could even print holiday cards that come to life to your family and friends around the world. You are effectively sending a video to someone via a paper medium. The app is powered by the Aurasma engine, which is based on IDOL technology. So, yet another example of Autonomy and HP innovating together.
How do you attract top talent?
There are a number of ways to engage and retain the base. Of course we went through some initial bumps, but morale is way up and we are hiring. The HP Autonomy team sees nothing but the upside in being part of HP. And to counter what you may have heard, there has been no executive or engineering turnover since I took the helm six months ago. And, actually, employee turnover has dropped overall by more than 60 percent since May 2012.What I’m telling the market and customers is—take a closer look at Autonomy today. Talk to our employees, test our products and ask the hard questions. I know you will see a positive and motivated team that is completely focused on customer success.