Jun 1 2009

Autonomy iManage’s first 100 days

Jason

OK, I’m shooting the gun a little bit. It has only been 66 days since Autonomy’s takeover of Interwoven officially completed, but since it was announced back in January and 100 days has more of a ring to it I thought I’d round it up to the nearest hundred.

So what to make of the first 100 days of Autonomy iManage?

Let’s start with the Autonomy side of things. I can sum up my initial impressions with one simple statement “they are one hell of a marketing machine”. If they were on “The Apprentice” they’d walk it, Sir Alan loves a seller.

If you look behind the marketing sheen you see the one product seems to underpin everything, the IDOL search engine. Before I had any dealings with Autonomy I had heard about IDOL and that it was a very good product, but you really needed to work with it to get it to do what you wanted.

As most Interwoven customers will know the IDOL engine was “rapidly” introduced into WorkSite, IUS and TeamSite. I use quotes as this is technically true, but having seen it in WorkSite it isn’t a simple fit for the customer. The reason for this is because IDOL is very much a product in it’s own right. WorkSite and IDOL are “loosely coupled”. The IDOL engine itself has multiple components and configuration requirements (the licence key itself is complex, tied to a mac address!). This is far from the original verity indexer that was pretty straight forward (and Vivisimo Velocity engine that was very briefly available).

Don’t get me wrong, the product works, but what was once a DMS (Document Management System) with a simple indexer component is now very much a DMS and full blown search engine to manage.

This is not unique to Interwoven’s products. Although I can’t comment myself on the Zantaz 6.1 release with IDOL, I found a comment on it elsewhere that has similar sentiments for this product:

I have it in my demo environment and running for one customer already. It kicks AltaVista’s butt – but it is a bitch to get up and running.

And where as the technical team were out of the blocks like Usain Bolt, the training teams seem to have made a 100m start like, well like me! And because of this it is where I see some short term difficulties. The initial training sessions have been web based and frankly weak and there are only just starting to be UK classroom courses being scheduled (these are specific IDOL courses too, where are the integrated WorkSite/IDOL courses?).

And IDOL will need training, in fact I think that there will be a need for an “IDOL DBA” type function in most law firms (after all WorkSite, IUS and Zantaz are all IDOL powered now).

I forget what the general release target for 8.5 was, but I am sure it was summer ‘09. If that is still the case, then there are going to be a lot of UK customers in a bottle neck waiting to get IDOL trained. If I’m being harsh I would say the promise made at the last user group that the UK team would be ready to support the 8.5 IDOL release sounds a little hollow.

And what about support? Well two things stick out. First there seems to be some re-organisation or upheaval going on, whether it’s support being aligned in Cambridge or something else I don’t know. Nothing has been confirmed and I haven’t heard anything from Autonomy iManage, this is just a feeling I get. The second thing is there still needs to be a lot of knowledge transfer, it seems that old Interwoven people don’t understand IDOL fully yet and Autonomy people don’t understand the WorkSite product.

However these are early days and it shouldn’t detract from the fact the IDOL is a very good product! And most importantly it works with large volumes of data, which is good news for the biglaw firms and for the goals of WorkSite 9.0 (which one of the objectives I seem to remember was 50m+ document libraries).

It’s far from negative. It’s just that I feel a little like I did listening to Tony Blair at the moment, the Autonomy marketing machine is in full swing, but behind the marketing sheen things aren’t quite what they seem, yet.

But as I’ve said IDOL works and it seems very scalable. And from what I’ve seen so far of Autonomy engineers, they are a very capable technical team and if they can marry this with the iManage team in Chicago then we could have product that will continue to improve rapidly. Once the training and support teams catch up then legal has a great suite of products to utilise underpinned by one enterprise search engine.

Unfortunately I just see a H2 2009 that may frustrate customers keen to exploit some of the great features in 8.5. So the next 100 days will be the real test, can they get WorkSite 8.5 and IDOL IUS in the field with the training and support available? I could be wrong, the Autonomy iManage team could just have all their focus (technical, support and training) on getting everything set for 8.5 IDOL launch. We’ll see!

What are your thoughts so far?

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Mar 12 2009

Interwoven WorkSite 8.4?!?

Jason

Well I find out today that Interwoven will be releasing a v8.4!

It’s all part of the takeover by Autonomy and I know that until the merger goes through it’s difficult for them to disseminate information to customers on something that isn’t confirmed. But customers are still moving forward with projects and if you’re in the process of moving to v8.3 for the Vivisimo search, then you may want to take notes of these upcoming releases!

For those mid-project, here’s the order as a guide:

  • v8.5 is imminent (with Vivisimo Velocity) on a limited release (Limited release is fully tested production code but only released to clients who ask for it so they can be given preferential support)
  • v8.4 (with Autonomy’s IDOL engine) would follow this at some point. A server side upgrade retaining the v8.2 client – expect it to initially be a limited release while knowledge of IDOL grows within Interwoven.
  • v8.5 would then be released with Autonomy’s IDOL engine as a limited release
  • IUS (IDOL) limited release on a similar timetable to 8.5 IDOL
  • General availability of all above would follow later in year
  • Along with additional v8.5 modules such as SharePoint integration, WorkSite Web, IRM, language packs etc
  • After all this there comes the Fileshare release (I’m looking forward to this one! From what I understand you can make your workspaces available through a windows file share!)

In terms of architecture, the feedback is that the IDOL engine requires a similar capability as Vivisimo Velocity, so in their words “we can ‘simply switch’ from one index to the other”.

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Feb 16 2009

News on Autonomy/Interwoven

Jason

Got a communication from Tikit today regarding some information on the Autonomy/Interwoven merger. Nothing really new, but in case you’ve not had any updates here’s what news there is.

What’s happening in terms of technology / product change?

I&A have confirmed that the Autonomy IDOL engine will be embedded into Interwoven WorkSite v8.3 (replacing the Vivisimo Velocity search engine).   In fact, this is seen as a top priority and as such work has already started and the target is to have this "substantially technically completed" by the time the acquisition finalises.   As with all good software companies they are preserving some mystery around the actual completion date but the original statement was ‘sometime during Q2’.  It seems to us that the indications are that this will be finished earlier rather than later, with talk of late March even being a possibility.   It is expected that this change in search engine technology will be covered by your WorkSite software subscription.

I&A have also confirmed that the next version of Interwoven Universal Search (Version tba) will also include the Autonomy IDOL search technology. Once again, the technical effort is already underway and the target for completion is deal-day. This is a larger piece of work than with WorkSite but, according to Interwoven, progress has been "very positive and is currently on target".

What’s the likely impact on product release plans?

Plans for the Limited release of WorkSite v8.5 are under review – they intend to provide a Limited Availability release (to customers who specifically request it – English language only etc.) in March but whether this is based on the Vivisimo Velocity engine or the new Autonomy IDOL engine is still to be decided. Either way, this will enable clients already on v8.3  to move to v8.5 and take advantage of the much requested and eagerly-awaiting new email management and offline working functionality. Then the General Availability release of WorkSite v8.5 is due in June 2009 – this will include the other language versions.  All future versions will be solely IDOL based.

With regard to IUS, it must be said that the release dates / plans are a little more vague.  But it would seem to us that any impact in the short term is limited to those firms who are about to embark on implementing IUS.  I&A are hoping to bring the release of IUS on IDOL forward from the initial target of June.

What about the big picture?

Up at the commercial level, the proposed acquisition has been almost universally praised.  One clear indicator of that is the Autonomy share price, which rose by approximately 20% over the last three weeks alone. 

On this last point I worry a little. The only reason the market would boost a share price is because of returns on investment and not because the customer is going to get benefit. Which re-enforces my concern that the goal for Autonomy is to try and sell all their products to the Interwoven legal customers.

Let’s hope not (or at least not at the detriment of Interwoven product development and integration).

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Jan 30 2009

Interwoven and Autonomy – WorkSite, IDOL and iManage?

Jason

This week I had a short telephone conference with Interwoven, the main purpose of my attending was the topic of the Autonomy takeover and what that means to our firm.

Given that we didn’t discuss anything confidential and a lot of it is out in the open already or will be communicated to other customers/potential customers, I thought I’d blog a few interesting things that came up.

We talked about where the deal had come from and they mentioned that they had been in the market for some kind of deal for a while, realising they didn’t have solutions for workflow really or email archiving and they were at risk in the indexing arena (they don’t own the Vavisimo engine and therefore there is a risk a competitor could buy the product and pull it from under Interwoven). When Autonomy came in the a good deal both companies realised the technologies were quite complimentary without much overlap.

We touched on the financials for the deal, the fact that Autonomy expect cost savings of $40m over the first year. In particular what this  meant to technology development teams in Interwoven? The response was pretty much the same as in the announcement you can hear on Autonomy’s website. They aren’t going to save on development etc, but the savings are expected by reducing the need for doubling up on some marketing, financial, legal teams etc.

In fact Autonomy do seem to want rapid introduction of their technology into Interwoven, this effectively means bye bye Vavisimo. The Autonomy IDOL engine will become the engine behind WorkSite and IUS (Interwoven Universal Search). Personally I’m still struggling to understand why IUS will stay, isn’t it just and Enterprise Search that Autonomy provide already? But the indication was it will live on.

What does this mean for WorkSite 8.3 and 8.5? Well my guess (certainly not confirmed) is to expect a delay on 8.5. The limited release will be released on schedule with Vavisimo as the index engine, but the full release will not be on Vavissimo and WILL be on IDOL. Technically the feeling was that this wouldn’t be a huge job and that Autonomy were willing to ship developers to Chicago to ensure a quick transitions. Interestingly it was also mentioned that IDOL was their first choice post verity, but that commercial reasons meant it didn’t happen. Vavisimo was seen as very good alternative though.

I queried the hardware requirements of IDOL (given as if you’ve gone to 8.3 you’ll have invested in new servers/storage no doubt). The indication was it would not need any more power, but these weren’t Interwoven technical people so take from that what you will.

The feeling I got from the telcon and also from the press releases and market briefing was that there really does seem to be a big focus on the legal vertical. On the one hand this could be great news for new functionality, development and integrations, but on the other it could be that Autonomy just see the market as a sales opportunity! Time will tell.

We asked about suppliers and what this means for the Tikits, Phoenix or the Baker Robins, the Interwoven resellers. Especially if, for example, you have Autonomy’s Zantaz and a different reseller. Will the new Autonomy use resellers as much? Will they ensure resellers know all their products? Will it allow firms to rationalise their suppliers? I don’t know, unfortunately we had a reseller on the call too so the answer was very vague.

Overall there wasn’t a whole lot of comfirmation or news, it’s early days and the Interwoven people are only just engaging with the Autonomy people in anger, I expect there will be plenty more news in the coming weeks.

Finally don’t be surprised to see the iManage brand back. It was mentioned as a bit of a throwaway joke in the meeting, but the brand was also on the slides from the market briefing. Maybe there was more to the joke? The Interwoven name will probably be dropped, so will we in fact see the DMS (Document Management System) revert to the old brand name?

Will the brand be back?

Will the brand be back?

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Jan 22 2009

Autonomy buys Interwoven

Jason

Interwoven Announces Definitive Agreement to be Acquired by Autonomy

Well it wasn’t a shock that Interwoven would get taken over in 2009, there were plenty of rumours indicating this was likely to happen. What was a shock is the company who has bought them. I’d heard from sources at other well known document management system vendors talk about it being HP or Oracle, as neither had a foothold in this market. But Autonomy, that was out of the blue.

No doubt in a lot of law firms right now there are a raft of questions doing the rounds.

What does this mean for IUS (Interwoven Universal Search)? Doesn’t this compete with Autonomy’s products?

Where does Velocity fit into the long term WorkSite plans as the indexing/searching engine?

Will WorkSite v8.5 get delayed as Autonomy’s search engine gets integrated?

Ultimately will the niche document management product (WorkSite) get sidelined for Interwoven’s other offerings?

No answers yet.

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Jan 15 2009

LexisWeb

Jason

I noticed a flurry of twitter posts over the last few days about LexisWeb beta and didn’t really take much notice, but it was a post from Doug Cornelious’ blog “KM Space” in my RSS reader this morning that got me to look at this site.

Their blurb says:

The Lexis Web product includes important, legal-oriented Web content selected and validated by the LexisNexis editorial staff. You can trust that all content has met LexisNexis criteria for being authoritative and accurate. The current beta version combines content from thousands of Web sites and millions of Web pages, with more being added each day

I suggest you read Doug’s blog for more info on the site itself. But the thing that interests me is whether or not it is actually built on IUS (Interwoven Universal Search) or at least whether on the Velocity engine underneath? 

From an IT point of view if it is based on the velocity engine,  I would love to hear feedback from lawyers and support staff on the LexisWeb site indicating whether it’s results are “good” (by good I mean “Google”, i.e. you get back what you were after!). It would give a good indication on whether IUS could be the answer to the law firm enterprise search.

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