Don't ogle search if you really want content management

  • 8-Jul-2010

I'll agree with mega-vendor Autonomy on one key point: Search technology is really important. But is it so important that search functionality should dominate your choice in a content management system? I don't think so. Search is one of many considerations.

The topic of search crops up one way or another in nearly all the advisory calls we receive from our research customers -- including inquiries about other technologies, like ECM, Portals, Web CMS, DAM, and so forth. Search is essential; search is omnipresent; but woe to project leader who believes search engines are omniscient. Of course, this doesn't stop enterprise search vendors from claiming omnipotence.

Which brings me back to Autonomy. From an initial focus on enterprise search tools, Autonomy has become a roll-up vendor after acquiring a variety of other information management suppliers such as Interwoven. As a financial strategy this can be successful, and investors seem to cotton to Autonomy.

As a technology strategy, vendor roll-ups are problematic. Autonomy's technology strategy is to rip legacy search subsystems from acquired products, replace them with some pieces from its own IDOL toolset, and then promote its particular approach to search as a distinct advantage for you.

Specifically, Autonomy will try to sell you on the value of "meaning-based computing." Even if you can get your mind around what meaning-based means, you should remain skeptical that Autonomy has technically spectacular or original services here. More importantly, you risk getting sidetracked from your original goal of, say, creating a user-friendly repository for your 50,000 Office documents.

This wouldn't be as big a problem if Autonomy hadn't acquired so many aging technologies, especially in the WCM and DAM segments. Don't be surprised when, upon asking about missing or substandard functionality in these areas, your Autonomy reps deflect with search-oriented -- oops, I mean "meaning-oriented" -- answers.

Now, if you're buying a DAM, Records Management, or Web CMS package, you can't sneeze at better search, but in Autonomy's case it comes with some very complex and maintenance-intensive technology in IDOL. It also invites a slew of upsells of nearly limitless optional modules. Before long, you've turned a content management project into a serious search investment. Autonomy's delighted, but is that what you really intended?

Again, search is important -- but in the context of a broader content management effort, search becomes a complementary service. So when you examine Autonomy's toolsets, best to ignore all the talk about IDOL unless what you're really looking for is an enterprise search platform. When evaluating Autonomy offerings across the many marketplaces where it sell products, we continue to look carefully at what each package was actually intended to do. You should too.