An intriguing article by 'meaning based computing' company Autonomy's CEO Mike Lynch in today's Financial Times: Embracing the friend, taming the beast – Web 2.0 in the enterprise.
Autonomy are mature and stable (with a 4 billion market capitalisation), rapidly becoming the second largest pure software company in Europe since their founding in 1996..."on a vision to dramatically change the way in which we interact with information and computers, ensuring that computers map to our world, rather than the other way round".
Avoiding all mention of Enterprise 2.0, Mike explores the lure of Web 2.0 in the enterprise, making some very cogent points:
...the issue of varying values of information that Andrew Keen brings up in his 2007 book The Cult of the Amateur may be worrying in a consumer context but potentially fatal in an enterprise that makes aircraft or medical equipment, for example. The Web 2.0 generation may be shocked to learn that everyone’s opinion is not equally valid on every subject.
Failing to harness the true value of user-generated content is frustrating but is inconsequential when compared to the threat that some Web 2.0 approaches can pose to an organisation’s reputation and brand integrity. Blogs in particular can represent a significant risk if information dissemination in public forums if not regulated properly. A violation of the US Fair Disclosure Regulation and the UK Listing Rules for example can cost a company dearly whether accidental or not. Indeed, an employee revealing sensitive and material information about the company in a public forum or blog is liable, along with the company, to prosecution for selective disclosure. Such media can also unleash bullying and harassment issues.
Now clearly Mike is arguing for his company's products and services here - ignoring the fact that Enterprise 2.0 seeks to address the above issues - but these are the sort of cogent and realistic points I really enjoy.
At its core, Autonomy's technology can understand any form of unstructured information, whether text, voice or video, and based on that understanding perform automatic operations on the information, such as powering the world's leading enterprise search engine, automatically suggesting an answer to a call center operator, profiling millions of documents for a legal case, or monitoring television channels for intelligence agencies.
Because of the broad applicability of Autonomy's technology it is not easily shoehorned into a single market category, and in this regards is not simply a search engine, a knowledge/document management company or a retrieval company. At the same time Autonomy has been acknowledged as one of the world's leading technology companies, and is the clear leader in enterprise search according to all industry analysts.
"What problem does the technology address?" Autonomy addresses the very simple problem of an exponential increase in the amount of unstructured information. The problem is universal to all enterprises, regardless of industry or private/government, and virtually every business unit within those organizations. The problem is driven by the exponential growth of unstructured information, which is being generated by an almost limitless number of sources, such as the Web, word processing documents, emails, pdf files and a whole new generation of digital communications.
It's refreshing to hear Mike state guarded enthusiasm for aspects of Web 2.0 in his financial Times piece:
...these risks should not discourage organisations from introducing Web 2.0 approaches. Next-generation solutions are available to help enterprises organise, manage and regulate user-generated content in a secure, consistent and scalable manner to ensure that employees benefit from instant access to relevant information and that brand integrity is properly protected.
Such solutions bring conceptual understanding and an unprecedented level of automation to content management and address liabilities by continually reading entries, spotting problematic content and removing it in real-time. In addition, they can automatically reconcile tags that differ but are close in meaning, or actually provide the level of specificity needed in the enterprise that social methods struggle to deliver.
In my view Autonomy are addressing the tsunami of unstructured and unorganized information consuming enterprises from a content management system search perspective. Like others in the CMS space they are beginning to explore the allure of the lighter weight world of 'social networks, folksonomies, wikis, blogs and other communication tools" that Enterprise 2.0 provides.
When these two worlds start to move closer together we are really going to have a powerful force for change; for me this is a very encouraging article.