Getting back to basics

Summary:The IT industry has been in a conspiracy to make technology as complex as possible but now it needs to face up to the fact that's not the way to treat customers, says Autonomy chief executive Mike Lynch

Hailed as the UK's first Internet billionaire at the height of the dot-com boom, Autonomy chief executive Mike Lynch has ridden the stock market roller-coaster and so far lived to tell the tale.

Unlike some of the flakier home-grown tech firms and dot-coms, Autonomy has a business proposition that seems to fulfil a genuine need -- the ability to search and manage the mountains of unstructured data businesses are increasingly inundated with. This, combined with the fact Autonomy was born out of Lynch's research at Cambridge University on the probability theorem's of an 18th century mathematician, rather than a venture capitalist's chequebook, means of the 40 or so companies that claimed to do the same job as Autonomy at the height of the boom, Lynch's outfit is the only one still around.

Customers of Autonomy's various search and data management products -- including its Intelligent Data Operating Layer (IDOL) Server which the company claims uses pattern-matching techniques to understand information in context -- include Ford, the BBC, and RoyalSunAlliance. The ability to automatically search through thousands of text documents, voice files, and video as well as other kinds of unstructured data  has also seen the US Department of Homeland Security become a recent customer as it seemingly battles to monitor just about everything, everywhere.

ZDNet UK caught up with Lynch ahead of his talk at the European Technology Forum UK Technology Summit event (ETF is owned by ZDNet's parent company CNET Networks UK) in London this week, to get his views on the current state of the IT industry.

When you address a room full of IT managers -- what's the main message that you try to get over to them?
I was at a business talk recently and some one bought up the very first business computer which was Leo and the fascinating thing about Leo was that, although it was built by a load of boffins in Cambridge, it was built for Lyons to get their tea cakes out on time. The one thing you realise when you read about it is they did an incredibly detailed analysis of their business and how the computer could help their business and what questions they need to get answered. I think that's a crucial thing for IT managers in the current climate: don't think about the CRM system but imagine you're the operative working that system -- what are you doing to make that work. Then you can get a real idea of the benefit or otherwise of using that technology.

Topics: Networking


"If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism." Hunter S. Thompson Andrew Donoghue is a freelance technology and business journ... Full Bio

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