The IT pioneer

Autonomy has made its business in striking out alone – its unique offering means it has no competitors, and Mike Lynch, CEO, has built a reputation as the ‘Bill Gates of Europe’.

Autonomy by name, Autonomy by nature. That is, until recently. With last year’s £7 billion HP buyout, has the largest software company in the UK distanced itself from its reputation as a lone ranger? Not entirely, says Mike Lynch. “It’s very much business as usual,” he emphasises. “Yes, we’re now an HP company but, as before, we’re operating very much independently. We are now integrated with Vertica, who add their expertise in structured databases, and have gained some great software synergies from HP. The biggest difference is that we now have HP’s considerable resources behind us, which will help us to keep taking Autonomy to the next level.”

Founded in Cambridge in 1996, Autonomy is often described as one of the best examples of an academic spin-out achieving global success. Through Autonomy, Mike Lynch has pioneered the concept of ‘meaning based computing’ – being able to manage and process ‘human information’. Mike explains: “It’s the stuff that has the tenacity not to fit neatly into a database, which in fact comprises 85% of the information that people produce and deal with on a day-to-day basis. Computers have traditionally been unable to handle this ‘unstructured data’ – emails, audio, video, text, and so on.”

Mike makes sure he remains involved in the day-to-day running of his business. “It makes a big difference, especially in a company as large as Autonomy, to be aware of what’s happening on the ground, rather than making sweeping decisions from on high.

“A good business leader has to be strategic yet flexible, with a solid plan. However, they should keep in mind that a plan, no matter how good, never survives contact with the enemy. The ability to react to a constantly changing environment is crucial in business, and especially so in the technology world.”

5 Business Lessons

  1. Be focused: If you are faced with an ever-expanding list of things to get done, it is easy to get distracted. Instead, focus on five things you’ve got to get done today, and do them.
  2. Take a gun to a knife fight: To really succeed, you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got an unfair advantage. If you don’t, you shouldn’t even try.
  3. Normal isn’t always best: Keep questioning the ‘old way’, because if another way is better, that’s what you should be doing. This may mean getting a fresh perspective from someone who is willing to ask ‘why?’
  4. Manage negativity: Not doing something is always easier than doing it. Give new ideas a chance, and avoid getting sucked into being purely negative.
  5. Take only the best: It’s crucial to have the best people around you, at all levels of the company. These are people you will rely on every day, so you need to set your standards high.


You can find out more about Autonomy here: www.autonomy.com

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK