I am not much into instant journalism, but it is nevertheless good to be able to report on the big stories as they happen. Just my luck, then, to be stuck on a train with a day full of back-to-back meetings ahead of me when my InBox started filling up with messages about Autonomy’s agreement to acquire Interwoven.
Both are sponsors of the e-Disclosure Information Project, and both are big players in the legal information world for reasons well beyond their respective interests in litigation discovery – Autonomy owns the review platform Introspect and Interwoven acquired Discovery Mining last year – but much of the combined 20,000 user base involves wider information management, not least in law firms – Interwoven alone has 1,200 large law firm customers.
Interwoven’s strength lies in technologies for managing the interaction of human beings with content and data. Autonomy’s Meaning Based Computing brings the ability to understand content. Applying the latter to Interwoven’s 100,000 web sites, intranets and extranets is expected to bring major benefits to users and new markets for Autonomy’s IDOL technology. The press release neatly summarises the the effect by saying that “Interwoven’s products know what the customer interactions are, and Autonomy’s IDOL will allow them to know what they mean”.
The key drivers here are the combination of high volumes, tight deadlines and cost. The press release inevitably has a US slant, focussing on the increasing compliance requirements imposed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and other regulatory obligations. We in the UK may not have the fixed 99 day limit which the FRCP imposes, but we certainly have pressure to identify sources of potentially disclosable documents quickly and cost-effectively. The technology developed to face the more extreme US pressures (more extreme both because volumes are higher and because deadlines are tighter) has obvious benefits in apparently less rigorous jurisdictions.
The rules in both jurisdictions tend to focus attention on specific deadlines. What matters rather more, in fact, is getting on top of the information (not just the data) as fast as possible, with the minimum of human interaction, so that the strengths and weaknesses of the client’s position can be considered. The expression Early Case Assessment (one of Autonomy’s strengths) has become a term of art, as if it were itself a formal stage in the proceedings. It is in fact a basic business need to want to know as early as possible whether you are likely to win or lose. Integration between content management and discovery and analysis must make sense.
The acquisition is subject to shareholder agreement on both sides and to the usual regulatory approvals. It is expected to complete in the second quarter of 2009. It will be interesting to see what happens to the development and branding of Discovery Mining, so recently acquired by Interwoven, and how that will fit into the newly merged empire.