Autonomy & HP: The Same Old Story in Big Tech M&A

I think this article is fascinating in light of the recent news that SAP is acquiring Ariba. Autonomy was once a market-leading software company that helped organizations all over the world understand the meaning of information. A pioneer in its industry, Autonomy offered unique meaning-based technology that made sense of and processed unstructured, ‘human information’ and drew real business value from that meaning. In fact, Information Week once named Autonomy one of the “The World’s hottest enterprise software companies”.

Autonomy’s business floated in 1998 and was then acquired by Hewlett-Packard in October 2011. HP’s desire to move away from hardware and into software drove the acquisition. And now Mike Lynch, the entrepreneur behind the Autonomy success story, announced last week that he was unexpectedly leaving HP less than a year after selling Autonomy to the tech giant. The announcement coincided with HP’s decision to cut 27,000 jobs worldwide.

Of course, having $1bn in his bank account from his share of the acquisition may have helped Lynch’s decision; however, sources close to him and other managers cited many reasons for the departure, such as:

  • Employees unhappy at the scale of bureaucracy after the merger.
  • Culture clash – employees previously enjoyed a small, nimble atmosphere, whereas HP is the size of a small city. It’s a hard place to do what you need to do.
  • Failure to integrate both companies and people.

So why is the sad tale of the fall of an innovative thought-leader in the software world worthy of a mention? I for one am surprised by how large corporations consistently fail to integrate the smaller, more nimble software companies they acquire. They keep making the same types acquisitions and expecting different outcomes.

Still quiet

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