How a Nuclear Waste Company Cleaned Up Its Enterprise Search Problem

How do you fix the document mess that happens when nine highly-technical companies combine in just two years? For EnergySolutions, the answer was enterprise search software from Autonomy.

By C.G. Lynch
Thu, July 10, 2008

CIOEnergySolutions, a leader among companies that process nuclear waste, seemed a prime candidate for new enterprise search technology. After all, the company, which reported $502 million in revenues for the first quarter of 2008, had formed from the combining of nine companies in two years, and each company had different document management systems and file types.

The files contained some of the company's most precious intellectual property, including engineering papers, drawings and safety documents. And the amount of storage these documents encompassed was astonishing, says EnergySolutions CIO, Carol Fineagan. "It's not a technical term, but it was a bazillion terabytes," she says.

Picking one document management system and ditching the others wasn't an option, Fineagan says. "The structure of these document management systems meant a lot to the engineers who developed the data on each of them," she says. "They know what [electronic] filing cabinets to go to when they want to find something. Plus I'm almost 49, and I would not live long enough to convert all the data out of their native document systems over to one, whichever the winner would be."

Two years ago, Fineagan began looking at the enterprise search vendor landscape. Her search was two-pronged: she wanted a search tool to work on users' individual desktops, but another to serve the enterprise needs of culling data from the various document management systems.

For the enterprise-wide search, she looked at what she described as the major vendors at the time: Fast (now a Microsoft subsidiary), Endeca, Google and its search appliance, and Autonomy. She settled on Autonomy. According to Fineagan, Automony was best suited to recognize and pull information from the company's plethora of document types.

"JPEGs, e-mails, MS Office documents, video—you name it and we had it," Fineagan says. "Some of this stuff went back to the early 1980's. We needed something that could make sense of older file types, manage the indexes."

When the Expensive Choice Makes Sense

According to a report by Forrester Research in May, Autonomy is a top choice in its category for large enterprises, largely based on the fact it can read old documents and file types.

"It's not that others (such as Google and its search appliance) can't hook into well-known places," says Leslie Owens, the Forrester analyst who authored the report. "But large enterprises with complex needs and certain file types usually go with a higher end search product [like Autonomy] because of the scalability."

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