December 29, 2011

Larry Tabb, CEO of the research and consulting firm TABB Group, agrees. "We're in very challenging markets and people don't want to pay as much for market data platforms," he says. "In addition, they're fighting Bloomberg, who is a very strong competitor who has had a fairly consistent platform for 30 years. Making headway into taking market share from Bloomberg in six months is very challenging."

Another industry source with knowledge of the platform said, "They are having platform problems. It's not stable and not rolling out the way it was supposed to. They are having a lot of trouble getting it out to the market."

Eikon was touted as being easy to use, implement and easy to manage from afar -- without having to manage dozens of disks, etc., the source noted. "It looked good and seemed like it was moving in the right direction. But as they transitioned the technology, it's been difficult to get everything to work," he said.

When asked to comment on the roll out or integration issues, Brittan denies these types of major issues and reiterates that many firms have migrated to the new product. "There were some kinks that needed ironing out early on, but this makes it sound like we have hit a wall that is absolutely not the case," he says. "We are continuing to sell Eikon, the feedback has been positive, and at no point has there been the friction that this suggests. "

Brittan said he was not privy to the details behind the management changes, but he does not attribute them to Eikon's performance. Management changes are often par for the course when companies go through a complex merger. He chalks up the moves to a change in style and strategy as the company moves into a new phase. The development of Eikon, the company's next generation market data desktop product, supports this new direction.

With a new chief stepping in January 1, how will the company proceed with Eikon? Industry executives agree that Thomson Reuters will continue to work through the issues with the platform. "They don't have a choice, there is too much money invested in it," the unnamed source says.

Brittan reiterates that Thomson Reuters is committed to Eikon. "It is still clear to me that the product is the future of the company and that commitment has never waned," he says. "I think it's exactly the right strategy to bring all of our customers onto one single platform and allow our customers to leverage that set of assets in a much more powerful and flexible way."

Transitioning clients to the new platform and gaining market share may take some time. Tabb notes, "It took thirty years for Bloomberg to get where they are, this is not going to be a one year battle." He explains that firms become very dependent on their data platform and don't like to change. There is too much involved. "They have to retrain their people, it's expensive, they need to develop APIs [application programming interfaces] in order to grab and integrate the data to use throughout the organization, so it becomes very involved and difficult to get clients to upgrade," Tabb says.

"There are lots of market data systems that are basically orphaned -- [meaning they are no longer being upgraded] -- and they are not state of the art, but firms don't want to migrate to a new platform," Tabb adds.

Brittan understands this sentiment. "Our goal is still to transition existing customers to Eikon and to best serve our customers," he says. "We've got new customers and we've got a bunch of customers who have successfully migrated over. We're not forcing customers to change. We realize it's an organic thing. We will naturally see the migration in time if the product is the best product. It is relatively new just one year out, so we will move customers at the pace that they want to move."

Brittan notes that his focus has always been on people, process and product. And Thomson Reuters has been quietly building a team and working on rolling out new features. "We'll be rolling out new capabilities on close to a monthly basis. And in six months we'll have a bunch of new capabilities. I don't want to talk about them. I just plan to deliver them," he notes, declining to reveal the specific features on tap.

Perhaps the marketing and buzz around the initial launch of Eikon set unrealistic expectations. Aite's Lee agrees that expectations were high and that the industry expected all the bells and whistles in Version 1, when perhaps the marketing around Eikon was creating a vision of what Eikon would eventually become. He also understands that launching a new product takes several iterations. "It is true when new a product launches, there is ramp up time and a learning curve. It would not surprise me if this thing eventually stabilized and people use it."

Lee adds, "The important thing is to regroup, focus, get the right people involved, make sure they can gain traction in the market place so their next generation platform is in place and they can compete more effectively moving forward."

Regarding the high expectations the industry had for Eikon, "I think there are reasons that there are high expectations for our products," Brittan says. "We just need to deliver, and that's what we're doing. We won't be doing any heavy marketing. We're just going to put out an excellent product and let our customers decide," Brittan adds.