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Disappearing headlines and other faults of flawed terminal

Problems with Thomson Reuters' flawed new flagship desktop platform, part of a $1 billion technology upgrade, have been highlighted in an internal memo that acknowledges faults and goes some way to explaining why it has not been a runaway hit with financial professionals.

Eikon was launched last September as a fundamental shift for the company and the financial services industry it serves. It incorporates social networking features like Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging and is available on multiple computer platforms and smart phones. It was intended to be a key milestone in Thomson Reuters’ strategy to replace dozens of disparate legacy products and build an open and connected global financial community. 

Customers were expected to take up Eikon quickly but with many financial businesses still struggling to recover from the global economic crisis, sales have not been spectacular. Six senior executives left the company in July and chief executive Tom Glocer took personal charge of the group’s main operating division.

Thomson Reuters hoped that updated features allowing users to comment, chat and e-mail charts, stories and other data would challenge messaging and more intuitive search tools featured in the latest Bloomberg terminal.

Within the organisation, more than 650 journalists have been using Eikon since the beginning of this year and usage data shows that between 50 and 60 per cent of them are using the new terminal on a routine basis. Users prefer it for enhanced corporate views pages, better market-monitoring tools, more powerful historical and analytical displays and a more intuitive navigation experience, said Adrian Dickson, global head of news product, in an internal memo obtained by The Baron.

“However we, like Eikon customers generally, have also asked for improved speed, performance and urgent attention to bugs and defects. The Eikon team has acknowledged the platform’s shortcomings and over the next six months will focus on performance improvements over the introduction of new content and functionality. This means that many of the gaps that we and others see in the News Experience will remain until the core stability and functionality of Eikon is perfected.”

Dickson said Eikon was much more demanding on data networks and on computer memory which can result in sluggish response times. “Eikon developers are prioritising improvements to overall speed and resilience, which in the case of News means improving the speed with which stories are retrieved as well as ensuring headlines do not randomly disappear.”

Reuters stories are delayed up to two minutes to be made available for searches, Dickson said, adding: “Therein lies the problem.” He said the Eikon development team has made the disappearing story problem the top priority among issues to be repaired in the Eikon news space. “They plan to have a fix in place by early September.”

Dickson listed other faults that had discouraged some journalists from migrating to Eikon for their regular reporting and editing tasks and said a fix was scheduled for mid-October. Other fixes will be in place in the first quarter of next year. New systems are being built that should allow editors to track what stories customers are clicking in near real-time, thus helping editors understand what stories drive traffic, at what times of the day, by which customer types and in what geographies. 

Journalists in New York, Washington, Chicago and Toronto were the first to be trained on Eikon earlier this year. London is next, followed by Paris and Frankfurt. Face-to-face training will also take place in Bangalore, Hong Kong and Beijing before the end of 2011. Singapore, Tokyo and Sydney will be completed by Q1 2012. Eikon will begin to be rolled out to medium and small bureaus in the second quarter.

“There are flaws in Eikon, as the company has acknowledged, but the platform has rich tools that work in some of our key areas of coverage,” Dickson said. “As Eikon is stabilized and improved, journalists will become more confident using its multiple features which should help them produce more original and insightful stories…

“The Eikon platform is critical to our future and all journalists need to understand how news is being displayed on the new terminal. Therefore we are planning to install at least one stand-alone Eikon terminal in every bureau throughout the course of 2012.” ■