Desktop aimed at new generation of users
Having incubated its competence for four years, the Bangkok-based Thomson Reuters is going to launch Reuters Eikon, the next generation desktop for a new generation of financial professionals, worldwide this September.
The success of Thomson Reuters’ Bangkok office has exceeded expectations. Set up in 2002, the ambitions and aims of the office here were very modest, according to Gilles Depaty, Thomson Reuters head of Asia Development, Desktop Platform Group, during an interview with Database.
The idea at that time was to have about 200 people initially, a hundred more a year later and transition to 600 people with jobs mainly in maintenance and support.
However, in the end Reuters has been much more successful, with more than 1,200 people working today, together with greater confidence in the Bangkok base. Next year, there will be more than 1,500 people here, but Depaty said the number of people is not the point.
Today 70-80% are working on key strategic products for the global market, which is a big challenge and opportunity.
Reuters Bangkok does not only do support and maintenance jobs, there are many major initiatives in every division, in both desktop and server infrastructure-base of enterprise teams.
The year 2007 was a significant transitional period when the Reuters Eikon project was started and that involved every part of the Bangkok team. Positioning itself as the ultimate set of financial tools for a new generation of financial professionals, Reuters Eikon allows users to navigate from news to analysis to communication to action.
"The key point of differentiation of Eikon is that the product has been built with the users and for the users. Real attention has been paid to their needs," Depaty said, noting that one of the key points is the collaboration feature which allows a community of users leveraging the product to do business together.
"The key differentiation between the old generation users and the new generation users is that the new generation working in the financial sector are very familiar with working outside the office environment, compared to the users in 2002 when they were stuck in offices. People today, when they want to find something turn to Google, and this is the feature that we have incorporated – the search ability. We put the customers at the centre of the product and for what we are going to build for the next 10-20 years," he said, adding that a significant amount of the initiatives have been done in Bangkok including transaction products, billing, matching, and so forth.
When looking at Reuters a decade ago, 100 of the development workforce were in the US or Europe, but today there are more than 70 of the development staff are in Asia, especially Bangkok and Beijing. This represents a big change in the company.
The head of Asia Development Group said it’s not a matter of costs, rather it was a matter of finding the right technical people, with the right profile and the right skills. And it’s also a matter of being closer to customers because the Asian market is growing.
"They are developing, there is the new evolution here of the footprint of the company, driven by the cost and as well as by the evolution of the market and where the customers are. Of course, we still have big customers in the US and Europe, but the next place where we’re growing is here, in Asia," Depaty said.
Challenges of the IT industry
Thomson Reuters is perhaps the largest software company in Thailand as there is a huge potential here, Depaty said, although he admitted that there are limited factors for the growth of the IT industry in Thailand. The number of IT professionals and profiles that the company need is limited. There is a limited number of people that the company wants to recruit and another negative factor, he said, is the poor management.
People in the industry lack skills in communication, decision-making, being able to manage multiple teams as well as awareness and assertiveness. Communication, which is a soft skill, is fundamental in dealing with a global project.
"I’m honestly not sure that the university curriculum here prepares people to deal with a more complex world, where they have to do a lot of interaction with people from different backgrounds. Even the engineers in companies like Reuters or Microsoft, which face the same problem, they are very smart in technical matters, but communications skills are also essential," Depaty said.
In terms of IT industry growth in Thailand, this is perhaps one of limiting factors, he said. "We need more managers and better managers, but it’s quite difficult to find a large number of suitable people in Thailand," Depaty said.
Another challenge related to IT skills and management that Depaty pointed out is that people here don’t develop in-depth knowledge.
"We see a lot of people with a large number of skills, they may have the breadth, but I’m not sure we always get the depth we need. People here are likely to be engaged in a number of interesting things, doing a bit of this and a bit of that, but it’s difficult to find a world-class expert in technology here," he said.
"For instance today, it’s easier to find highly experienced technology guys in Beijing, guys who have spent hours and days and weeks working on all the details of a specific technology and they can teach others everything about this specific technology, but that doesn’t happen here in Thailand."
Suttawat Triwittayapoom, Thomson Reuters technical director, said that when doing this kind of project, they need to go into the depth of the technology and it’s essential to have a good portion of people.
He noted that the main difference between new graduates from local universities and those from abroad is that the Thai education system tends to spoon-feed students; they are taught but don’t learn by themselves. "This is something very visible here where people are waiting for the company to teach them rather than going themselves where the knowledge is," he said.
New approach to new technology trends
In the era of Web 2.0 or cloud computing, software development has to be adjusted to perfectly serve the users. At Reuters, Depaty pointed out that one of key technical differences between producing products which were mentioned earlier and the Eikon is that the footprint in the user infrastructure is minimal. The vast majority of it’s infrastructure to use the product is now at Thomson Reuters.
"Previously, when customers wanted to install our product, they had to install a lot of things on themselves, set up the network, hundreds of servers, etc. Now we push that back into Thomsom Reuters infrastructure," he said.
"Yes it’s the evolution, but it’s much more in terms of design. The technology itself hasn’t changed that much, but it’s an approach and in terms of architecture and design that we significantly changed," the head of Asia Development said.
One of the key technology changes which is different today is that Reuters is moving away from private API to web API so that the company can provide customers with mobility and can provide them with a higher level of independence from the infrastructure. So the customers are no longer stuck with private network and API.