‘We’ve been a big data organisation for more than 20 years’, Thomson Reuters CTO – 17 Oct 2013 – Computing News

Thomson Reuters CTO James Powell claimed that as a major provider of electronic information his organisation has been managing big data for more than two decades.

“The term is overused, but we’ve been a big data organisation for more than 20 years,” Powell told an audience at TUCON 2013 in Las Vegas.

“We aggregate data from multiple public and private sources. We organise that information and we redistribute it through terminals, databases and feeds.”

While still best known as a journalism organisation, the mainstay of Thomson Reuters’ business is providing data in four key areas: Finance and risk, Legal, Tax and accountancy, IP and science. “We say we are a provider of intelligent information, Powell said.

His description of Thomson Reuters as a big data organisation is not just about the number of data sources and volume of data, but the scale and complexity of a large international organisation that has grown almost entirely by acquisitions, purchasing about 50 companies a year.

“We have masses of complexity, massive numbers of data centres, masses of databases of record, and integrating all that is a severe challenge,” said Powell. 

As well as the integration challenge, customers’ expectations are changing and with it the whole way in which the information needs to be delivered, which has required the entire organisation to restructure itself, becoming much more of a social business.

Thomson Reuters picked TIBCO’s tibbr as the social platform to connect up the various products in the Thomson Reuters stable.

“We decided to use tibbr and make it the social enterprise platform for all Thomson Reuters products,” said Powell. However, he went on, Thomson Reuters is doing something unusual with the social platform.

“We’re not using tibbr to enable our employees to talk to each other. We’re actually embedding tibbr within our products to enable our customers to become part of a community around these products and verticals.”

The initial rollout, in the Tax and accountancy division, took five months from concept to launch. Eventually it will be expanded to cover the whole organisation. In the meantime, Powell described the benefits already seen. As well as allowing real-time feedback from customers, Powell said, knowledge sharing by customers was another unexpected boon.

“We’re starting to see customers interact with each other about the sort of features and functionality they want to see and what they might have issues with.”

When the rollout is complete, Thomson Reuters expects to see increased customer retention, cross-vertical communities forming – for example financial professionals talking to legal ones, and more insight into what customers want to see. It will also help Thomson Reuters’ move to the cloud.

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