Are these ETRM tools positioned to support the changes in commodities trading?
Howard: Now, are these ETRM tools positioned to support the continuing change in the commodity trading business?
Sterling: I think I would probably answer no to this one…that they're not [positioned to support the continuing change in the trading business]. And maybe not in the traditional ways that people would expect.
So, I think ETRMs are really fantastic engines. They are, relatively speaking, stable platforms to work with. I think a lot of people have even gone so far as to use the phrase that they're "mature." I'm not a big fan of that word. I think that makes us think, “Oh man! If this is a mature platform, then no continued innovation is necessary. It is what it is. Put that thing in park, and we're good to go.”
I think I would prefer the word established platform. So, established communicates that we know what they do. They're doing it consistently, and it's stable from that standpoint. But I don't think mature is quite right because I think there is a future opportunity here.
I think there's a traditional expectation that I was speaking to a second ago that: (1) ETRM vendors will see the need from the market, (2) understand it, (3) make a change inside their platform, (4) come out with it – whether that's features or specific components – to meet those needs, and (5) that they are the one-stop shop for solutioning really within the market. I think that's what [the expectation] has been for a long time.
I think that's been great, but, again, I think the environment is moving away from that right now as we recognize that these are great engines, but in many ways, they're also large, behemoth kind of ships that are very difficult to turn. I'm not saying it's not possible. I’m just saying that it can take a little bit to do that.
So, I think that it's a wrong expectation that customers in the market may have today to expect that they would work in a pattern where a customer communicates a challenge to the vendor, the vendor absorbs that, gets a little more feedback, and then builds a feature that comes all the way back around to meet that customer need.
I think the timeline that is possible to deliver that sequence is getting longer and longer. I think customers who aren’t aware of this could be growing in frustration; when really, I think we've probably crossed the line that it’s not really a reasonable expectation.
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