Developing modern apps for financial markets – a case study. Part 1.


For many people at GFT, presenting and selling the company’s capabilities is part of their usual work, something they do frequently – if not daily. And that’s not only the case for professional sales teams. Job Family Leads, Delivery Managers (DM) and many other roles are heavily involved in contact with current and potential clients, building relationship with them, and promoting our skill sets.

The challenge

However, it is sometimes difficult to talk to clients about our work when nearly everything that we create is confidential and guarded by a set of restrictive IP laws, which is a common case when working for investment banks.

This creates a big challenge when we approach a potential new client and want to present our skills and capabilities. We are not allowed to demonstrate our actual achievements, we cannot show and describe details of our projects and we do not have an actual portfolio of our work. Everything is stuck in the client’s silo.

Therefore, we are forced to present only a high-level overview of our work. Some generic terms, PowerPoint presentations, catchy advertisement slogans. Those are useful, but we already know that clients are not always fully convinced by those means. What they want to see are specific, concrete examples of our work and processes that we use, and the know-how that we provide.

What is more, there are specialisations that are particularly hard to sell without concrete deliverables to present, such as UX Design, Frontend Development, or Business Analysis.

As people often participating in sales processes, we have experienced those difficulties multiple times, and finally, we’ve decided that it is time to do something about it.

The Idea

For this project, we have created an alliance of two Job Families at GFT Poland: Business Consulting and Digital (UX and UI).

Our goal was: Create a working, meaningful application that will serve as an efficient and understandable presentation of the skills and processes that we use in our projects.

On top of that, we wanted to include some additional, ambitious requirements:

  1. The application should cover an actual, useful business case – we didn’t want to create a shiny, but ultimately useless application. We work for the financial industry and we wanted to have an example of a real financial application that would be understandable for our clients. In essence, something that will represent what we do every day.
  2. Easily accessible and mobile-friendly – the application should be as easy to use as possible. The idea is that Sales, a client, DM, or any of us can simply open the application on any compatible device and present it wherever they want. Therefore, we’ve decided that we will create a responsive web application, which is accessible on any device.
  3. Data heavy – our commercial applications are usually data centric. Dealing with huge volumes of data is one of our everyday challenges, so it was crucial for us to prepare something that reflects this. But we wanted more. Instead of just displaying tons of data in grids and lists, we pushed towards a modern approach of data aggregation and visualisation. We wanted to create an intelligent tool for data analysis, not just a “display all the data” kind of application. Additionally, we wanted to show how the combination of proper Business Analysis and UX processes makes it possible to achieve.

But our idea is not only about the application. Visualisation of our work is one thing, but we want to be able to show our potential clients something more than just a plain set of skills. One of the biggest values GFT brings to the projects is the knowledge and processes that we use in our daily work. Those are bullet-proofed and battle-tested processes, carved in years of working for the investment banking sector – and we can win contracts with them. What is more, selling processes and services might be a good way to convince clients to engage entire teams of consultants, with their combined knowledge and experience, instead of cherry-picking resources for their projects, positioning GFT as a skills-based services provider.

To achieve this, we’ve decided that we will also create a set of deliverables that will describe and represent the processes that we’ve used to create this application. Something with which we will visualise, describe and explain the details of how a project is created, how the particular members of the team cooperate (for example BAs with UX, UX with Developers etc.). Something that will be a representation of our experience and know-how – that a client can benefit from.

This series of blog posts, combined with the video clip, is the set of tools that we’ve created and we would now like to present them to you.

The Commodity Market Overview Application

Our combined teams created the Commodity Market Overview Application. It is a data-rich web app, designed to work on desktops and tablets. Its business goal is to provide a tool for market analysts that will allow them to view, drill down and analyse the values of Commodity Market prices and indices.

Example of a business use case

There are multiple ways users can use the Commodity Market Application, but first let’s have an overview of one of the simplest examples.

As an investor, I would like to start investing in commodity resources and I can use the Commodity Market Overview Application to verify if it’s a good idea, and what resources I should invest into.

I can start with the Dashboard screen, where by drilling down into the resources tree, I am able to find the ones that looks promising. Every resource value is rendered on the corresponding chart,so it is easy to see what the trends on the market are. Using a range selector at the top of the application, the user can easily adjust the time range of the displayed data.

Dashboard

If some of the commodities look interesting, it’s possible to select them for comparison, which will enable viewing of the fluctuation of their values in detail. Selected resources will be automatically added to the chart when the Comparison screen is displayed.

Comparison screen

However, the absolute values of some resources are very different and the chart might not be readable. That is why it is possible to display the calculated relative change of the resource’s values on the chart, which is exactly what the user wants to see to evaluate the potential profitability of their investment.

Furthermore, they can use a zoom functionality on the chart, to adjust the time range displayed on the graph and analyse a particular time frame (for example: the last 2 months) in detail.

Resources groups

Commodities are grouped in the form of a tree structure, where every resource belongs to one of three categories: Precious Metals, Energy and Non-Energy. Additionally, every resource has its weight, which defines what its share is in the calculated group value.

The third application screen is a visualised summary of this information where the user can review all resources and their index shares.

Resource Groups Screen

Application use cases

The goal of our initiative is not to replace or alter current sales projects. Obviously, the direct contact and relationship with a client is of huge value when selling GFT services. Our goal is to create a tool that will aid this process, something that GFT employees will use to prove our skills and present the benefits of hiring GFT consultants for projects. A functioning example of our expertise in the financial area and the benefits of hiring our specialised services, such as Business Analysts and UX designers.

Together with upcoming processes description, we want to create a silo-free portfolio that can be presented to potential clients. To some extent this has already happened, as early deliverables, like wireframes, designs and the overall project concept, have already been used in the sales process.

However, the use cases are not limited to sales process only. The Commodity Overview Application has just been released, but despite the short time, it’s available and has already been used at several interesting events.

A working version of the application has been used by our Testing team as a model application for the Testing Cup, the biggest event of the QA community in Poland.

The application, and the Business Analysis process used to create it, have also been presented in the Business Analysis Workshops in Lodz Institute of Technology, where it raised a very interesting discussion and positive feedback regarding our approach to data analysis and visualisations.

Events like these show that the applications can be used not only as a typical pre-sales asset, but that it also has strong employer branding potential. Being able to show what kind of applications we work with can help build our brand amongst the IT community.

Next steps

But we don’t want to stop there! We plan to release a detailed, interactive description of the processes that we use at GFT. We’ve designed a visualisation that will summarise the information described in this series of articles. It will be a tool that can be used to explain how different disciplines at GFT cooperate with each other to deliver complex financial applications. It will show the client the deliverables that are produced by a Business Analyst in a project, how they affect the work of a UX Designer and an Architect, and how they are organised on the project timeline.

Part 1 – A Case Study by Damian Sosnowski
Part 2 – Business Analysis by Marcin Myszkowski
Part 3 – The UX Process by Małgorzata Barska
Part 4 – Architecture and Development by Damian Sosnowski

The Team

Business Consulting

Joanna Aleksandrowicz Principal Business Analyst, Head of Business Consulting Job Family
Marcin Myszkowski Senior Business Analyst

User Experience and Design

Małgorzata Barska Principal Designer, Head of UX Practice

Architecture and Development

Damian Sosnowski Principal Architect, Head of Digital Job Family
Damian Bachórz JavaScript Developer
Michał Dzik JavaScript Developer

Marketing

Maciej Sopek Senior Content Marketing Specialist