Given the ever-changing landscape of product development in the financial services industry, companies are faced with the challenges of keeping up with current technologies, while at the same time updating, consolidating, and making complex applications more intuitive and easier to use. Leadership has to answer critical questions such as: How do we become innovative? What are the most important places to focus our efforts, and where do we even begin?
What is needed are solutions that balance the needs of the user with new ideas and strategies that matter, make a difference, and have a purpose. We need an approach that is powerful, effective, and accessible. A user experience strategy that helps bring ideas to life and delivers true business value is workflow-driven design. Especially for Product Managers who have the highest stakes and need to make critical product roadmap decisions, the workflow-driven design is an approach that can have a significant impact and influence on your product and company's success. Unfortunately, many financial institutions underestimate the value and benefits of implementing a thorough User Experience design strategy.
Workflow-driven design is a user-centric approach to solving business objectives derived and realized from the user’s needs. It is an end-to-end design method of defining and identifying user workflows driven by events and its supporting systems. By integrating user’s goals and expectations with the appropriate systems, we are able to design and create products that have immediate results and affect change.
Workflow-driven design can also be a multi-disciplinary alignment tool, helping disciplines with different perspectives, points of view, and end-goals to begin to understand what is more often than not, a very complex ecosystem.
The collective group and or typical players can be:
- Business Analysts
- End-User Experience
- Project Management Delivery
In the early stages of a project and during our discovery phase, our goal is to get a clear picture of the project at hand and uncover potential solutions with the focus being on the given ecosystem. We design for scale and flexibility, giving us the ability to not just provide a streamlined process but also give our clients a design system with the necessary components for growth.
While workflow-driven design allows us to focus on an end-to-end process, it also:
- Provides a starting point to be innovative
- Shortens the product development cycle
- Aligns cross-functional teams with common business objectives/goals
- Helps teams to collaborate and focus on clear goals
Ultimately, it allows us to provide and deliver elegant design solutions that meet the user’s objectives and the business’s goals.
Stakeholders and product owners are often tasked with coming up with ideas to solve business problems. These ideas may come from known business metrics about a software platform, i.e. usage and engagement statistics, conversion challenges, poor usage due to complexity or user intefaces that are not intuitive, or a lack of a cohesive user experience requiring too many unrelated steps. Software reputation and personal assumptions and opinions can also drive aversion.
Sometimes applications simply don’t talk to each other, as they are not driven by the same context. Interoperability is a common theme as of late in the financial services industry. Time to market is also an important consideration. Business stakeholders may be patient but they may need to see ROI to justify the cost.
Creating new platforms or redesigning existing applications is often the answer. So, the challenge is: How can we improve current applications and/or create something new that addresses business goals while being efficient, effective, and satisfying to the user. Often a bespoke solution delivery is taken into consideration.
The accelerated approach through bespoke development
At Adaptive, we bring together IP and experts who understand financial services, capital, and commodity markets and their challenges. We design, build, and operate real-time trading platforms from a workflow-design driven strategic foundation. With a strong business knowledge coupled with deep technical expertise our bespoke solutions include:
- IP for better, faster and more cost-effective delivery and operation
- Flexible and transparent delivery process
- Provide a competitive advantage
- Trusted process for better, faster, and cost-effective delivery
- Reduced time for implementation
These are outcomes that balance the needs of the user with new ideas and strategies that matter, make a difference, and have a purpose. We create a platform uniquely well suited to your current or future planned business processes. However, such an outcome can be difficult or impossible with an off-the-shelf product.
It is also best done by skilled practitioners, who understand business and technology outcomes, and can work with you to facilitate discussions; to draw out the correct requirements while ensuring what is generated can be thoroughly implemented.
Often businesses are tentative and afraid to embrace a bespoke solution. The word “bespoke” can have certain connotations and or have certain implications that can come along with it such as:
- Expensive and costly
- Time-consuming, requiring additional time, energy and attention
- Waiting for delivery of software
- Results in over-estimating and over budget
So how does a workflow focus make a difference and provide solutions to these reasonable issues?
With the right skill set for bespoke development coupled with the right technical accelerators.
This competitive advantage is less expensive than you might think!! To address the issue of cost, bespoke development becomes costly only if it extends beyond a certain period of time, mainly due to the client's needs not being addressed within the necessary timeframe, which results in not meeting one’s budget before “production” ready.
Building something new, specifically tailored to the client's requirements, often requires a team of experienced specialists, which may cost a little more. However, workflow-driven design can focus on upfront end-to-end design. This inevitably saves the client money in the long term and reduces the overall inherent costs of the project.
This approach will minimize the risk of not delivering a product that fits the client's needs.
Another common misconception about bespoke design is that it is time-consuming and requires too much of the client's time and energy. By definition, this process flows seamlessly as an experienced team guides the client on the journey of discovery through well thought out design collaboration and workshops.
The workflows discovered and discussed naturally generate reusable artefacts that can actually aid the client in other areas as well. Rather than costing the client time, it actually helps save time as it's a streamlined process. Workflows can also be amended, making temporary changes that will facilitate a quicker delivery if needed.
As for running out of budget before the client's needs are met, consider the idea of building a house with a construction crew but no architects. Without plans that take all contingencies into consideration, the house may look like a house, but it may not be structurally sound, or efficient, or make the best use of space for example.
In effect, workflow-driven design is like a "blueprint" that helps the client end up with a product that allows us to problem-solve ahead of time, rather than entertaining the idea of building a product without a thorough plan, which is risky.
We reduce the risk by designing the end goal.
Bespoke design is the solution to the question, "Why build anything if it can't be exactly what you need or want?"
We combine immersive interactive design sessions and workshops with a dedicated team to expedite and quickly move from concepts to high-fidelity visuals and prototypes.
Understanding the Business Ecosystem
We begin our design process by interviewing “stakeholders” and subject matter experts to identify, understand, and define the business problems and challenges. Long term goals are established, as well as, a shared understanding of what success looks like. Gathering different perspectives and different points of view helps us set the long term goals and align on the right challenges to solve.
Event Storming and Mapping
Delivering true business value lies within the design of thoughtful and considered workflows.
We map the connections, sequences, and systems necessary to give us a more intuitive sense of the “whole.” Event Storming is a particularly useful mapping exercise, especially for product managers and stakeholders, again, to conceptually see the ecosystem at a high level.
Collectively we map end-to-end processes in the “business”, while also placing “existing systems” into the workflow. This not only allows us to model and see the events taken by the user to complete a flow but also shows the supporting systems.
This type of modelling triggers business process improvements and uncovers previously unknown areas for innovation.
By mapping existing or new workflows you are effectively extracting small slices of detail at a specific moment in the user journey. This means no matter the scale of the problem, you have an easier way of beginning to understand the business challenge and scope of the project.
Once we have a clear definition and path of what we are building, we then sketch the potential features, interactions, and segments. This allows us to collectively begin to flush out ideas to discuss the best possible outcomes.
Creating a storyboard is a powerful way to present and communicate visually. We sketch and create storyboards and the sequence of screens that solves for a given challenge. We then continue with interaction design, wireframes, and/or higher fidelity visuals to prototype the chosen workflow.
Through a series of detailed and annotated “wireframes,” we design prototypes to make sure the users and/or business understand the user experience and overall interaction design at its basic form and functionality.
Wireframes are fairly easy to change, manipulate, and make iterations before we commit to any high-fidelity visual designs. More importantly, we test the UX to validate that the design direction taken is the correct one. Once the functionality is approved we can continue with high-fidelity visual designs, as well as begin to think about the visual theme and overall design language.
Moreover, putting together a thoughtful design system gives us the ability to create core UI components that are scalable and flexible. A system that encompasses the building blocks and core elements of the UI such as typography, iconography, layout, buttons, forms, color theme, and shape.
We deliver high-quality visual designs with thoughtful and descriptive documentation that includes:
- Design session outcomes: Proposed UX prototype of a chosen user journey
- Key findings and shared artifacts created over the engagement
- Concepts and Sketches
- Current, expected, and future user journey maps
- Design system covering all UI areas such as themes, buttons, color palette, calendar pickers, tooltips, form fields, iconography, etc.
- High-level functional backlog
- High-level technical architecture
Arguably, it is a critical time for financial institutions to keep current and up to date. Not to mention fluctuating markets, higher capacity trading, especially in this current financial environment, companies are in need of timely information and real-time data. A user-centric approach to interface and workflow design allows product teams to produce and deliver better outcomes.
The workflow-driven design combined with a sound user experience foundation helps to unite product teams around a common vision and design language. It reduces technical debt, accelerates the design process, and builds bridges across global design and development teams.
We at Adaptive are experts in the design and delivery of bespoke financial trading and analytics platforms. We have designed and built platforms and applications for top-tier investment banks, various buy-side institutions, as well as venues and exchanges.
Contact us for more information on how we can help design, build, and operate your real-time trading platform.
User Experience Designer,
Adaptive Financial Consulting Ltd