Calum Hutcheon
01 July 2020 by Calum Hutcheon
Stock Exchange 1426330 1280
​Challenge

Our client was delivering on its commitment to build a truly sophisticated back-end engine of astonishing power and extraordinary flexibility to drive its online trading and execution fixed-income trading platform. Built using .Net and Java server-side components, the product is designed to give our client’s customers an ability to leverage it for immediate and tangible competitive advantage.

It was recognised and accepted that the full potential of the product would never be realised unless the sophistication and power of its front-end matched that of its back-end engine. Accordingly, the Development Program included a period of intense front-end design activity that would require the identification, attraction and deployment of a team of highly talented UI / UX specialists to augment the efforts of the existing in-house team.

However, the requirement had a key stipulation that posed a significant challenge. The client specified clearly the specialists required must have a significant degree of experience of back-end software engineering. The objective was, it was made very clear, much more than airbrushing a thin, cosmetic front-end on to a back-end with rich and deep functionality.

So, in summary, our task was to support our client in rapidly building a specialist, talented UI / UX team with skills including HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, React and Typescript, whose members could, thanks to their (full-stack development/software engineering) background, communicate seamlessly with existing team members. Actual experience with financial markets applications in general and trading platforms, in particular, would be helpful but was not essential.

And, just to make our job a little more interesting, the world was not very far away from going into lockdown.

Our Approach

It was immediately clear to us that the sharp focus of the requirement, coupled with an urgency that now included the imminence of lockdown, would not allow for a talent attraction/acquisition project that was, forgive the simile, more waterfall than agile. Accordingly, we immediately put together a team that comprised members from normally different parts of our business (our Front-end Design Team and our Full-stack Software Engineering Team). This allowed us to tackle the two essential challenges of the project. The first was identifying a substantial talent pool of specialists who had moved into focussing on front-end work from a back-end/full-stack background. The second was speed. Our combined team comprised consultants whose networks of contacts made redundant any traditional “advertise and wait” strategy.

Outcome

We succeeded in augmenting our client’s front-end design both in terms of quality and speed. Both elements were achieved thanks to our “agile” approach that abandoned traditional internal structures and executive methodologies. The team we built for our client exclusively comprised (apart from one member identified via LinkedIn) specialists coming from, or referred by, our Consultants’ extensive networks of digital engineering talent. None were seeking to move from their existing firms – but all were drawn to the technical and creative opportunities available.

Finally, we must not forget the critical element of “agility” that allowed the project to succeed – full remote onboarding. Without our client’s ability to fully and quickly restructure its onboarding processes to reflect a locked-down world, the project would almost certainly have failed.