Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Let the Traders Have Some!

In the good old days, when I was designing trader workstations for Goldman and Drexel Burnham, we use to have close interaction with the traders themselves. We were in an Extreme Programming mode by necessity. Traders were giving us constanmt feedback, and we were able to stand over their shoulders while they traded so we could see how they interacted with the data.

Nowadays, the development staff is usually isolated from the traders... we get our specs from the Business Analysts. Not only that... you often get screen layouts from the BAs too! This often results in Windows apps that look like the old CICS screens... miles and miles of edit and comboboxes, modal interactions, etc. The traders don't mind... they are used to spending a good portion of their days in Excel, or they are used to the austere look of a Bloomberg terminal.

UI design has advanced over the past few years. Let the developers stand over a trader for a while. Let us see how they put a trade together. Let us try to make things easier for them.

©2005 Marc Adler - All Rights Reserved


Anonymous said...

Think you are very very wrong on this. I think you need to open your eyes a little and look outside the box you are living in.

Rob said...

I think you are very, very right! I work with traders too and I always enjoy watching them work with my apps. I can point out keyboard shortcuts that they may not be aware of, etc. and I get ideas for the process they use which in turn allows me to improve the UI for them....
Anyway, it's just satisying to see your app being used in the field.
The less number of people between me and the user, the better, AFAIC.

marc said...

To Anon,

Yes, I could be wrong... but in my current contract, we are isolated from the traders by a layer of bus analysts. In my previous contract, which was also with a major financial powerhouse, the technical team was isolated from the traders, even though I was leading the technical team and doing all of the architecture for a major system that they were going to be using (all of our specs came from the BAs... we were not invited to meet our end users). Furthermore, my wife, who is running a large team at the number 1 financial powerhouse, does not have the technical people meet with the credit deriv traders. That's 0 for 3. I can only interpolate from the raw data that I have personally experienced.

Other colleagues of mine at Finetix may interact with the traders, but that may only be the case at some of our clients who are small hedge funds. I am curious to know whether the other Finetix consultants who are at major financial institutions actually meet their end users during the design and analysis phase.

My colleague, Matt, mentioned that there are quant types that sit right next to the traders. Even at my current client, this is true. From what I can gather, these quants are probably doing a lot of modeling for the individual traders, but I am not sure if these are the same developers and architects who are building major trading systems for the entire trading department.

Perhaps my situation is atypical. I would sure love some more comments on this blog from other trading system devs to know whether they have access to their end users during the design and analysis phase, or simply rely on the BAs to deliver the use cases and derive the UI (I know that all of us still hear from the traders when their systems don;t function as advertised!!)

JOS said...

Sounds like you're describing JPMorgan to me. I was there as a Finetix dev twice. Both times I wasn't even in the same building as the traders, and was never in a meeting with them. Suspect the BAs keep devs and traders apart to justify their own existence, and that a lot of JPM's tech problems stem from this. Here at BarCap things are refreshingly different. We devs work very closely with the traders. I'm on the trading floor most days. Developers are encouraged to spend time on the floor, and to understand the business. We also have traders who are very technology minded, and have a lot insight into software dev. As a senior biz mgr for Fixed Income globally here says - he wants the guys who build the race cars to sit in the cockpit alongside the drivers! As a result our dev team is buzzing and up for the challenge of getting new technology into the hands of the traders.

marc said...

Had some drink with some colleagues the other night, and asked if they have come close to any traders. They all said no. That being said, they are all at JPMC ... this corroborates what 'JOS' just posted.

Anonymous said...

You are certainly in the wrong place, as my experience for the most part has been infront of the traders. In my book if you are building systems for use by traders, then you need to be working with them, period, this goes for any area of the bizness, including the operations side. Layers of BA's add little value to the process, but what do you expect from an industry that feel hook line and sinker for the RUP/Waterfall process of software engineering. So I would not hold anything against the Ba's at all.

If you find yourself in a situation that distances yourself from the Bizness, then I would be asking some serious questions of the management, and question how many of their projects where successful !!!!!!!

Crispin Rogers Johnson said...

I strongly agree with you, user involvement is essential. I've got to say that GUI development is nearly impossible without regular user feedback. In my domain (advertising) we don't have BAs at all - a very eXtreme step - our user cum freely with their requirements. Just as Kent Beck advises.

Anonymous said...