Part I of this article focused on awareness and gave a few examples of how technology choice can have serious consequences for the future of your product: to the point of making or breaking your business. Part II investigates how and why the ripple effect of this one decision can reach as far as your recruitment schedule, delivery plans and innovation potential. Mind you, this applies not only to technologies in FinTech!

Tried and true

Assuming that you have carefully read Part I (especially the section on requirements) and you know what you want to achieve, it’s finally time to pick the technology stack. Yet, with so many available options, it’s still hard to decide! The JavaScript ecosystem is a good example – pick any English word with JS at the end and you’ll find an already existing JavaScript library. If you’re still not satisfied with the result (which happened to many people many times), you can always write your own library and further fuel the infamous ‘JavaScript Fatigue’. Usually, the situation doesn’t get so dramatic, but you still have a lot of choices.

Remember that every project is unique and has different priorities. Just because something was a good fit in the past doesn’t automatically mean that it will be the best choice for your current project. Technology is changing very fast: it can be already outdated or there can be a better alternative.

Keep an open mind: when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. 

Lay of the land

Stay aware of industry trends, but never to the point of being overly influenced or blindly copying technology decisions. Your goal is to leverage technology to stand out and gain a competitive advantage. I find it very educational to analyse different technology decisions and answer the question:

Why did they make those technology decisions?

It’s likely that you will come across experts voicing opposite opinions, all providing seemingly strong proofs. Online research can be very useful, but as always – pick your sources with great caution. I believe choosing the optimal technologies in FinTech is more about practical experience: so experiment with different technologies, create prototypes, PoC (Proof of Concept), test a project or a small service and check what works.

See you on the middle ground

Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect technology stack. You will have to make room for trade-offs, because when it comes to software it is very rare for one technology to be strictly better than the other. It’s always about trade-offs, even on the project level.

GOOD / FAST / CHEAP: pick two

  • Fast & Cheap – can’t be good
  • Good & fast – won’t be cheap

Not a minute too soon

In theory, you want to get the product out the door as quickly as possible: to verify your idea or just fail fast and try something else, while staying ahead of competitors. If time-to-market is a priority, consider the below:

  • 3rd party out-of-the-box solutions
  • serverless architecture
  • rapid development tools (you might lose some control but can implement quicker)
  • technology with good documentation & big community (faster problem-solving)
  • hiring the best developers

There are many other aspects related specifically to developers, including:

  • Can you find enough competent developers for the desired technology? For example, recently we were recruiting Ember.js developers (not the hottest technology right now) and it was really challenging, while we usually have no such problems when it comes to React.
  • Do you already have experienced developers in the given technology?
  • Is the given technology easy to learn?

Cost vs Value

There is a direct correlation between your technology choices and costs (e.g. you will pay more for a Scala developer than for a PHP developer). You may want to hire the best developers you can find: yes, they might be 2 times more expensive, but also 10 times more productive. For example, our dedicated team for Smart Pension had a scope of work estimated for 2 months which they completed in 1 week.

Also, bear in mind that the cost of maintenance and support can literally kill your business. My previous company learned it the hard way. The first version of the project was so poorly written (with no automated tests and no CI/CD pipeline) that for 6 months we were not able to deliver any new feature, just bug fixes, tests and CI/CD configuration. To add insult to injury, there are also costs of infrastructure: on-premise or cloud solutions, licensing, fees, etc.

A game-changer

Making sure that you don’t limit yourself in terms of scale or technology might prove crucial in the long run. It’s better to be safe than sorry as you might end up migrating to a different technology than your original PoC. Be agile and change technology if needed.

Look for better tools,
even when your project is mature.

Some technology choices and architectural decisions can help with change management:

  • microservices or serverless architecture
  • docker containers
  • GraphQL

Technologies in FinTech: more than meets the eye

Is FinTech somehow special? I would say: yes… and no. No, because everything I’ve discussed so far applies also to technologies in FinTech. Yes, because of the nature of FinTech, which is all about innovation in finance and gaining a competitive advantage thanks to new technology.

When the problem you are trying to solve is very unique, it needs unique technical solutions. 

Automation is extremely important – that’s why there are so many innovations in AI/ML. Moreover, trust is everything in this business, which makes all security-related issues super important. So its unique requirements indeed make FinTech special and challenging. 

Show me your stack…

It’s not a pick-up line but my final thought to all of you. Share your experience! I’m very curious about YOUR technology stack, and what’s more important, how you made this decision and why it works for you.