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Interoperability: Realizing the Full Potential of the Desktop Superapp Through Context Aware Applications

Superapps are transforming how we use technology. They integrate multiple apps and services into one unified platform. This innovation is built on four main pillars: UI Ecosystem, Seamless UX, Interoperability, and Governance.

In today’s digital age, the superapp has emerged as a transformative model, integrating many applications and services into a single, cohesive platform. The concept of the superapp has four foundational pillars: the UI Ecosystem, Seamless UX, Interoperability, and Governance. Each pillar plays a crucial role, ensuring the superapp delivers a streamlined and intuitive experience for its users. Yet interoperability is arguably the superapp’s core benefit to its users and the driving force behind the decision for firms to invest in the intricate process involved in developing a superapp.

By offering seamless interoperability, a superapp provides a unified platform that significantly enhances user efficiency and productivity. This not only simplifies complex workflows, but also eliminates the friction of toggling between multiple, isolated applications. The value derived from interoperability—streamlining operations and fostering a more connected digital workspace—justifies the investment, making the superapp a strategic asset for any organization.

Ongoing Workflow Analysis & Implementation Cycle

Interoperability within a superapp involves an ongoing cycle of analysis and implementation, enhancing users’ workflow. The cycle starts with a comprehensive workflow analysis to identify and refine interoperability use cases that bridge internal and external applications compliant with the Financial Desktop Connectivity and Collaboration Consortium (FDC3) standards for messaging between apps, with the intention of streamlining the user’s journey by minimizing redundant actions such as unnecessary clicks, copy/pasting, and keystrokes.

After the workflow analysis, all stakeholders must engage in extensive discussion, meticulous documentation and dissemination of the interoperability protocol. This ensures that all participating applications implement a unified messaging standard that adheres to the best governance practices.

Finally, the cycle concludes with the rigorous QA certification of these changes before their deployment into a production environment. Then the cycle begins again with further workflow analyses.

This iterative approach underscores the essence of interoperability in the superapp environment, focusing on continuous improvement and seamless user experience optimization.

Data-driven Workflow Analysis

Diving deep into a user’s workflow to define optimal interoperability requires an analytical approach based on metrics to record all user activities, including keystrokes, in order to construct a comprehensive log and analysis of the user journey across all applications. This helps pinpoint where a user spends the most time and identify critical moments when a user switches from one application to another. Understanding these transition points and the actions taken by users to move between apps is crucial, and collecting these metrics opens up opportunities to introduce more intuitive interactions, significantly enhancing user experience and efficiency.

Once the intricacies of app transitions are understood, the focus shifts to streamlining these interactions. For instance, if a user habitually copies a piece of information from one app to input it into another, this repetitive action signals a prime opportunity to enhance the user workflow via interoperability. Implementing a solution could be as straightforward as enabling a user-initiated action that triggers the automatic transfer of information (like a stock symbol) from one app to another, facilitated through an FDC3 compliant interoperability channel. Such a seamless transition not only elevates the user experience but also underscores the core value of interoperability within the superapp.

Documentation

To ensure the widespread adoption and utility of these interoperability enhancements, thorough documentation is paramount. Documenting the interoperability protocols and the specifics of the data exchange ensures that the information is easily accessible and understandable to all stakeholders, including app owners. Platforms like Atlassian Confluence or GitHub pages serve as ideal repositories for this documentation, promoting transparency and collaboration.

Making this documentation readily available empowers app owners to evaluate how their applications can participate in or benefit from the established interoperability features, encouraging a broader adoption of these enhancements across the superapp ecosystem.

The Importance of Using FDC3 Protocol

Using FDC3 protocol is a pivotal element in the Desktop Superapp ecosystem by enabling seamless interoperability between various financial applications, effectively allowing them to communicate and share functionalities. This standard is essential for enhancing productivity and collaboration by streamlining workflows within a unified desktop environment.

However, the success and utility of FDC3 are significantly dependent on the quality of the user experience (UX) it delivers, because an intuitive and accessible UX encourages the adoption of applications and ensures their effective use in financial workflows. Integrating UX principles into the design and development of these applications is paramount to unlocking the full potential of FDC3 in fostering an efficient, collaborative, and user-friendly financial application landscape.

A critical aspect of achieving this level of harmony lies in the standardization of the communications protocol used for sharing context between applications via user-selectable FDC3 context channels. These user-selectable channels are commonly referred to as “color” channels because users determine the channel by selecting a color from a menu. These channels define how micro front ends within the superapp share context and respond to user actions, thereby maintaining a seamless flow across the user’s workspace.

Take, for instance, the interaction between an app listing the securities a user has bought or sold (aka a Trading Blotter app) and an app to place an order for a security (aka a Trading Ticket app) system, each operating as distinct micro frontends within the superapp. When a user opens a Trading Ticket from the Trading Blotter, the way the Trading Ticket app responds to this action—whether by also being assigned to the same channel as the Trading Blotter or remaining neutral—significantly impacts the continuity of the user’s workflow. The approach for how channel assignment works is essential to define and must be consistent across all micro frontends to avoid disrupting the user’s mental model of how information is organized and accessed within the superapp.

As your analysis  and implementation of interoperability delves deeper into the specifics of interoperability channel management in user interactions in different contexts, we underscore the importance of a unified approach to handling interoperability channels as a cornerstone for building a truly integrated and intuitive superapp environment. This is key to leveraging the full potential of FDC3 standards, ensuring that every component within the superapp contributes to a cohesive, efficient, and predictable user journey.

Two Key Interoperability Scenarios

Interoperability Scenario I: Interoperability Between Internal Applications

A compelling illustration of interoperability within a superapp ecosystem can be seen through a user’s interaction with financial instruments. Imagine a scenario where a user selects a stock symbol from an app used to monitor market prices for stock symbols (aka a Market Watch or Market Monitor app; let’s call it App A) within the superapp. This seemingly simple action sets off a cascade of automated tasks across different applications seamlessly. Firstly, it triggers a Stock Chart application (App B) to display an in-depth stock chart for the selected symbol, offering the user immediate visual analysis without any additional steps. Concurrently, a third app used to enter and send trades, a Trading Ticket (App C), automatically populates with the chosen instrument, readying the user for potential transaction decisions. This scenario showcases the transformative power of interoperability, where a single action in one part of the superapp intuitively and instantaneously orchestrates a coordinated response across multiple applications, streamlining the user’s workflow and significantly enhancing the efficiency of their investment activities. This level of interconnectedness not only saves valuable time by eliminating the need for manual data entry across different platforms, but also ensures a cohesive and intuitive user experience that leverages the full capabilities of the superapp ecosystem.1

Interoperability Scenario II: Interoperability Between Internal Applications & Third Party Applications

The integration of third-party applications within a superapp framework, especially those compliant with FDC3 standards, amplifies the superapp’s utility by enabling seamless interoperability (without requiring code modifications to existing internal apps). An illustrative example of this benefit involves a user’s interaction with a widely used third-party application like Excel. Image a scenario where a user adds a trading symbol to a row in Excel which then triggers a synchronized update across the superapp ecosystem. Automatically, the same symbol can appear in internal app demonstrating real-time financial data (e.g., a Market Watch app), and concurrently the same symbol can populate a new row in a Bloomberg Worksheet window, ready for further analysis or action.

This kind of integration exemplifies the superapp’s capability of streamlining workflows across disparate apps, eradicating the mundane task of manually copying and pasting information between applications. By establishing a network of FDC3-compliant apps, both internal and third-party, the superapp enhances productivity through data fluidity across the ecosystem. The result is a transformative experience for users, where actions in one application ripple through others, creating a unified, efficient, and highly responsive workflow that transcends the limitations of traditional app interactions. This seamless connectivity underscores the superapp’s potential to become a pivotal tool in modern digital workflows, demonstrating a profound understanding of user needs and the future direction of enterprise software integration.

Conclusion

In today’s digital landscape, the superapp offers users a streamlined and intuitive experience through pillars like the UI Ecosystem, Interoperability, Governance and Seamless UX. Interoperability stands out as a core benefit, enabling seamless communication and collaboration between different applications. By integrating both internal and third-party apps, the superapp ecosystem creates a unified platform that transcends traditional boundaries, fostering efficiency and productivity, particularly when context is shared between applications via interoperability. Integrating UX principles into FDC3-enabled applications is also paramount for ensuring a user-friendly environment, solidifying the superapp’s position as a pivotal tool in modern digital workflows.

References

  1. The UI Ecosystem: Building Blocks of the Desktop Superapp
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About the author
Vladimir Korostyshevskiy
Engineering Manager
Vladimir Korostyshevskiy is a seasoned Engineering Manager with an extensive journey from being an individual contributor in software development to a strategic leadership role. With a deep-rooted experience that spans over two decades, Vladimir has demonstrated exceptional prowess in managing complex, high-stakes projects and leading diverse, high-performing development teams.
About the author
Rene Holl, PhD
Principal Product Designer/Researcher & Product/Program Mgr.
René Holl is a Principal Product Designer/Researcher and Product/Program Manager with over 25 years of experience in user-centered interaction design and execution management. From product vision to execution and post-launch optimization, René has in-depth expertise in digital ecosystems and data-rich transactional enterprise platforms. René supports clients in their digital transformation, ensuring the successful implementation of the four essential pillars for a thriving Desktop Superapp. This includes formulating UI ecosystem strategies, designing seamless user experiences, fostering application interoperability, and overseeing critical governance workstreams throughout the enterprise. René has a PhD in psychology with a focus in human computer interaction from The New School for Social Research, a MA in computer science from Brandeis University with a dual focus in human computer interaction and artificial intelligence, and a BA with a double-major in cognitive science (artificial intelligence track) and bio-psychology from Vassar College.
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