Netcentric Goes Beyond Hybrid App Development

Netcentric leveraged native mobile technologies to build a cross platform app for Raiffeisen Bank, linking customers to their local branches like never before.

Raiffeisen’s partnership with Netcentric has yielded fruit in the form of a new cross platform mobile app: Piazza. The app has the slogan "Your bank, your village square", and forms a key part of Raiffeisen's digital strategy, linking customers to their local bank branches through a beautiful interface and a news feed filled with relevant articles, events and deals.

For Netcentric, working on this app was a chance to show off our development skills in the mobile landscape, as well as craft some interesting software to allow our customer to use their pre-existing AEM Sites content in new and exciting ways.

How to aggregate content from 255 sources

Raiffeisen, one of Switzerland's three biggest retail banks, is a federation of 255 independent co-operative banks, each with their own management and communication needs. Netcentric had previously implemented an AEM solution to unify the content from the individual banks into a single web appearance. The logical next phase was to create a mobile application to provide a more personalised experience for the banks' customers.

Piazza is, at it's core, a news feed with news content aggregated not only from the central and individual banks, but also offers and local events from the client's MemberPlus portal, crowdfunding campaigns from their Lokalhelden site, and Real Estate listings from Raiffeisen Casa.

The user is able to connect with agents from their local branch, schedule an appointment, and find opening hours and locations of nearby branches and atm’s.

The app is also cross-platform (available on both iOS and Android), meeting all the user experience requirements expected from a modern mobile application, and ready for fast implementation of a variety of future features.

With that many sources, we needed to find a backend solution that was fast and flexible, and a frontend framework that would give us the performance we needed as well as leveraging our development team's existing knowledge.

A unified approach

Front-end: The app client

Until this project, Netcentric's experience with app development had been focused on hybrid solutions like Cordova or Adobe’s managed solution AEM Mobile. The downside to a hybrid app is that there is layer of separation between the interactive elements and the device itself, making the app appear sluggish or slow. Instead, we wanted a way to run our code natively, with no middleman holding back performance.

After extensive research, we chose to use Nativescript, a framework that allowed us to use our expertise from numerous Angular-based projects while also running our code close to the native layer and working with platform specific UI widgets.

We were able to work rapidly as a result of the combination of the familiar tooling along with a fast feedback cycle provided by the Apple and Google App Stores' development workflows. This speed also led to an excellent level of collaboration with Raiffeisen during the development process, and resulted in a polished app client going into production.

Back-end: Content as a Service

The Piazza app is deceptively simple, but highly customisable for its users. With 255 banks posting news, events, real estate listings, and more each day, we couldn't simply send out a bulk response with all items.

Instead, we adopted the Content as a Service model Adobe developed during the AEM 6.3 development cycle. This allowed us to easily integrate AEM as a content source, not only for the Piazza app client, but also into other services such as Raiffeisen's existing external search solution, Fusion.

Using Fusion on top of a SolrCloud installation allowed us to implement sophisticated sort algorithms and to use typical search features such as more-like-this. The app can make a request based on the user's language, bank branch, and interest preferences, and the backend will respond with just the right amount of data for the app client to display.

In the end, we provide a fully customised user experience, but still keep response times within milliseconds.

Project Management: The Netcentric Methodology

One other key ingredient in the development process was Netcentric's project methodology, a hybrid agile-waterfall approach. Working in short sprints with a focus on features meant that we could quickly work through feedback and change requests for the client, while also addressing any defects that arose, in a seamless process.

Working in this manner allowed us to provide a well-tested set of features for the initial release, precisely to the customer's specifications, as well as prepare for future releases.

Piazza is Live!

Piazza is available to download in the Google Play Store and the Swiss iTunes App Store. We're very proud of the work we've done in providing a native mobile solution for Raiffeisen, and we will continue to build on this success as we embrace the opportunities for digital marketing that mobile provides.

Download Piazza for iOS or Download Piazza for Android.