We recently hosted a C-level roundtable in London for insurance and financial services organizations. The discussion was led by our CTO Johan den Haan along with our customers Rod Willmott, Fast Track Innovation director at LV=, and Andrew Care, CIO International at HCC Insurance. We also had a handful of prospective customers participate.
Across the board, it was clear that digitization is a top priority for insurance and financial services organizations, as they look to seize new market opportunities and better compete against disruptive new market entrants. This rapid change simply is not possible, though, if IT teams cling to legacy systems and processes. With this mind, attendees all agreed that a platform like Mendix is crucial to accelerating innovation, as it delivers significant productivity advantages over traditional approaches.
What much of the discussion centered on was how to effectively leverage Mendix and best practices for getting the most out of the platform. Our customers had plenty of great insight to share with the group. Below are a five key takeaways from the roundtable event:
1. Stop talking, start doing
You can make plans and talk about innovation for years and years, but at some point you just have to do it. LV=’s Willmott shared how they started with a standalone product that they were able to build, test and deploy in just 15 days using Mendix. After this initial experiment, they took on a bigger project covering an end-to-end insurance product with capabilities spanning customer self-service, back-end administration, claims and fulfilment. They accomplished this in three months and at very reasonable costs compared to implementing a policy administration system.
2. Focus on the full application lifecycle
Many development and case management tools offer incremental improvements to developer productivity. However, this has only marginal impact on the success of projects and doesn’t equip organizations to continuously innovate and adapt to new business and market needs. Attendees discussed how with Mendix, you can manage the end-to-end application delivery lifecycle, from requirements to development, testing, deployment and change, in a much faster and more controlled fashion. This ensures maximum impact for projects that would otherwise never make it to the priority agenda, while creating enthusiasm across business and IT.
3. Find business-oriented developers
The profile of the Mendix developer is typically a business-oriented person that can sit close to the business (owner) as suppose to a traditional coder. For instance, LV= hired a number of people straight from university, trained them, worked with them as part of the first few projects and they were proficient in Mendix in just a few weeks. Willmott said it’s about finding people with curiosity and motivation. They’re eager to learn a new technology like Mendix quick and are highly motivated to deliver results, which helps them progress in their career.
den Haan commented that this is what Mendix does in R&D as well. He shared how we work with small multi-disciplined teams that are responsible for the end-to-end process (from requirements to development to deployment and change). In a lot of larger organizations, Dev sits separate from Ops and Business, which means there are huge gaps and a lot of handover moments between teams that need to be controlled. Using Mendix, a large portion of the control is handled by the platform itself, including unit testing between Mendix modules, documentation, set-up of the underlying database, etc.
4. Keep teams small
den Haan also discussed how Mendix’s R&D teams are no bigger than 5-8 people each and from experience (along with best practices from companies like Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, etc.) that this is much more efficient than managing large teams. With small, “two pizza” teams, communication is optimal and few handovers are required. This is why Mendix teams can cover the end-to-end process (design, build, test, deploy and manage) in just weeks and are able to constantly release new functionality to users and test with small pilot audiences for feedback before putting into production.
5. It’s ok to fail as long as you fail fast
The roundtable participants also shared that it’s ok to deliver a project that fails. But the failure should be for business reasons, not because the technology doesn’t work! It’s all about creating a culture of curiosity and rapid experimentation. In fact, HCC’s Care said Mendix enables its IT team to be so fast that they’ve turned the tables on the business and often deliver before they’re ready. The key is to strike the right balance.
Unfortunately, far too many CIOs and IT teams never even get to that point because they would rather protect what they rather than be open to something new.
Which takeaway resonates most with you? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.