An Enlightening Interview with our Head of Research and Development

on June 22, 2010

In a recent blog post on Modeling-Languages, well-known blogger and technology expert Jordi Cabot interviewed our own Head of Research and Development; Johan den Haan. The conversation uncovered some interesting insights into the evolution of the Mendix platform, and its place within accelerating technological trends.

To start, where did the idea come from?

We know that Mendix software is differentiated by its simplicity and its ability to utilize collaboration between business users and software developers. By giving business users a more important role in the overall application development, the end product is more satisfactory.

Sounds logical, right? So here’s what Johan had to say about the initial motivation behind the product:

“The first motivation was trying to automate the development activities they were doing over and over again, this is one of the main reasons for MDD [Model Driven Development]. But afterwords we saw that current MDD tools were oriented to developer productivity and in our opinion one of the main benefits of MDD can be, if you create the right tool, that domain experts can be involved in the development projects. Communication with users could be much easier. Therefore, the main motivation is to create a tool aimed not to developers but to business engineers (people with analytical skills but not necessarily with a background in IT) who can model the application and add customer value.”

Ok, easier said than done. How can business engineers pull this off?

It’s all about visual modeling. With pictures, you start out with the big idea and drill down into the details. With words, you start with the details and then gain the big picture later. Johan seems to agree:

“The most important thing is to provide visual models. I know there is a lot of discussion on textual vs. graphical DSLs but visual models are easier to grasp for non-technical people.”

And the end result? Is software development changing before our eyes?!

It seems like more businesses are catching onto the value in abstracted software development that allows end users to participate. It’s faster, cheaper, and more satisfactory. It’s like building houses from bricks made of sand, rather than building them from the sand itself. Johan, on the benefits of Mendix software:

“We really aim at bringing software development to a higher abstraction level. We target domain experts. We don’t generate code that then needs to be edited, compiled, deployed… We just want to model and run. People do not need to know anything about software development to build an application. It’s just one click deploy.”

Johan goes on to provide his thoughts on the future popularity of Model Driven Development…

“There will be a growing adoption of MDD but people won’t call it MDD. It’s more a movement that includes what I see as the three main trends in the evolution of software development: cloud (avoiding infrastructure issues), MDD and app stores (in a broad sense: building an application from scratch but by combining pre-built components from other sources).”

The thought-provoking interview hits on many subjects we’ve covered in the business agility blog. Johan provides valuable insights from behind the scenes about visual modeling, cloud computing, and the evolution of the Mendix platform from day one until now. Read the full interview here.