Building Your Mendix Team: Q&A with Jeff Ward, Director of IT, Solution Delivery, Digital Risk
Digital Risk, a Mendix customer, is the largest independent provider of Risk, Compliance and Transaction Management solutions for the complex and dynamic financial services market. We chatted with Jeff Ward, Digital Risk’s Director of IT, Solution Delivery about his experience with Mendix. Read on as Jeff shares his initial skepticism and practical advice for introducing Mendix to a .NET development shop.
What skepticism did you and/or your team express about adopting Mendix?
We’ve heard other vendors’ platform pitch before and they always seemed to come up short of their promise. I may have rolled my eyes when we first heard of Mendix because platforms are usually rigid and confine you to a box. On top of that, they’re not scalable or truly enterprise class.
In addition, .NET developers possess a lot of pride about coding. The thought that non-developers or business people would be building applications was met with suspicion. A platform’s learning curve can be steep too. Nobody has the time to learn a new platform so the perception becomes custom coding in .NET is the only path to go.
We were pleased to discover none of these applied to Mendix.
How did you manage those concerns and build your Mendix team?
The beauty of the Mendix App Platform was that we didn’t need a large team. So what we did was identify people within our organization with a natural proclivity towards Mendix. Those individuals tend to sit somewhere between IT and the business; they have some technical skills but they’re also process-oriented and client-facing. One was a web designer with little technical expertise. Another came from operations and had a computer science degree. And there was a .NET developer who was also a business analyst.
We’ve found that these business-focused IT people gravitate towards the Mendix App Platform and thrive on it. They get significant job satisfaction from being able to produce results quickly and get immediate feedback on a new app or piece of functionality.
Over time, we’ve built our team around two types of Mendix engineers. The first is more customer facing and dedicated to implementation and understanding business processes and the solution for the client. The other is more technical and focused on extending the framework through custom widgets, more advanced features, performance monitoring, and development best practices.
What has surprised you most about Mendix?
The biggest surprise was the quality and amount of apps built on the Mendix App Platform available through the Mendix App store. We gain a tremendous advantage in being able to quickly leverage proven components like the Excel Importer and Email Module. We reuse those applications over and over, so not having to rebuild the functionality every time we need it is a huge productivity boost. It’s very effective for agile development. With more companies building on the Mendix App Platform, the sky is the limit when it comes to leveraging and repurposing pre-built applications.
Another area where Mendix provided a large increase in efficiencies allowing us to expand our offerings is in the ease of integrations into our Digital Risk proprietary platforms. Digital Risk prides itself on its comprehensive suite of analytics, advisory, quality control and review systems built on a wide variety of off the shelf software and custom .Net and Java applications and components. Enabling quick integrations and leveraging our state-of-the-art analytics models has allowed us tailor solutions to clients’ needs and expand our own Enterprise App store and client offerings.
How has Mendix met your expectations?
Two things immediately come to mind: the platform’s extensibility and the level of accessibility and support. As I mentioned before, most platforms confine you to a box and we didn’t think we would be able to extend the Mendix App Platform as much as we have or build custom UIs. We’re impressed with the security module and the SQL generation being taken care of, which are major time savers. Another example, particularly for our business, is the ability to isolate security at the record level.
From a support perspective, the availability of resources to call someone and get support or just pick their brain is very unique for a platform company. We have other platforms in house for different purposes and we don’t get the same level of support.
What advice would you give to another person in your role evaluating Mendix for their company?
The platform is a valuable resource to any company that builds custom applications and needs them built quickly. To position yourself for success, find the right people for the platform. As I mentioned, it’s those individuals that sit between IT and the business and are passionate about delivering results fast. They’ll thrive and your development projects will be faster, cheaper, and more successful.
Watch this on-demand webinar featuring Digital Risk’s CTO Eric Rawlings to learn more about how Digital Risk is using Mendix to support rapidly-changing business and compliance requirements in the mortgage industry.