How David Sanders Uses Mendix to Develop Apps Faster Than With Remedy
In today’s installment of our rapid developer profile series, we are featuring David Sanders, Mendix MVP at Buoyant Solutions Inc. Hear how he uses Mendix to rapidly develop applications in just weeks instead of months.
1. What is your education and professional background? Did you have any prior development experience?
I originally studied physics at the University of Oxford. After university I went into publishing as a technical editor. This led me to a role as a publisher for the Institute of Civil Engineers and then at EMAP, working on technical books and directories. Gradually, the role morphed into an IT role. I was asked to become the IT manager and was transferred to London where I became deputy IT Manager for the Group. In addition to normal IT support, my role was instrumental in setting up a helpdesk system. This was my first exposure to developing in Remedy.
Over time Remedy became less attractive as a development platform and I began looking for alternatives. In 2010 I started looking into Mendix, and now I do all of my development in Mendix.
2. How were you introduced to Mendix? What was your initial reaction?
I used to partner with a German company who also partnered with Mansystems. Mansystems was also looking at Mendix and suggested we look into it as well. Once I got my head around the concept of using a normalized database structure, I was just amazed at how quickly I was able to rebuild complicated functionality, at a speed 3-4 times faster than I was used to. With Mendix there are vastly fewer objects to maintain and they are much easier to understand and troubleshoot.
I rewrote all ITSM apps in Mendix and find it a lot quicker and easier to develop in Mendix compared to Remedy – and Remedy was considered rapid development. Mendix is three times quicker, which I found really delightful. It is also a far more normalized data structure. Remedy was a very flat data structure, with key data stored in multiple locations.
3. What was most helpful learning Mendix?
I did some of the training, but since then it’s just been hands-on experience with the platform. The most important part is having a clear project to work on. The developer resources and the App Store are advantageous as well – there are hundreds of off the shelf widgets that you can plug into your development whenever you need. Just check the app store and nine times out of ten, someone has done it.
4. What have you built using the platform? Which app/project are you most proud of?
I built an app with twenty different modules that is e-Service Suite. We wished to include a time sheets and expense management module. The module took about a week to build, not eight hours a day, but a couple of hours here and there, and a tea break in between. In the past when I had done similar functionality in Remedy, it took about 6-8 weeks to build. What I love about the process of developing in Mendix is that customers and potential customers can provide feedback and we can do a rapid prototype within days and go through an iterative process to refine their requirements. Mendix is ideally suited to that process of incremental change to improve something.
5. Have you had any “aha moments” using Mendix?
One aha moment I had with Mendix was that you could put a complete workflow in a single microflow as opposed to creating individual events. This made it far easier than what I was used to in Remedy, where you would string together twenty workflow objects. And that became even more complicated if you needed to branch. Keeping a mental picture was virtually impossible. In Mendix, it’s really simple. Even with complex microflows – it is so much easier to look at and get a sense of what’s happening, and follow it through.
6. What advice would you give to new Mendix developers?
I would advise new Mendix developers to make sure they partake in the online training. Then get yourself a relatively simple, discrete project and start building. Also, use the Mendix Forum. People are generous with their time and have already solved so many problems.
7. How would you describe Mendix in your own words?
Mendix is my livelihood. It’s what I do for a living. It’s a vibrant community. It’s a technology which is on the cutting edge and going forward at a really good rate. It’s not stagnating, it’s right on the forefront. It’s a platform that’s getting more penetration and traction. It’s quite exciting to be involved. It’s quite exhilarating the way the enhancements come along.
8. What are your interests/hobbies outside of work?
I love motor racing and I enjoy playing golf. I also read detective novels and science fiction. I normally read two books a week.