In today’s maker profile, we’re highlighting Khalid El-Qasabagli, Agile Business Engineer and Scrum Master at LV=Insurance. Find out how Khalid made the move from a BPM and SOA specialist to a rapid developer and how he’s working with business users to bring Mendix to the masses.
1. What’s your education and professional background? Did you have prior development experience?
My A-Levels included Information Technology, but I went to the Royal Holloway, University of London to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. I then took a change of direction and went back for my Master’s in IT at Bournemouth University, where I attained a Distinction (where my dissertation was on Agile and RAD from a financial sector) part time whilst working for LV= Insurance.
I started in application support, specifically for our Case Management System which utilized BPM and BPMN. I spent most of my time in talks with the business, trying to understand their goals and then translate them into new features. From here, I moved into a new role as part of our Fast Track Innovation team.
2. What were your initial thoughts of Mendix?
Before I joined the Fast Track Team I spoke to Savan Vyas, who was already a member of the team. He talked about the speed of the platform and the use of agile methodology components, which I was excited about. But it wasn’t until I started to use the platform that I really understood all that Mendix could offer.
With Mendix, I can have an MVP in a very short period of time, from inception through user stories, development, and feedback into a Production ready application. It used to take weeks to deploy and configure an environment – whereas now I can build and deliver major functionality in the same time period. It’s a huge change of pace – and I knew I wanted to be involved.
3. What was most helpful?
The online training course was a really useful introduction to the platform. Beyond this, it was learning on the job. In my second week, I was thrown into a project which really got my hands dirty, which I find is the best way to learn. After this initial project, I understood what the platform can do and what it can’t – and also what already exists (that I don’t have to re-create).
4. Can you describe one of the applications you’ve built?
My first project related to our coaching development review (CDR) application. This is LV=’s second largest application, shared by over 3,500 sales representatives.
This application was originally in Access, but LV= was planning a lengthy migration to a third party solution. Instead of waiting one year and spending half a million pounds, I replicated the application in Mendix. The new application was built in six weeks!
I used the Mendix questionnaire module as the basis of the application, which significantly cut down on development time. Also, this module makes it easy for business users to change the questions, empowering the team to take ownership of the application for content changes.
5. Do business users want to get involved?
I’m actually working with a few departments to get them trained up on Mendix. We’ve found that you don’t need a coding background to work in Mendix; you just need an aptitude for logic. Business users are often very good at logically breaking down ideas, so by helping them learn the platform and build the initial structure, they’re able to take over (often after the first sprint). Our business users are doing 80-90% of the work in Mendix, leaving us time to innovate and focus on larger initiatives.
I’ve had interest from a variety of business managers, mainly people who are working with raw data and interested in automating how that data is aggregated and analyzed. For example, there’s someone in our finance department who currently relies heavily on Excel sheets. The person uses a number of Macros to aggregate data, which became very time consuming. Now, this person is able to build a new application that automates data feeds and provides dashboards that showcase necessary information.
We’ve even held our own Hackathon to inspire business users to come and test out the platform and see what we can help them achieve. During the hackathon we created a new application that allowed our Customer Service representatives to interact with customers’ documents via a dropbox style mobile site in a workflow, rather than sending emails back and forth.
And with Mendix’s DX Release, we’re looking forward to leveraging the Free Edition to help our colleagues within the business, translate their ideas into applications. In many instances, our business users want to start with a small application, which we can then help them scale as more people find it valuable.
6. How do you coach business users to become rapid developers?
It’s more about telling a story. I ask for each person to think through what they’re trying to achieve and then walk through the application components that will get them to their goal. Once they understand what their application should do (or include from a functionality perspective), I can help them translate those user stories into graphical elements.
I also think that the online introductory training is a great intro (for any background). This allows them to understand how to leverage the platform, and then I’m available to help as questions arise.
7. Describe Mendix in your own words?
Mendix is a complete end-to-end solution. The platform allows you to build in a low-code, rapid application development, manner.
For those who may be less technical, I generally say that Mendix is a single tool to get any idea into a production-like application state. And with Mendix, you can get to that state really fast, with help by using Mendix’s App Store capabilities.
8. What are you interested in/passionate about outside of work?
I’m a big sports fan; I play football, and am the captain of my football team ‘Scott v.’, I also follow Arsenal FC and Bournemouth FC, enjoy tennis, squash and like gaming (FIFA and Destiny mainly).