Mendix World 2014 Hackathon: Winners Illustrate App Dev’s New Level Playing Field

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Mendix World 2014 Hackathon: Winners Illustrate App Dev’s New Level Playing Field

/ April 8, 2014

One of the less appreciated aspects of rapid application development (RAD) or model-driven development is that once you get to the right level of abstraction of the underlying IT environment, the playing field gets a whole lot more level for all concerned.

Nowhere was that more evident than the Mendix World 2014 conference where not only did a small professional service organization best much larger rivals to win a 24-hour Mendix Hackathon contest. But just as interestingly, students competing in the hackathon were able to build applications using Mendix that were just as viable as anything built by professional IT services teams.

Teams of developers converged on Mendix World last week to build applications for Terre des Hommes, a children’s’ aid society with satellite offices around the world that are staffed by local volunteers. The initial goal was to allow Terre des Hommes to provide donors with more transparency into how the organization allocates the roughly 23 million Euros it collects each year. The second application focus was on making it easier to share data between Terre des Hommes and its local partners.

The winning entrant among the professional developers was a team from Finaps, a provider of IT services to the financial services industry. Consisting of Christiaan Westgeest, technical business engineer, Tom Vranken, business engineer, and Jeroen Kesteloo, business engineer, the Finaps team chose to build an application that involved finding a way for all the Terre de Hommes satellite offices to share information with the charity’s home office.

Rather than taking the perspective of the charity’s headquarters, Westgeest says the Finaps team decided to build an application from the perspective of the users working in the satellite offices that simultaneously will make it possible for the Terre des Hommes to know what kind of skills and resources are available in each of those regions.

The winner among the student entrants were Bart Demkes and Koen Demkes representing Saxion Hogeschool. They opted to build an application that makes use of news feeds from satellite offices that inform donors how their money is being spent on any given project while at the same time informing them about other potential projects worthy of additional crowdfunding.

During the Hackathon  awards ceremony at Mendix World 2014, Albert Jaap van Santbrink, executive director for Terre de Hommes, noted that it was hard to tell the difference between the Mendix applications developed by the professional and student teams. That’s all the more amazing when you consider the students such as the Demkes brothers had little familiarity with the Mendix platform before the hackathon began.

All of which brings us to perhaps the most tantalizing takeaway of the hackathon: rather than working with low-level tools that require deep application development skills to master, the future of application development in the enterprise may belong to the power user using tools that allow them to rapidly build powerful applications at a much higher level of abstraction. After all, it’s the business user rather than the professional developer that is much closer to the business problem that needs to be solved.

Whether platforms such as Mendix will give rise to a Renaissance period of application development in the enterprise remains to be seen. But no matter who is doing the actual development, the one thing that is clear is that rate and pace at which those applications will be built is becoming a whole lot faster.

Testimonial: Terre des Hommes Sees “Amazing” Results from 24-Hour Hackathon