Mendix World 2014: The Rise of the Citizen Developer


on April 7, 2014

Developers, in particular, and IT departments in general are not held in much esteem these days by business executives. From the perspective of the average business executive, IT is too slow to respond to business requirements that dynamically change on a weekly or even daily basis. In fact, it seems like every request the business makes winds up getting put on an application development backlog that all too often stretches back over the course of multiple years.

But thanks to the rise of modern rapid application development (RAD) tools that make it simple for business users to model their own applications, we may finally be approaching a Renaissance period when it comes to application development in the enterprise.

Using the Mendix App Platform, business users and other “citizen developers” can now  reduce, if not outright eliminate, the backlog logjam that today defines application development in the enterprise.

GartnerIn fact, David Norton, an industry analyst for Gartner, told attendees at the Mendix World 2014 conference last week that at this juncture there is no stopping the rise of the “citizen developer.”

“You can’t stop the gifted amateur,” says Norton. “What we can do is facilitate it.”

Ultimately, the rise of these citizen developers or tech-savvy businesspeople will free businesses from their over dependency on professional developers that too often deliver applications that are not only late, but, worse yet, don’t actually meet the needs of the business. And because of the types of tools being used by the developer, the ability of the business to move forward is usually constrained by their ability to hire and retain professional developers.

Mendix, in contrast, is designed to be used by power users, business analysts and “citizen developers” by giving them access to visual modeling tools that empower them to build their own applications, without needing to write low-level code.

“We call that a model-driven application platform as a service,” said Mendix CTO Johan den Haan at Mendix World last week. “We want to empower business engineers using model-driven development.”

Once the transformation occurs, the rate at which business applications can be developed increases by an order of magnitude, often as high as 10 times faster than traditional methods.

Those changes not only result in applications being delivered faster for customers such as Touring Assurances, a provider of automotive insurance based in Belgium; it makes the overall business more agile.

“We now have a more agile way of working,” says Helene Portegies, manager of customer services for Touring Assurances. “It really was a complete cultural change.”

GlobeWade Sendall, vice president of IT for The Boston Globe, says that rather than trying to centralize control over application development, platforms such as Mendix provide a framework through which the business and IT can better collaborate.

“You can’t stop the federation of technology,” says Sendall. “You want to empower the business while maintaining control.”

Sendall says Mendix provides The Boston Globe with the base technology the company needs to put the processes and workflow in place that facilitates business participation in a collaborative process around an architectural construct that IT can easily manage.

Once companies come to that realization, not only will the rate at which organizations build and deploy applications exponentially grow; the historic separation that has existed between IT and the rest of the business will once and for all finally start to disappear.

“It’s a huge asset to be able to send a few people in to build an application,” says Sendall. “This is a huge opportunity for IT to be change agents.”