The first day at Mendix World here in Rotterdam was a lot of fun, but also a lot of apps, as befitting the context and content of the conference. This is my first real exposure to Mendix and I came away impressed.
We started off the day with a keynote from the CEO of Mendix, Derek Roos. He gave some perspective on the evolution of the app world, where now 57% of all organizations run their transactions in the cloud. He told us that “the Facebook Generation isn’t just kids with phones, but all of us who are getting used to new ways to interact and collaborate and to access systems. We have different expectations to what apps will look and feel like. This is all of us.” Quite true.
But while that may be exciting, “one thing that hasn’t changed in the last two decades is that two thirds of all software projects aren’t successful. And expectations are rising, and end users want more out of their apps,” he stated.
As most of you know, Mendix is used for a variety of enterprise app development, including migrating legacy apps from Java, SharePoint and .Net. The Mendix App store has over 170 widgets and 30,000 downloads. What is intriguing is that Mendix customers, once they get started, are finding lots of new opportunities for additional apps after they complete their first project. This is something that Chris Woodman from Liberty Mutual mentioned in his talk, where he shared the process by which the company built their first mobile app.
We heard from John Rymer of Forrester, who was gushing in his enthusiasm for being in software development at this point in his life. He mentioned four of his favorite non-Mendix mobile apps in his speech and cautioned, “We have to become better at understanding the business of our companies. IT has a bad rap but wants to be able to contribute to the business in some meaningful way.”
Rymer led a panel discussion of four different Mendix customers. Rod Willmott, the FastTrack Director of LV Insurance in the UK, spoke first about how “the entry barriers to our business are coming down so quickly because technology is much more available. We have very small margins typically, so we need very rapid developments to drive down our costs.” He warned that many IT folks should ” focus on internal iPad usage and create mobile apps to make us more effective and add value. Mobile needs to be seen as a functional improvement, not just a marketing tool to make pretty apps.”
He and Adrie Kaljee, the Business Systems Manager for logistics company TNT Express agreed that the best place to find up and coming Mendix developers wasn’t within the traditional IT ranks. “Look for people who understand business processes to build your apps,” Kaljee said. He also mentioned what was one of the biggest benefits of using Mendix: the speed of app deployment.
“We can make changes to our apps and have them appear in the same day that the users asked for them, it is jaw-dropping amazing. Our users tell us that ‘it is so nice to get what I asked for, rather than what IT perceived what they thought I meant.’ Mendix to us mean much more rapid delivery of our apps.”
Wout Hesen, the Associate IT director for Genzyme Europe, spoke about the quick learning curve with Mendix. “We had almost no budget when we started, and after three days our staff is able to deliver apps. The learning curve is not steep at all, and people are really proficient quickly.”
Finally, René ten Hove, the ICT Manager for Dutch auto parts stores Kwik-Fit, mentioned the darker side of using tools such as Mendix. “The larger projects can have unclear scope, you have to stick to a plan and prioritize other enhancements in your next release. Otherwise you will never finish developing your apps.” They have been working on a project for several years now for their stores and have seen the effects first-hand of feature creep.
Wrapping up the day’s activities were two app development competitions: one involving two student teams from the University of Eindhoven (Green and Red) and two from the University of Twente (Purple and Yellow). The students were given their assignment this morning and had a little over a day to produce a finish Mendix app, with some help from CapGemini (more on the contest and the results tomorrow). Also shown was a competition to develop the best mobile app from professionals around the world, won by Sebastian Piest from the Dutch consulting firm Cape Groep.
We hope to see you tomorrow at the conference!