Another content-filled day here at Mendix World. Starting things off, Mendix CTO Johan Den Haan announced Mendix 5 today at the conference and touched on five particular enhancements to the more than 20 that will be included in the next version:
1. Layouts –– UX is becoming more important. Lots of beautiful layouts from their App Store that are SmartPhone ready, HTM5 based and flexible for all screen sizes, and can connect to a specific device profile and reuse particular UI patterns.
2. App Launchpad — A major new feature is a single starting place for users that can be customized and can be branded too, with a widget that can access a social activity stream and see all notifications for all your apps.
3. Components – Several enhancements focus on better integration. Apps can contain multiple components and have explicit interfaces that can share data and logic components. The emphasis here is on reusable pieces that make it easier to maintain your apps.
4. Multi-tenant app services – This is what is behind the integrated UI as part of the Launchpad and these services can be used as part of the component interface. Their is also improved single sign-on and authentication via OpenID.
5. Enterprise admin features – You can view the status of all your apps and keep track of user rights and other parameters.
Next up was a very funny but poignant talk by another CTO, Ron Tolido of Capgemini Europe. He started off talking about “the business prevention department” which sounds a bit like something out of a Monty Python routine (for those of you that remember that wonderful comedy troupe, as at right). His (Tolido’s, not the Python guys’) message was that businesses need to move from prevention to catalyst, and it is time that IT should become more agile in supporting innovation.
The conference then split into three tracks, and I went to a few of the sessions. Joe Geldenhuys, the head of projects at Plessey’s South African office, described their situation. Plessey is managing long haul fiber network installations throughout Africa, some several hundred miles long involving thousands of people on the ground. Previously, they used tools such as Microsoft SharePoint and Project and scanned forms to keep track of the lines’ projects. “We had to have better visibility of our time lines, and what our guys on the ground were actually doing.”
Plessey worked with Mansystems, a Mendix Dutch and South African VAR, to develop a proof of concept. This was remarkable because Plessey never heard of Mendix before he started, and decided to give them a try nonetheless. The proof of concept was well received, and was based on a tool called ExpertDesk using Mendix that Mansystems now sells to other clients and is a mainstay of their business.
It took Mansystems a few days to integrate their Mendix app into SAP, Microsoft Project, SharePoint, and set up user authentications with Active Directory. It includes email notifications, electronic approvals for work orders, and lots of real time graphical reporting and it is being used by over 80 of his staff.
“Now everyone in the business knows all our workflows, where before they all had different ideas of their roles,” Geldenhuys stated. They also know how much each resource is actually being used on each of their projects.
Also presenting were Dutch consultants from Nobel who have developed apps to help provide automobile damage estimates to Delta Lloyd Group after accidents are reported to various insurers. Prior to the Mendix-based apps, the claims adjusters could handle up to 15,000 claims a year. The Mendix apps boosted this to more than five-fold, increasing customer satisfaction in the process.
I also sat in on part of a talk by Jouke Waleson, Cloud Developer and Engineer for Mendix, who’s premise is that developers have to create new and better environments for their apps. “You start with a single app and before you know it you are in the app jungle,” he said. This jungle is characterized by having terrible management and conflicting goals, along with bureaucratic delays and clashes of cultures between sys admins and app developers. “You typically have your apps spread over several systems, and questions arise such as who has the rights to the VPN on which system,” he said. Of course we all know the solution to the app jungle…
The end of the conference came with the results of the student app contest, as we have written about here. It was fun to watch all the students work so hard on their apps and Rene van Hofwegen from Mendix did a great job as the master of ceremonies.
I hope you enjoyed my reports from the conference, and for those of you that I met in Rotterdam, it was nice to get to know you all.