Nicolas Delord On Rapidly Building, Iterating And Deploying Apps As A One-man Team
In today’s maker profile, we’re featuring Nicolas Delord, Creative Technologist with the ADP Product Incubator. Born out of the NYC ADP Innovation Lab and inspired by the Lean Startup ethos, the ADP Product Incubator’s goal is to design, build and validate new product concepts rapidly in the work-related Enterprise and Consumer space. Hear how Nicolas uses Mendix to build an application a week through rapid iteration with users, and how one of his apps was deployed to 50,000 employees at ADP.
What is your education and professional background? Did you have any prior development experience?
I studied physics and then switched to computer science for my Master’s degree. My first job was as a Java developer 15 years ago. After five years, I moved on and was a Business Analyst and later became a Product Owner.
At some point, I became less interested in programming and more interested in the functional aspects of software development. As a BA and product owner, I was designing and writing specifications using UML models.
Mendix, for me, was quite easy to use at first because of my combined Java development and UML modeling experience. Mendix’s model-driven development platform is like a modeler that I am used to—except that now once I’m done building, with a click of a button, the application comes to life. I’m not just creating specifications; I can immediately use and share apps with users.
How were you introduced to Mendix? What was your initial reaction?
Last June, I got involved in starting ADP’s Product Incubator team. I had been working for ADP in Paris as a Product Owner of two small products. I then moved to the US and brought the applications with me, but was unable to bring my team. When I got to the US, I started to look into PaaS. The goal was to find a platform that would enable me to put products in front of users as quickly as possible in order to learn and iterate rapidly.
I was introduced to Mendix by a colleague at ADP. I began trying to reproduce one of the apps I was responsible for. At the time, I was looking for mobile and cloud deployment capabilities. My first reaction was that it was easy to deploy; it just takes one click. I realized I didn’t need a team and could do it all myself. The initial plan was just to test ideas with a few users. I had no idea that I would be able to deploy an app to the entire company.
What was most helpful learning Mendix?
I used the web resources and invested time to do the tutorials. I really wanted to use the platform the way it was meant to be used. I then went to the intro training course in Boston, and a few months later completed the advanced class. With my Java and UML background, it wasn’t too hard.
What have you built using the platform? Which app/project are you most proud of?
I have built a dozen apps already. One of these, Leader Compass, was launched in February to 50,000 employees. It is an application to support a management Leadership Assessment program that happens twice a year at ADP. It is a new process that gives the opportunity for managers to receive anonymous feedback from their team members.
Everyone gets an email with the link to take the survey. After two weeks, it collects all the responses and then we build reports for the managers. The application focuses on 12 behaviors/dimensions of leadership, delivering coaching emails each week based on the manager’s lowest scores. There are 5,000 managers total who receive these reports and tips.
Have you had any “aha moments” using Mendix?
I was concerned about launching an app to 50,000 employees because I built it by myself. I was really glad that it worked with no major issues. The process was fast and I could build a product that would be deployed to the entire company. I was on leave during the campaign and didn’t have to worry about anything going wrong.
What advice would you give to other Mendix developers?
Just build. Use it and don’t give up if it’s not natural at first. It will come. Invest enough time to understand the product. I would encourage people who like to build to use the Mendix Platform.
How has Mendix made your life easier/better?
For me, Mendix is really about visually developing applications, and with a click of a button, they’re live. I can iterate much faster. With traditional development tools, you typically have to wait a week or more to see some new developments, and then if they miss the mark, wait another week. With Mendix, I can iterate 5-10 times on a specific case in one day.
How would you describe Mendix in your own words?
With Mendix, you use the modeler to explain what you want, design your screens and business rules. Once it’s designed, you can click and instantly see the results. If you’re not happy, you can iterate fast. If you’re happy, you can deploy to it to users. It’s all about rapid development.
What are your interests/hobbies outside of work?
I had a daughter in September. That’s my hobby right now. I also like to cook.