Hans de Visser on July 21, 2015
The Mendix DX Release that we announced last week not only brings key platform innovations such as the new UI Framework and OData support. It also includes a new Free Edition that focuses on helping businesses drive continuous innovation for their digital initiatives.
In the digital economy, it’s vital for companies to win, retain and serve customers and innovate their product and service offerings. But with a heightened reliance on software to execute digital strategies, IT teams are challenged to rapidly deliver new applications that help the business innovate and compete.
Let me share two anecdotes from recent customer conversations to illustrate this challenge and the manifest need to break out of the traditional delivery model.
A few months ago, we met with an enterprise architect of a leading insurance company to explore potential use of the Mendix platform for their business. We highlighted the platform capabilities for application development, the full support of the application delivery cycle and our cloud-native architecture supporting 1-click deployment on fully standardized cloud infrastructure that is automatically provisioned.
The guy was floored to see the speed of development and deployment. “What you showed me in 10 minutes, will take me at least three weeks to organize infrastructure and people from various disciplines, just to get started.”
More recently, we met with the CIO of a large energy grid operator. We had a very engaging conversation, and he really got the power of the platform and approach that we could bring to his organization. At a point in the meeting he said: “I can see two streams of usage of the platform in our organization. We will have project candidates that we know we will do with your platform, so we will line up the resources and start formal projects. There’s another stream, however, where we aren’t sure about the initiative and idea, and I want to be able to just explore an idea, build a prototype, run at it small scale and see if it flies. There should be no threshold to jump on it and build it on your platform.”
What he didn’t know then was that we were working on the Free Edition with that exact idea in mind. Since we launched the Community Edition last year, thousands of developers embraced the platform for exploring ideas, familiarizing with our technology and building proof of concepts and prototypes. The surveys that we did with Community Edition users, however, revealed that people wanted to take things a step further and run those apps in production at small scale.
So we decided to facilitate this and turn the Community Edition into a full production tier with additional features typically needed to run applications in production: backups, monitoring, live debugging, REST support, deep linking, and anonymous users.
The Free Edition allows you to test & learn and apply a fail-fast approach by live validation of your application.
So, why is this relevant? Digital initiatives are not about developing commodity applications. The idea for a digital initiative may live in the heads of just a few business representatives, innovators or marketers, but they can’t prove up front that it really works in practice.
“Good ideas and bad ideas have one thing in common: early on both sound ridiculous.” –Mark Parker, CEO, Nike
The question is, what’s the cost of figuring out whether an idea is good or bad? If the cost of getting that insight is high, the business can only explore a few ideas and the process to determine which ideas are pursued requires significant scrutiny.
A great example of a customer that cracked this nut is LV= Insurance. In their fast-track innovation team, they developed a concept called “Insurance-in-a-Box,” a solution for new product introduction at speed. Insurance-in-a-Box holds a set of pre-configured insurance processes for Quote-to-Buy, Policy Administration, Billing and other core functionalities required to bring a new proposition to market.
When someone came up with the idea to launch an “Over 50 Life Insurance” product, they were able to launch the proposition in just a few weeks time with minimal cost. The idea turned out to be a great success.
Obviously, there are examples of initiatives that failed as well. The point is that the cost of failure is so low compared to what it took earlier to launch a new proposition that LV= can afford to test many more of those ideas than ever before.
Obviously, there’s more than just technology that comes to play to make this happen. Organizing your teams to fast-track innovation and adopting the right processes to facilitate collaboration between business and IT are equally important.
The ability to deliver fast and work in iterative cycles is crucial to calibrate the initial solution and quickly respond to feedback. In that sense, Continuous Innovation is the next logical step after what we’ve done in IT to align the various disciplines adopting Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery.
Continuous Delivery enables the integration of development and operations into DevOps, a software development method that stresses communication, collaboration, integration and automation between software developers and other information-technology (IT) professionals. It is driven by factors such as:
Continuous Innovation brings the business into the equation and removes all of the friction to transform ideas into applications. Anyone who has an idea to explore can go online, subscribe and try it out in real life.
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