Speed Up SAP Development with Mendix

on March 8, 2018

Pascal GroenPascal Groen, a veteran SAP ABAP developer, created his first Mendix app after just two weeks of learning about the platform. “It’s really easy and you have something that looks great out of the box,” he says. It’s obvious to Pascal why SAP chose Mendix as their solution extension partner for low-code development, “let SAP process the data and analyze the millions of records, and use Mendix to quickly build apps on top of that data to interact with it.”

Why Pascal Started Using Mendix

After 13 years working with a set of technologies, work becomes routine and comfortable. Leaping into something new is risky and doesn’t always pay off the way you might expect. For Pascal, jumping into Mendix has returned high rewards for very low risk.

After a successful career as SAP Solutions Consultant with a generous amount of ABAP development experience under his belt, Pascal learned about Mendix during his time at Enexis, a Dutch grid company. He was thinking about the next steps in career at the time. The huge amount of experience in SAP ECC, R/3, CRM solution, ISU solution, and the industry solutions for defense forces and public security (D.F.P.S.) meant he could pursue any career path he wanted.

What you need to know about Mendix is that it’s easy and fast.”

When a recruiter asked him what his goals were, Pascal answered: “I want to deliver faster, deliver more, make more people happy.” The recruiter introduced him to MxBlue, a Dutch Mendix partner focused on the implementation of Mendix solutions in SAP landscapes, where he started in October 2017. “It’s perfect because I like developing, gathering requirements, and seeing the whole process. It even includes some architecture, which I love.”

3 Apps in 3 Months

Pascal was able to ramp up his Mendix development skills in a matter of weeks. Free online training provided a firm foundation for app development.

“I started the online course and after two weeks I started developing my own apps.” The first couple of apps were for friends and himself, providing Pascal with some practical cases to work with and learn how to develop with Mendix. In just 3 months he published 3 fully functional Free apps to the Mendix Cloud.

“My first app was for a family that had to keep track of their brother’s finances for the PGB program in the Netherlands. This is a subsidy for people who need healthcare because they are sick, handicapped, or because of old age.”

“I was there one day to clean up their computer and they said that it was very difficult to manage their brother’s finances. They were using Excel files that contained a lot of mistakes. Money was missing in some cases, and in excess in others. So, I said that there was an easy way to fix that because I was going to start at MxBlue and work with Mendix, so I could build them something in a couple of hours that would help them a lot.”

Building a Finance App with Mendix Low-Code Platform Screenshot

“The app is an administration tool that you can use to import files from online banking. The online banking portal generates an export file (CSV) that you download and then import into the Mendix app. From there you can assign cost centers to it. You can also create an expense overview of a specific month and see where the money went. My friends are really happy with the app. They text me every month to tell me how well it works, how fast it is, and how much better it is than before.

You can publish your app to the cloud with 1 click and access it from anywhere.”

Pascal’s second app solved a logistics problem for his father, a truck driver who needs to keep track of his hours, distance driven, packages delivered, and other practical information. He would manually write down the data on a printed Excel sheet for every trip. Pascal created an app for his father that allowed him to easily input all that data, replacing the manual pen and paper process.

“I told my dad that I can develop something for him online. The app is really simple: he gets into his truck and adds a new trip to the app when he starts. He can then add an activity to the trip to indicate the start time, end time, the kilometers driven, etc. In addition to that, he can register how many pallets he has offloaded at which customer.”

Easy to Build Logistic App with Mendix Mobile Screenshots

“It’s just for him and the funny thing is that he’s quite waterfall-minded. He first wants me to tell him that he can test it. Then he finds bugs and wants me to fix all the bugs first. It’s quite hard to explain that he can simply use the app and tell me if something doesn’t work so I can fix it.

I started the online course and after two weeks I started developing my own apps.”

The third app is something Pascal built is for himself. It’s an add-on for Untappd, an app for tracking and rating beers you try. By trying new and different beer styles you unlock achievements along the way. For example, if you drink five different beers from the Netherlands you’re awarded the “Going Dutch” badge.

Logic is visually modelled in microflows

“I was always checking how many more beers I had to drink to get the next level for this badge. So, I developed something that uses APIs to extract my user data from Untappd and import it into the Mendix application. In the application, I do my calculations and show it in a dashboard. With just one click I can know exactly how many beers I need to drink to get an achievement.”
“While that’s really nice, I also added storage capabilities. I buy beer, put it in my fridge, register that it’s in my fridge, and use it in the app’s calculations.”

Custom Untappd Add-On Using Mendix Mobile Screenshots

SAP Uses Mendix to Deliver the Most Powerful Solutions

While these examples show how quickly you can learn Mendix and build apps that people love, the real power of the Mendix Platform becomes clear when it’s combined with the powerhouse capabilities of SAP products.

“We’ve recently started a project at Flatfield, a printed circuit board provider in the Netherlands. They are looking for a self-service customer solution that provides insight into a customer’s orders, their status, delivery tracking, and shipping details.”

My friends tell me every month how well the app works, how fast it is, and how much it’s helping them.”

“We combined SAP and Mendix by using SAP as the system of record along with the basic processes, financial processes, and stock order management, and use Mendix for the delivery of a web application that offers a best-in-class user experience. A strong part of Mendix is that it’s directly in the cloud, which allows access from anywhere.”

“Flatfield will be exposing information to customers, kind of like the self-service features you see at internet service providers or web-shops. This involves data from the SAP system, like a customer’s information, their shipments, and support tickets. That’s where Mendix kicks in and retrieves that data and displays it in a user-friendly web app.”

Using SAP with Mendix Example Screenshot

A New Way of Collaborating on Projects

Collaboration is the key to delivering on time, on budget, and to the customer’s satisfaction. This requires frequent contact with customers, developers, and other stakeholders.

“A project usually goes like this: the business wants something, the customer wants something, you sit behind a desk for three months, show the business what you’ve built and then they reply with “well, it’s okay, but it’s not quite what we expected.” With Mendix you can just say “I’ve built this today, what do you think?” I want to show the customer what I’ve built as often as possible, maybe even daily.”

When I asked Pascal how he would explain Mendix to other SAP developers, he said, “I wouldn’t explain it, I would just show it.”

We combined SAP and Mendix by using SAP as the system of record and Mendix for the delivery of a web application.”

“One SAP developer I know wants to build an app for his tennis competition, so I said that you can easily do that in Mendix. We shared our screens and I just showed him how to make a domain model, create a page, and add data to the page. Then just run it and open the app. And he was like “Really? Wow! It’s a working application that stores my data and lets me retrieve data from the database. I didn’t have to program anything!” He was really excited after just two or three hours that we spent building his first app.”

Read next: SAP and Mendix Join Forces

Mendix Development is Visual, Quick, and Easy

SAP projects are often accompanied by a big chunk of custom development that takes up a lot of time. That is where Mendix comes in to provide new opportunities and drastically reduces the time to deliver new functionality.

I want to show the customer what I’ve built as often as possible, maybe even daily. With Mendix, I can do that.”

“The best thing about Mendix is that you just start designing a domain model, continue with the pages, and maybe use some custom microflows (visual logic) when the standard buttons don’t already cover what you need. In ABAP it’s really coding. You have to program. If you make one mistake it doesn’t work. The syntax checker checks everything though, so you can never deploy a program with errors, but it’s really frustrating to get messages about missing colons and periods, or unknown variables that you forgot to declare. And that’s what’s so nice about Mendix, because the standard functionality does more than enough in most cases, like a Save, Cancel, or Delete button. And if you want to do something customized into a microflow, it’s just really easy, drag and drop, double-click.”

What You Need to Know Before Trying Mendix

SAP partnered with Mendix because they recognize customers are looking for ways to speed up application delivery. Adding low-code development to SAP Cloud Platform extends the range of options to pick the right technology for the right job, from full-stack to low-code and no-code.

Mendix will help SAP customers respond quickly to evolving business requirements, bridge the gap between business users and IT, differentiate new products and services by making the most of new technologies, offer customers and employees a satisfying digital experience, and address skills shortage and talent gaps.

Pascal agrees, adding, “What you need to know about Mendix is, first of all, that it’s easy and fast. So, you can deliver something really fast which works well and looks great out of the box. It’s also flexible. If you create an app and after two weeks you think, “I want to add this or I want to add that” you can just add it to the domain model. Another strong part of Mendix is that it’s directly in the cloud. You can publish your app to the cloud with 1 click and access it from anywhere.”

I think the best thing about Mendix and SAP is the integration. It’s so fast to integrate with SAP and put data back into the SAP system.”

Leveraging modern technologies lies at the heart of Mendix. Instead of following countless courses and spending months learning how to develop with technologies like machine learning, blockchain, and IoT, Mendix provides these connections out of the box. This saves developers a lot of time which they can use to focus on what is most important: delivering working solutions to customers and meeting their demand. The time of 6 to 12-month development projects are in the past. Mendix enables developers to deliver enterprise solutions in a matter of weeks.

Read next: How We Built a Logistics App Leveraging SAP Leonardo in Less Than 10 Days

Get Started with Mendix Today

“I think the best thing about Mendix and SAP is the integration. It’s so fast to integrate with SAP and put data back into the SAP system. So, even though you can build applications really fast with Mendix, you will need to work together with SAP applications for the data and integration.”

While Pascal’s Mendix journey has only just started, he is already reaping the benefits of its integration with SAP, drastically shortening his development cycles and speeding up app delivery, focused on one clear goal: to deliver faster, deliver more, make more people happy.

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