MIT Has a Need for App Development Speed

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) enjoys a reputation for being home to some of the finest technical minds in the world. But when it comes to developing applications for use by students and faculty, MIT’s IT organization suffered from the same technical challenges as every other organization.

Speaking at the Mendix World 2016 conference, Olu Brown, director of platform engagement for MIT, described how MIT came to embrace a model-driven rapid application delivery platform from Mendix to accelerate the development of new applications.

The senior IT leadership of MIT has committed to modernizing the school’s IT infrastructure and processes by 2020 to better serve approximately 20,000 people, half of which Brown says are students. The challenge MIT faced, says Brown, is that the initial application modernization projects launched were taking too much time to create applications using traditional programming languages such as PHP.

Since adopting Mendix last year, Brown says MIT has deployed 15 applications that were built using the model-driven development environment, with an additional 18 applications on the way in the next few weeks. Those applications span everything from automating the process students use to register for classes to a laboratory management application that was originally developed at the University of Pennsylvania.

“We’re doing agile sprints with end users to create applications,” says Brown. “In the next fiscal year, we think we can double the number of Mendix applications we have.”

As part of that effort MIT has reduced its application development cost by 25 percent. Brown also notes MIT is taking advantage of REST application programming interfaces and the Open Data Protocol (OData) to integrate third-party applications such as data visualization software from Tableau Software with those Mendix applications.

In fact, Brown says the biggest challenge when using Mendix has nothing to do with the technology itself. Automating application development using a platform like Mendix requires IT professionals to become less invested in understanding how every bit of code works, says Brown.

“These days I’m a lot more interested in the outcome than the journey,” says Brown. “We’re working on getting people to recognize the power of Mendix. Developers need to learn to let go.”

In fact, given the inherent ability Mendix provides in terms of enabling the IT department within MIT to keep pace with application development requests using agile development methodologies Brown says he personally has more confidence.

“More people keep coming in,” says Brown. “I think what I like most about Mendix is the peace of mind it provides.”

Download the video for a deeper discovery of MIT’s 2020 vision for Digital Transformation.