Foreword: Mendix isn’t just software. Its a different approach and a different way of thinking. Mendix consultants dress differently, use different tools and think more abstract about problems. This article was originally written for another tech site but was inspired by the “Mendix Philosophy” and deserves a spot here. HG
IT was created to extend human abilities to where we could not reach and to automate boring and repetitive tasks. IT frees humans to do the things they are good at. Like thinking, and adaptation. Humans are built to like change and dislike the repetitive. For this reason, companies spend lots of money to figure out how to keep the masses’ attention and how to sell better, recruit better and capture more. Yet the systems they build are inherently static, cast in IT concrete of data schemas, work flow, form and data validation and the last bright developer’s wonderful framework that promised flexibility. Promised to deliver a configure-once and “get your new change quickly” framework. The knight without shining armour.
Those that have been through this and hurt by this go out and buy the new knight in shining heavy armour that suits 70-90% and hope to teach the new gentleman their dialect and court manners. He just might end up stealing the court’s ladies hearts for a time. However, it soon becomes apparent that he was trained in older tactics which do not deliver the punch his sponsors intended and his adoption of the house’s colours and insignia is shallow to say the least. He needs diplomacy and agility that his rigid strictures do not cater for. Still useful for the heavy hitting punch he can deliver (if his heavy maintenance is paid), he needs the services of the guys in their tailored italian suits to form new alliances and capture the attention of the up-and-coming masses who might join the ranks. Lets meet the new knights who like change and can switch diplomatic ties that win the war without a battle and bring prosperity with a handshake. Before we do however, lets first describe the knight without shining armour.
Current development methodologies are mostly centred around Object Oriented development, which itself builds on Object Oriented Analysis and Design where problems are decomposed into Nouns with related Verbs. The decompositions will then be strung together in different layers to provide a solution to the problem. The knights that wield the OO armour tend to be optimised for delivering the core punch required in the ranks. Their manoeuvrability is low, because the Nouns and Verbs are tightly coupled into layers and have to offer heavy protection to maintain the ranks and flank. Use them as components in the battle to deliver a focussed punch. They are not agile and do not change their method of warfare easily as new tactics are required. They often promise to deliver re-usable weapons that will work beyond the current Fort that needs to be conquered. Sadly, the lead Knight gets bored when the Fort is scaled and the other knights are not interested in maintaining his siege weapons with its flaws. Besides, the next Castle will require a different tool set to win, and the last knights’ light armor does not even shine anymore. The cost of maintenance has become to high and the King and Lords are at odds with the lost flexibility they were promised.
The King needs the new knights that operate at a higher level. They do not need to wear armor and wield heavy weaponry to define themselves but they can don the shining light armor should the need arise. Yet, that is not their first line of defense nor offense. They know how to move on higher planes of abstraction, to listen to the deal makers of the day, and they are trained to seek to understand before they swing the sword. They like to win the war without a battle. And to deliver business value to the Lords and King. They have the ability to steer the armies and listen to the feedback of the intelligence officers and logistics. In short, they have a different mind set that helps the kingdom to prosper and use the current assets to a maximum and to change tactics quickly. Meet the knights in italian suits. Meet the new approach that still leverages the older established weapons and their doctrines but builds on that with a focus to listen, understand and deliver value rather than a crushing blow.
If the older knights represent the established development environments like Java and .NET, and the hard hitting siege weapons represent the ERP systems, the knights in italian suits represent those that wield new technologies AND methods to deliver value. Notably, model driven development technologies are designed to leverage the existing tool chains but to quickly assemble solutions based on their business user’s and client’s requirements. Model Driven Development will continue to deliver new frameworks that allow a new breed of expert to assemble their solutions by focussing more on the solution than the scaffolding. They are trained to listen to business and understand the business value they must deliver.
Model Driven Development frameworks will be sold as a platform as a service, it will be marketed under various names to appeal to the non-technical Lords to deliver them from older inflexible systems while retaining the best elements of the old. Otherwise, the older knights will feel threatened and never allow them to enter. Set a watch on the wall, and look out for them. They might be impostors, or just may deliver the city without a war. It is worth a try.
Try model driven development before the other cities flourish and attract all the trade.
Adapted from a true story of an old knight that donned a new italian suite (or even better: a Dutch suite called Mendix)