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November 29, 2016updated 30 Nov 2016 9:04am

Digital innovation, more than just the latest technology

Mendix CTO says digital innovation should have a stronger focus than just technology.

By Hannah Williams

Following the rise of digital innovation, the increase in many businesses creating different innovations has been significantly noticeable.

Johan den Haan, CTO, Mendix

Johan den Haan, CTO, Mendix

CBR asked Chief Technology Officer of Mendix, Johan den Haan to share some insight on what businesses need to know when deploying digital innovation and also what Mendix can do to support them.


CBR: What do you feel is the most significant starting point for digital innovation?

JH: People tend to focus first on the technology, but I think the most important starting point for digital innovation is creativity and ideation. We’re seeing new technologies emerge and become commodities at an increasing pace. What this means is that simply having access to technology is no longer the source of competitive advantage; it’s how you apply them to transform your industry and business. To do that effectively and at scale, you need to create an environment that brings people with ideas together with people with the technical aptitude to bring them to life.


CBR: What software offerings can be offered to businesses looking to deploy digital innovation?

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JH: Many vendors are trying to latch onto the digital transformation wave. But digital innovation means so much more than a web content management system or marketing automation platform, for instance. Digital innovation, in my opinion, is about businesses turning their unique data, processes and knowledge into custom applications that deliver better experiences for customers, employees and partners.

Many technologies play a role in this process, from cloud computing to IoT, big data and machine learning platforms. But what’s most critical, to my point about ideation, is low-code or rapid application development platforms. These platforms enable business and technical users to collaborate together to turn new ideas into applications through short, frequent iterations. They create a breeding ground for rapid experimentation using a test-and-learn, fail-fast approach, with the ability to instantly deploy and scale to production-grade enterprise applications.


CBR: Can smart infrastructure be built without an IoT-focused business team and how?

JH: Many of our customers are delivering high-value IoT solutions without a dedicated IoT team. For instance, within a couple of weeks, KLM built an equipment tracking app that pulls data from the KPN LoRa network, providing engineers a live look on iPads at the locations of each piece of airline maintenance equipment. By increasing the efficiency of engineers, this innovation is expected to not only generate significant cost savings and process improvements but also impact the customer experience in the end through more reliable, on-time flights.

Mendix logo

Mendix logo


CBR: How can Mendix help businesses create platforms on smart applications with IoT?

JH: The Mendix platform support supports the complete application lifecycle, from ideation to development, testing, deployment and management. Visual development and social collaboration capabilities speed time to market and enable the close collaboration required to test and refine new ideas. In the context of IoT, Mendix also includes drag-and-drop connectors to best-in-class IoT platforms and services such as AWS IoT, KPN LoRa, MQTT and IBM Watson. Without writing any code, developers can seamlessly leverage these component services to make connected devices actionable, delivering new experiences.


CBR: In what ways will digital innovation both affect and benefit business markets?

JH: It depends on how you look at it. Digital innovation is disrupting many existing markets and companies. For proof, you have to look no further than what Uber is doing to transportation, Airbnb to hotels, etc. These companies are putting software at the core of their business, in order to deliver better products and experiences.

At the same time, it’s a massive opportunity for incumbents to discover new business models and sources of revenue and operational efficiency. McKinsey estimates that the merging of the physical and digital worlds via IoT alone could generate up to $11.1 trillion a year in economic value by 2025. That figure is staggering.

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