An Interview with Erik van der Steen, RAD Champion at the City of Rotterdam.
How the Mendix platform contributes to the digital transformation of the Municipality of Rotterdam, Mansystem’s role in this development, and why the City of Rotterdam chose to work with the Mendix application platform.
In 2016 the City of Rotterdam began a digitization program to encourage innovation within the city however, the goal has not been without its struggles.
As Erik van der Steen explained: "The IT department had long lead times, high costs, and limited capacity. The various parts of the municipality had to wait a long time for their wishes regarding digitization and during the long waits, the requested apps became obsolete. This resulted in parts of the IT community no longer being involved in their ideas and having to outsource the applications to external parties. This created a chaotic compilation of apps- all kinds of apps at different parties. In addition, all of these apps had to be on the IT infrastructure, which was not always possible. As with many IT departments, we were unable to meet the demand; there was an app jungle, or Shadow-IT."
Due to the increase in 'Shadow-IT', IT within the municipality that was not officially approved, the challenge within the ICT department of the municipality became increasingly obvious. Erik wanted to tackle this challenge with the introduction of the agile working and low-code platform, Mendix: "Mendix can be learned quickly and it is easy to use. Users can achieve a lot themselves and have the option of re-using building blocks in other apps. If the app you built doesn’t deliver the intended result, you can adjust it again or throw it away. This fits with the new way of working."
"Mendix can be learned quickly and it is easy to use. Users can achieve a lot themselves and have the option of re-using building blocks in other apps. If the app you built doesn’t deliver the intended result, you can adjust it again or throw it away. This fits with the new way of working."
2018 has been the year of the 'pilot' with RAD for the Municipality of Rotterdam. The Municipality has been working with the various components (clusters), successfully creating valuable apps and connecting to the current IT infrastructure. The introduction of RAD was accompanied by portfolio workshops in January of 2018 where various factions of the municipality were able to present app ideas, further helping administration further assess common issues and concerns. Erik van der Steen spoke on the various difficulties they faced, from receiving over 40 applications in a short amount of time to assessing complexity, potential value, and visibility of the proposed ideas. In the end, the Municipality of Rotterdam decided to start with 2 applications.
The RAD Champion goes on to further explain the process. "We have digitally constructed the application process for Special Assistance so that it can be carried out much more efficiently. We have also replaced an existing app for street surveillance and enforcement. Together, with Mansystems, a number of apps were built, such as a signpost app as part of the municipality website, which ensures that the citizen quickly knows which counter he should be at for their request for help. We also created the Rotterdam parking app, which makes it easier to facilitate paid parking for visitors, and an app for incoming subsidy registration, in order to be able to justify more efficiently where subsidy is requested and used."
Erik believes in Mendix because of the freedom it gives users to build an application that does exactly what they’ve envisioned, no less. "We ensure that our consultants are present at the customer’s location, creating short lines with the product owners; we can help Mendix developers of the municipality develop more effectively" adds Jos van Houten, Account Executive at Mansystems.
The Rotterdam municipality achieved good results but also ran against restrictions. As explained by Erik van der Steen, "The only thing that sometimes causes problems is our own outdated infrastructure if it cannot quite handle the latest integration technology, we have devised intermediate solutions for this."
Van der Steen believes that the power of Mendix lies in its ability to be close to the final users and ensure that those users truly understand what is being developed, regardless of whether or not Mendix is a development language for IT staff. His faith in the platform extends to the Mansystems Mendix developers that helped the municipality build high-quality applications while working with Agile.
The Municipality of Rotterdam intends to have a RAD team of 14 people by the year 2023, a group that can be fully Agile and has all competencies present in-house (UI / UX, development, maintenance & support, testers, performance, agile coaches and scrum masters). Mansystems strongly believes in the independence of organizations that use Mendix, such as the Municipality of Rotterdam. If the platform is purposed strategically, it is important that the user has the necessary capabilities to stay innovative. Mansystems continues to support other organizations, such as Louwman Group and Achmea, with its progressive philosophy.