Mendix, a Siemens business and global leader in low-code application development for the enterprise, announced that Van Marcke, Belgium’s leading plumbing wholesaler, in collaboration with BPM Company, a software consultancy company and Mendix partner, has rapidly built and deployed a contact tracing application to help ensure the health and safety of 1,600 employees returning to work as the pandemic continues.
The app, Stay Safe, traces contacts among the company’s distributed workforce in Belgium, France, Switzerland and Luxembourg. It enables employees to voluntarily record interactions with their extended personal network and upload the information to the company’s SAP Cloud Platform environment, using a single sign-on protocol. The anonymized, confidential data is securely piped into Belgium’s new national call center, enabling public health officials to quickly and sensitively inform citizens of their potential exposure and provide supportive steps to mitigate the disease
The push to develop the Stay Safe application came directly from Van Marcke CEO Caroline Van Marcke. She saw the problems inherent in the government’s central registry program, which relied on citizens’ use of personal log books or memory to self-report a coronavirus diagnosis and detail every social encounter during the previous two-week incubation period. “You can do better,” said Van Marcke, challenging her IT team to create a digital solution.
Enlisting Cell Phones and Tablets to Fight a Virus
With no cure or vaccine for coronavirus yet available, communities must work collaboratively to slow transmission of the virus. Contact tracing has long been a central pillar of disease control during widespread outbreaks. However, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mandates strict privacy requirements for collecting and handling digital data.
“The virus moves quickly — time was not on our side,” said Stijn Hoegaerts, Van Marcke’s IT director. “Our CEO asked the IT team on a Friday afternoon to create something that would keep track of employee contacts. Her request was to make it smart, which meant creating an intuitive app that encourages voluntary use while meeting the European Union’s data privacy rules.” While those parameters ruled out Bluetooth and GPS monitoring, “the ubiquity of smartphones and handheld personal devices presented an opportunity for application-based tracing on a wide scale,” said Hoegaerts.
On Saturday, Hoegaerts reached out to BPM’s director, Jan Ickroth. They first met in 2019 at Mendix World, the preeminent low-code development conference in Rotterdam. “That conference convinced me of the power of Mendix’s streamlined approach to low-code application development for our upcoming digital transformation initiatives,” said Hoegaerts. “However, learning about Mendix’s new SAP partnership sealed the deal, as our company had migrated to SAP S/4 HANA and SAP’s Cloud Platform.”
“Van Marcke’s use of SAP Cloud Platform Rapid Application Development by Mendix is a great example of how SAP and our partner ecosystem help companies remain agile and innovative during challenging times, while continuing to accelerate business growth through recovery,” commented Darryl Gray, global vice president, software solution partner success for SAP.
An Eight-Day Marathon
Working remotely, the development team used Mendix’s iterative feedback management tools to streamline review and validation by nontechnical stakeholders, including Van Marcke’s human resources, communications, and legal departments. After a working prototype was built in three days, the team’s next effort was to integrate the app with the active directory of Van Marcke’s SAP HANA, which they use as their system of record, and deploy to the SAP Cloud Platform.
“Normally, it can take a month to organize a subcloud in the SAP environment to host a Mendix app and set up security measures,” said Ickroth. “We did it in less than five days.”
To be compliant with GDPR privacy rules, data uploaded from the Stay Safe app is automatically deleted from the cloud after three weeks. Likewise, Van Marcke’s IT staff cannot see any names or identifying information associated with application users. They can only view daily or total number of user registrations.
“The application’s underlying principle is that users own their information. They must authorize sharing this data with other agencies,” said BPM’s Ickroth. “Mendix’s approach to cloud security gives us the confidence to encourage wide adoption of contact tracing, knowing that both workers’ safety and confidentiality are top priorities.”
Low-code is a visual development approach to application development that enables developers of varied experience levels to create applications for web and mobile, using drag-and-drop components and model-driven logic through a graphical user interface. In the coming year, Van Marcke plans to leverage low-code software development on a number of digital initiatives.
“Our ability to Integrate the Stay Safe app with our core SAP system has proven the value of the Mendix platform,” said Hoegaerts. “We followed the ‘start, structure, scale’ roadmap that Mendix outlines with great success. We plan on reusing this framework to extend the digital capabilities of other business processes going forward.”
Johan den Haan, chief technology officer at Mendix, said,“We are proud to see enterprises leverage low-code’s rapid software development tools to safely reopen their physical workplaces. “Although we can’t predict what the remainder of 2020 holds in store, we can be certain that low-code empowers organizations to react in an agile, flexible way to changing market conditions, rolling out new business models quickly, and optimizing business processes as we navigate our path to a post-Covid environment.”
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In a pandemic-disrupted world, software is the new lifeblood of our daily lives and the connective tissue holding together the global economy. However, traditional software development takes far too long and very often fails to deliver the results business needs and users love. Even prior to COVID-19 there were simply not enough professional software developers in the world to build all the software currently required. The global pandemic has accelerated and exacerbated what was already a software and business crisis. Enter low-code software development. Low-code from Mendix is a powerful enterprise-grade visual development approach empowering citizen and professional developers to make cloud-native applications more than 10X faster for web and mobile using drag-and-drop components and model-driven logic – all through an intuitive graphical user interface.
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Mendix, a Siemens business and the global leader in enterprise low-code, is fundamentally reinventing the way applications are built in the digital enterprise. With the Mendix platform, enterprises can ‘Make with More,’ by broadening an enterprise’s development capability to conquer the software development bottleneck; ‘Make it Smart,’ by making apps with rich native experiences that are intelligent, proactive, and contextual; and ‘Make at Scale,’ to modernize core systems and build large app portfolios to keep pace with business growth. The Mendix platform is built to promote intense collaboration between business and IT teams and dramatically accelerate application development cycles, while maintaining the highest standards of security, quality, and governance — in short, to help enterprises confidently leap into their digital futures. Mendix’s ‘Go Make It’ platform has been adopted by more than 4,000 leading companies around the world.