Why all businesses must prioritise technology, and embrace new ways of developing apps

Speaking at the Mendix World 2014 conference, Mendix co-founder and CEO Derek Roos said that no matter what the industry, every company today needs think and act like a software company to succeed.

In a blog post on the Mendix website Roos said: "Something bigger than all of us is now happening in the market. We need to turn every IT department into an innovation department."

To accomplish that goal, Roos says organisations need to unleash the creative potential of their workforces by giving them access to visual tools that will enable them to dynamically design and create applications in collaboration with IT. Rather than continuing to view IT as a separate department within the business, Roos says IT needs to become an integral part of the business process.

Pierre Hessler, a Capgemini Fellow who also spoke at Mendix World, says that businesses confronted with competition on all sides definitely need to embrace new ways of developing applications or face extinction.

To cope with that new reality, Hessler says organisations need to quickly evolve into digital businesses that can more flexibly adapt to changing business conditions. Becoming a digital business, however, requires embracing fundamental transformation on a massive scale. While achieving that goal will be difficult, Hessler says the rise of the digital savvy customer means the need for radical change has become a business survival imperative.

I had the opportunity to speak with Gottfried Sehringer, Vice President of Marketing at Mendix, and he pointed out that the business landscape has transformed into a newer, faster technology-dependent world. In our new world traditional 'waterfall' approaches to building applications that often take many months or even years to create are no longer viable.

Related: Agile or waterfall? What's the best working method for developers?

"By the time you have finished writing your specifications the world has already changed," Sehringer said. "If it takes a year to develop an application it is already out of date by the time you deploy it. Businesses need to move faster if they want to remain competitive."

To enable this faster development, deployment and management cycle, Mendix offers a visual development platform where developers can pick and choose from a variety of reusable components that have already been tested. They can build their applications quickly and deploy them on multiple platforms with much less effort than other more traditional programming approaches.

While the Mendix tools are providing solutions for companies who want to get their applications to market quickly, there is still a need for third-party developers.

Massoud Marzban, VP of Business Development at Burnside Digital, who has written articles for us before, pointed out: "Not every company has, or even wants a team of programmers no matter how easy the tools are to use. I very much agree with the people at Mendix when they say that the speed of business has accelerated over the past decade or so and it is even more important than ever to have a digital solution no matter what your business may be. Even companies who have traditionally not been known as technology oriented are beginning to realise that adding a technology component to their business is becoming more and more important."

"But those kinds of companies would have a lot of catching up to do in a very short period of time and some of them simply can't or don't want to attempt to become technology experts. That's when you have to call in someone else. Someone who knows the territory, can learn and understand your business and its needs and can develop applications that answer your business requirements quickly, efficiently and at a reasonable price."

Read more: Business-led IT: Why it needs to come out of the shadows

Whether you already have the people on board who can make use of the tools that are out there to create your own digital solutions, or whether you hire outside experts to create those solutions for you, you are still going to need to act quickly if you want your business to survive in this digital world.