Following our recent wins at the Mendix World 2014 Hackathon and the Hackathon organized by our client ING Bank, we won the audience favorite award at the Dutch FinTech Hackathon. In this blog post, I would like to share our experiences from this high-profile hackathon and how the Mendix App Platform and Finaps Business Engineers have proven to be a winning combination for delivering innovative apps quickly.
About the Dutch Fintech Hackathon
The Dutch FinTech Hackathon, which took place over the weekend of July 4-6, brought together FinTech developers and designers to deliver innovative technical solutions for the financial services industry. Twenty high-class teams of developers participated to develop a working solution over the course of a weekend.
The Solution / Hack
We decided to pull together a small team of Finaps Business Engineers to build an innovative payment solution that makes online payments easier and safer for a large group of people: elderly people that are currently struggling to conduct online transactions.
The key concept is that users can easily initiate an online transaction and authenticate themselves using information that they know (e.g. postal code / date of birth). The final approval of the transaction happens through a trusted party, such as a family member or friend. After the approval through a member of the user’s social network, the transaction is processed using an existing payment processor. During the Hackathon, we used the MyOrder API from the event sponsor Rabobank to actually process the payment. Both the user and the network of trusted advisors are informed throughout the lifecycle of the payment using push notifications, SMS and/or emails.
The Business Value
Our solution delivers true business value to three key stakeholders in the domain of online payment processing:
- The large group of users (e.g. elderly, children) who currently don’t have access to online payment capabilities because of limited online skills and the complexity of conducting online transactions
- eCommerce players who currently don’t have a way of selling their goods and services to the aforementioned user groups therefore missing a sizable chunk of the market
- Financial institutions who are looking to migrate their clients from expensive traditional payment methods to more efficient online and mobile payments
Adding a second security layer through a user’s own social network of trusted advisors creates transparency and increases security.
How did we do it?
A great solution starts with a good idea. Rather that diving into building a solution straight away, we had a solid brainstorm session on Friday to think through the real life challenges which have true business relevance.
Winning comes down to the right People, Process and Product
In a sense, winning a hackathon is very similar to actual client engagements, where you need to quickly deliver business solutions that help our clients’ businesses win. And given the fact that choice, not circumstances, determines your success, we wanted to outline what choices we made.
People are the foundation to any successful project. At Finaps, we work with business engineers, and we consider them to be the next generation developers. Our business engineers have a background in both technology and business and have financial services domain expertise. One of the key success factors is the fact that both business analysis and development is done by a business engineer, making them both a better analyst and developer simultaneously. This combined role avoids inefficiencies and loss of information because of handovers. Plus, our domain knowledge in the financial industry helps us to make better decisions when developing.
We start any project (large or small) with an open brainstorm session, working with our client to discuss what it would take to build a truly great solution for the problem at hand. During this phase, we strive to identify what we need to deliver to help our clients win. Based on this, a solution design which outlines the key objectives, business drivers, high level process flow and high level architecture is written. A solution design can be detailed (for example, when a project requires complex integration or high processing volumes) or very brief (our FinTech Hackathon Solution Design consisted of 3 PowerPoint slides).
After the solution design phase, we adopt an agile development methodology. During the sprints, we work closely with the business, engaging them as much as possible, and welcome evolving business requirements since they help make a solution really great. Testers are an integrated part of the team and test new functionality during a sprint to ensure the solution is not only high value but also high quality. Last but not least, we know that the devil is in the detail and refactoring is an essential part of making a solution truly good. This means that we always plan sufficient time to fine-tune the solution before go-live.
The Mendix App Platform is our weapon of choice and provides the essential foundation on which our business engineers can deliver value. One of the key observations at the FinTech Hackathon was that we didn’t lose any time in setting up environments, creating databases, webservers, hosting, etc. We therefore could spend all our time on defining the best possible business idea and delivering the required functionalities. Using Mobile pages and CSS, we were able to deliver an appealing mobile solution, while using rich integration capabilities allowed us to integrate with a broad variety of other systems and the Mendix Microflows allowed us to define advanced business logic quickly. The Mendix platform, including the integrate project management and social collaboration features, helped us to deliver a large amount of advanced functionalities in a very short timeframe.
As outlined previously by Mendix CTO Johan den Haan, Mendix’s high level of abstraction and automation allows our teams to focus on what really matters: delivering solutions that help our clients businesses win!