An enterprise framework that combines application development and social media

In the course of managing the application jungle, there are no shortages of challenges for IT environments. Rick Vanover discusses one solution that seems to mesh familiar interfaces with the demanding needs of business-centric development environments.

We've all seen the demos of a solution that offers a self-service way for users and application developers to provision business services on their own. When I see those demos, the enterprise IT administrator in me cringes at the data governance and licensing impact of such solutions. I recently learned about a platform as a service for application solution that takes an entirely different approach.

The Mendix Agile Business Platform allows you to build and deploy applications very quickly. What I like about this development platform and the platform's application store is that code snippets can be downloaded to give your application some functionality, such as a Twitter feed that can display current Tweets about a username or a company. Another example is a Google Maps module that can add that functionality into a website for various themes, templates, and styles. The Mendix Agile Business Platform also offers an enterprise cloud dashboard that ensures awareness for each application within an application cloud.

One task in the agile development process is to engage feedback from developers, users, and other stakeholders, and it can be a challenge to manage that feedback. Mendix has a new add-on called Sprintr that uses the familiar interfaces of tools like Facebook to allow product feedback for in-house development -- in fact, think Facebook meets Microsoft Project.

Consider all of the stand-up meetings that may happen within the development cycle, and then think about how easy it is to drop these comments into an interface such as Facebook; however, it isn't a manageable framework by itself. Sprintr can aggregate all of these comments to tools like Gantt charts to fit into agile lifecycle enterprise project management. The social media tools are a natural interface, and when Sprintr was launched in beta, hundreds of existing customers jumped on the beta program. (Sprintr is now in private beta.)

Figure A shows Sprintr engaging private members for feedback on a development project. Figure A

Sprintr allows all of this feedback to be aggregated into an enterprise framework; this is critical because social media-like tools can be an unmanageable amount of noise. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Sprintr will soon have full mobile application (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry) support, making inbound ideas from stakeholders come in very easily. In my conversation with Paul Campaniello of Mendix, it was clear that social media trained us to use these tools to share a thought and was an inspiration for the idea of Sprintr.

Application development that engages stakeholders in this example is made easy with a tool such as Sprintr. For other IT development and engagement activities, there are plenty of tools that can simply allow passing comments to be entered. The challenge is rolling them into an established framework to ensure quick, iterative feedback that translates into application requirements. This type of technology can be fundamental in how organizations function for development and possibly more.

What is your take on this junction of social media and development cycles? Share your comments.