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App development tool helps newspaper stay with the times

News media outlets have to constantly be looking ahead if they want to beat out the competition and be the pulse of the community. That mentality holds true not just for gathering and reporting news, but also for internal operations.

The Boston Globe had been a long-time user of Lotus Notes, but it was becoming clear it was time to move to a more modern workflow environment.

"Lotus is very much of a classic server and client/server type of relationship, and the architecture is old," said Wade Sendall, vice president of IT.

Sendall put on his investigative hat and attended a couple of Google Road Shows to take a peek at what was available.

"We were moving to Gmail and moving to the Google Docs and a bunch of other Google apps, so we kind of assumed we'd end up going down that path," said Sendall. Google, however, turned out to not be the right choice.

With a bunch of workflow examples, Sendall was able to put prospective vendors to the test. Initially, French vendor RunMyProcess was going to land the deal, but fate had a different plan.

"The one by Process we were actually very close to purchasing, and we were stalled in the midst of the sale of the company and it ended-up being a fortuitous opportunity for us to be able to look at more things," said Sendall.

Mendix, a PaaS platform, reached out to the Globe and made it clear it could help them, not just with workflow management but with application development as well.

"They came in and did a proof-of concept in half a day," said Sendall. "They put together a very quick little app that did this; it was a change control system for the newsroom."

Impressed with the prototype, the decision was made to move forward with Mendix's on-premises offering. There was a bit of a learning curve once the platform was in place. A week-long class was held for end users, Java developers and system analysts.

The diverse class makeup proved to be helpful because it highlighted who the best people to use the applications would be.

"It was a little too complicated for end users; the Java people always felt, 'No, I can do it better, I can write code better,'" Sendall said.

While overall, Sendall is happy with platform, that doesn't mean he would make the same decisions in the future.

"The one thing I would do differently is probably start it out in the cloud a little bit more," he said.

Maxine Giza is the site editor for SearchSOA and can be reached at

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