Giovanni Dhondt and Jesse Brand
The very latest addition to ING’s mobile app for SMEs is the Receipts & Invoices feature. When developing this service, Polymer by Google was used, a highly innovative technology for building and delivering cutting-edge yet stable web apps that are suitable for all web environments rather than mobile only. Giovanni en Jesse worked on the project.
Why did you develop this specific feature?
Giovanni, road manager on this project: “We chose the Receipts & Invoices feature based on the results of a survey conducted among around a thousand entrepreneurs, in which we asked them what would make their working lives easier. Simplification of the administrative activities emerged as the clear winner.” Jesse is lead developer and architect within one of the squads involved in the project. He adds: “We can also offer third-party services on the platform we’ve created, but we decided to develop this feature of our own first – on the one hand because of the scale of the user demand, and on the other because we want to set a new standard with the integration of this new technology.”
Did you get immediate approval to work with Polymer?
Jesse: “ING supports a number of technology stacks internally. The decision to roll Polymer out worldwide was made several years ago. We don’t have to wait to be able to apply new technologies here; ING strives to stay one step ahead all the time. But we’ve had to get to grips with Polymer in order to be able to use the technology successfully. ING arranged training courses for all the developers who would be working with it, so it represents a substantial investment for the bank.” Giovanni: “This also shows that ING is a truly tech-driven company. Combined with our large and robust customer base, that makes our work tremendously interesting. We can introduce new services to our customers really quickly, which means that we get valuable feedback really quickly too.”
What makes your story so interesting for the attendees of the Tweakers summit?
Giovanni: “We’ve learned so much over the course of the project and we can share many of those experiences with the developer community. One of the lessons is that if you start a journey in Polymer, it’s best to finish it in Polymer too. Another lesson is that you need to get a really good understanding of how information from the one environment (in the native app) is passed to and from the other (in Polymer), because that’s a pretty complex process.” Jesse continues: “We’ve also learned to strike a balance between the desire for fast loading, even when the connection is unstable, and the fact that you’re constantly switching between native and hybrid. You need to limit that as much as possible because it has a negative effect on the app performance. Clearly, we’ve enjoyed the major benefits of working with Polymer too, not least that you can use the journey you’ve developed on all platforms. And that’s really interesting because the environments our customers work with are hugely diverse.”
When will the new service be available for business customers?
Giovanni: “Right now! The service is being rolled out in phases and two thirds of the customers can already use it.”
How has the feedback been?
Both: “Really positive! We receive feedback directly from the ING community and in the app itself, and we immediately provide support in response to questions and comments. We’re using the feedback to not only further improve the existing service (needless to say, we want to score 5 stars), but also to decide which other features people want. We assess the customer needs beforehand, and during the development process we regularly check whether we’re still on the right track. The customer is fully involved in the development of features and that always gives us valuable new insights. Our ability to do this is one of the biggest advantages of ING’s agile way of working.” Jesse: “It also makes the engineer’s work more rewarding because we’re much closer to the customer than we used to be.”
Giovanni: “I hope that our lessons learned will confirm the attendees’ expectations. I want to inspire and enthuse people who are thinking about working with Polymer, plus I want to show the engineers in the audience what an interesting employer ING can be for them. And believe me, in view of the current speed of innovation, working at a bank where innovation is key and where millions of customers use the services you develop is going to get even more interesting!” Jesse: “It would be an added bonus if we could also get the entrepreneurs in the audience interested in using our product.”
February 15th at Tweakers Development Summit Jesse Brand and Giovanni Dhondt talked about their ongoing development work on ING’s mobile app for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), including the use of Google’s Polymer in combination with the native mobile app.