Appian: low-code can deliver 'sensational software' at speed

Low-code software platform company Appian held its Appian World 2019  conference and exhibition under comparatively cloudy skies this week in the Californian city of San Diego.

With a large number of platform/product updates to detail, this year’s event served to position the company as a low-code power play for software application developers — this year’s major updates included a visual query editor, a grid generator and one-click interfaces.

The company has also progressed significantly with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technologies… and also worked hard to provide a platform that can connect more systems together and provide the ability to deliver more RPA assisted tasks i.e. ones that humans find repetitive and laborious… but (at the same time) ones that are we can clearly specify so that we can digitise them for RPA engines to shoulder.

In that regard then… (and with that notion of connecting systems at front of mind) Appian is now standing back and saying that it is capable of being an ‘orchestrator’ of systems which can now be connected to the apps built on the Appian low-code platform.

“We don’t stage this event around a particular tagline, theme or slogan, but if we did it would probably be: low-code has really arrived [now, as of 2019] and the one thing it really can deliver is [sensational] software apps at speed,” said Appian founder and CEO Matt Calkins, in his opening address.

The company’s Appian Guarantee states that a developer should be able to learn Appian in 10-days and that a firm should be able to use Appian to deliver a project in as little as 8-weeks.

Power & complexity

But it’s not just a speed play… Calkins says that low-code is also about power and complexity i.e. the ability to bring together information channels and functions from disparate systems that may be inherently complex.

“In Appian, you don’t build an application, you ‘specify it’ and that is the power of low-code because Appian is a ‘conveyor’ of power. If you built an app yourself, you probably wouldn’t spend a huge amount of time making sure that it could integrate with all the data sources being used across the business — you wouldn’t invest massively in huge cloud portability — and you wouldn’t spend a huge period of time (and therefore money) in provisioning your application to be able to work on all mobile devices. But in Appian you get all of that for free,” said Calkins.

Big news this year sees Appian add AI from Google Cloud Services.

Functions here would includes AI services such as image recognition and sentiment analysis, which can now be used in what Appian calls ‘human workflows’ to change the way operations are executed inside any given customer installation.

Medhat Galal, vice president of software development at Appian insists that Appian AI eliminates the complexity of contracting with Google as a third-party provider, estimating proper funding and then administering the Google Console to manage security, projects, and service accounts.

“We want to give everyone a free and easy way to use AI in all of their enterprise applications,” said Galal. “We set up their link to Google’s AI services and our customers are off to the races. Plus, we subsidize the entire cost of the free tier of Appian AI, so all the customer has to think about is which services to use for their business problem.”

Robotic workforce orchestration

CEO Calkins has also detailed Appian’s work to partner with Automation Anywhere, blueprism and UiPath on new RPA services. Appian has now introduced a product it is calling Robotic Workforce Manager to provide robotic lifecycle management, robot scheduling and expanded reporting.

On the road ahead, Appian is looking to provide complete software solutions… all of which as applications in their own right that are built on the Appian platform. These apps will be special in the sense that they themselves will update automatically when the Appian platform itself updates. These will be software apps that could be built by Appian, or indeed by customers.

What kinds of apps are we talking about here? The bot management product is one example already… Appian’s contact centre product also sits in this space… and, also, Appian has produced solutions in areas such as government procurement (for the US market) that claim to be able to help govt/ departments buy everything from a fighter jet to a paper clip.

The whole low-code movement does (arguably) come at the right time, that is – we have identified a large number of repeatable application elements and functions by now, we still don’t have enough developers on the planet and always-on cloud software needs to be updated continuously.

It is, arguably, no major act of sensationalisation to suggest that low-code is part of our software future, which… in and of itself, is pretty sensational.

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