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Key Strategic Takeaways from Appian's 2017 Federal Forum

Appian Contributor
December 4, 2017

While the process to modernize has largely been perceived as a marathon and not a sprint, Appian has been changing this narrative, working with agencies to shorten their modernization timelines and revolutionizing how they view and execute their digital transformation efforts.

That was the message delivered by CEO Matt Calkins to attendees at the Appian Federal Forum in our nation's capital last week.

There were many topics covered during the event -- from IT modernization to engineering methodologies -- and the presenters did an outstanding job of sharing their expertise. The event showcased some impressive government agency leaders discussing obstacles and successes, as well as technology visionary Tony Scott, the former United States CIO.

Appian CEO Matt Calkins speaks at our 2017 Federal Forum.

While there was an abundance of valuable information yielded from our speakers, here are just a few key takeaways I wanted to share from the 2017 Appian Federal Forum

Legacy Systems are Hindering Innovation in Federal Agencies

Former United States CIO, and keynote speaker, Tony Scott, never worked for the government before being appointed by President Obama. However, his diverse experience brought a very dynamic perspective to the digital transformation journey the Federal government is currently undertaking. Before becoming the Federal CIO, he spent his career with large organizations such as Disney, Microsoft and General Motors. In each of his stops along the way, he played a key role in driving IT strategies to support a changing business model.

At General Motors, he played a pivotal role during the rollout of their telematics system, ONStar. At Disney, he drove the IT strategy behind the strategic change from DVD's to digital downloads, supporting a major revenue transformation at the time. Experiences like these helped prepare him for the transformational journey that he set the Federal government on during his tenure.

Due to outdated, legacy IT systems, Federal agencies are unable to break free of their old ways of operating. Scott admitted that while these systems may have made sense at one point in time, it is now more important than ever for the government to move onto systems that are more agile and innovative.

He also emphasized the importance of replacing these systems with ones that can support the rapid innovation being seen across the industry. Scott used the analogy of how difficult it would be to add all the technology of a 2017 Ford Mustang, to a 1965 Ford Mustang. "No matter what we do, it will never be as good as if it was built into the vehicle from the beginning."

"I love platforms like Appian, which have security built in from the beginning," Scott stated. "It allows you to avoid trying to bolt things on later on."

In today's highly-demanding government environment, the stress of bringing an application into an agency environment and assuring continuing quality needs to be lessened. Appian's enterprise application platform will facilitate continuous and perpetual evolution of applications and permanently shield them from becoming obsolete and costly.

Days of Waterfall Environments are "Way Past its Prime"

The convergence of innovative technology and the government's need to meet mission objectives has created a new landscape for federal leaders. CIOs and agency program managers are also trying to adjust their business and IT processes to function in the age of agile development. That demands rethinking how best to manage accelerating development cycles, as well as automating business processes.

"Testing things out in real-time, in realistic environments, with real customers, is the best key to success." - Tony Scott, Former United States CIO

During his keynote address, Scott stated that the federal government should shift its focus away from an antiquated, waterfall development approach, to a rapid, agile methodology. "Testing things out in real-time, in realistic environments, with real customers, is the best key to success," Scott said.

With an agile approach, developers are able to receive "rich customer feedback" at every stage, which allows for evolving requirements to be developed around each iteration, rather than at the start of the project in a single requirements phase. This allows for the process to retain as much flexibility as possible throughout the development cycle.

The ability to test upgrades and new processes without disrupting the course of organizational productivity has become essential to government agencies, most of which provide critical services to large populations. By fostering an agile development approach, Appian allows government organizations to deliver software quickly enough to meet a rapidly changing mission.

Low-Code is Quickly Proliferating Across the Federal Government

Innovation is happening within all levels of the government, especially within the Department of Defense, where national security is a chief concern. Bryant Stevens, lead engineer for the United States Air Force 402nd Software Maintenance Group (SXMG), presented at the Appian Federal Forum, and stated that low-code app development was the primary reasons why Appian was chosen to be the platform to support their efforts.

"Appian is doing things in low-code that no one else is able to do, and no competitor is going to be able to catch-up." - Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian

Building and deploying applications faster, and with precise efficiency, has been a vital piece to their strategy. In the last four fiscal years, SMXG has produced over 5.8 million hours & over $764 million in software work, released nearly 1000 software products to every MAJCOM, every Service, and 36 Allied Nations, 92% of which were delivered on time or ahead of schedule, with only three released with defects.

"Rate of change is faster than ever before, and is still accelerating," Stevens stated during his presentation. "Our group is judged on how fast we respond to changes in the operating environment."

Even Tony Scott supported the importance of speed of delivery within his keynote address. "As a CIO, I would discount costs, in favor of speed," he stated. "I will pay a little bit more if I can be a lot faster. Speed and agility is the new growth strategy."

Appian has been leading the way in low-code development within this industry. In fact, "Appian is doing things in low-code that no one else is able to do, and no competitor is going to be able to catch-up," Calkins stated during his keynote address.

Low-code development platforms provides the ability to stay ahead of this acceleration. Agencies can build, use, and change apps with ease using visual development tools. Appian's drag-and-drop and point-and-click development tools make building and changing enterprise apps easy and fast. Put simply, low-code will multiply the effectiveness of any Federal IT department.

Appian is focused on helping government agencies adapt to the new digital world and take them to the next level. Bringing industry thought leaders to the Appian Federal Forum is just one way that Appian helps our customers understand technology and how current and future trends can fit into their agency strategies.

Thank you for those who attended the Appian Federal Forum and provided insightful interactions to make this event even more successful. If you were unable to attend the event, but would like to access the approved presentations, please contact Emily Casanova at