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Appian World 2018: Another Smash Hit

Roland Alston, Appian
April 25, 2018

Miami Beach, Florida, April 24, 2018: Appian World 2018 got off to a running start Tuesday with an early morning 5-K race sponsored by AppianWOMEN.

The race was followed by an action-packed agenda of keynotes, presentations and panels from some of the tech industry's brightest and most influential minds.

News broke in the first General Session, with major announcements about the newAppian Intelligent Contact Center PlatformÆ and the latest features and functionality of the Appian 18.2 release. (More on that in a minute.)

You could see Appian World signage and attendees just about everywhere at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, the iconic venue for this year's event.

Appian World 2018


More Attendees Than Ever

Last year's conference in San Francisco was epic. But this year's three-day tech fest is bigger and badder--and the most global yet, with approximately 1,500 attendees from Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America. (A big shout out to the Events Marketing crew for another fabulous event).

As usual, there was plenty of buzz in the Appian World venue.

And much of that buzz was in anticipation of the upcoming main stage keynotes, topical track and panel sessions, and expert commentary on super hot topics like artificial intelligence and blockchain.

Appian Founder and CEO Matt Calkins fired up the General Session with observations like this.

"...Millions of users are running thousands of applications on the Appian platform. We're proud to be making the platform that your applications work on. And our goal is to make it as easy as humanly possible to build, maintain and adapt powerful and unique applications."

Making it Easier to Build Applications

"Every year," said Calkins, "we come here to Appian World and announce new functionality to make it easier for you to build applications. About a year ago, the analyst said that we were about 20 times as fast as custom code. And I love that. But we want to be faster."

"We are already the fastest way to build powerful applications. And it is our goal to keep focusing on that, and make it easier and easier."

"I believe there is a renaissance in unique applications waiting to happen. And we're the first vanguard of that renaissance. We're just the beginning. So, how do we unlock that market, and let loose all this creativity and innovation? In my opinion, all we need to do is make it a lot easier to build applications...And you're going to see us focus on that relentlessly."

Intelligent Automation: The New Frontier

Calkins also talked about the evolution of the robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities of Appian. Additionally, Calkins focused on enabling customers to:

    • Orchestrate bots.

    • Manage bots.

    • Track digital and human labor.

One of the most remarkable ideas in Calkins' remarks was that Appian's goal every two years is to cut in half the work it takes to build applications. And intelligent automation is the new frontier for that.

Making AI Integration Easy

"We've announced AI (intelligent automation) functionality before, said Calkins. "We did it at last year's Appian World. But we're going to make it easier and more practical to use AI where it belongs, and plug it in and get value from it right now. That's our goal."

Then Calkins announced that Appian now has the capability to easily integrate with the big three public cloud platforms (Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure) with sentiment analysis baked in.Which makes it easy for Appian customers to take advantage of machine learning capabilities from the big cloud vendors.

Calkins said that this is the kind of AI functionality that Appian customers can use right away, to gain insight into evaluating customer experience. And it'savailable to Appian customer right now, at no additional charge.

The Future Contact Center

The truth is, many call centers don't offer an omnichannel view of customer interactions or context for each touch point in the customer journey. The opposite of this is the ICC. It uses:

    • Case management (Records) functionality to integrate multiple sources of information and provide a 360 degree view of the customer.

    • Chatbots to handle routine transactional tasks.

    • AI to interpret interaction data and make recommendations for next best options.

Calkins also mentioned the ecosystem of technology partnerships behind the ICC, including key industry players Genesys, Twilio, and Temasys. On a related note, General availability of the ICC is set for June 2018.

What's new With 18.2

After Calkins, Malcolm Ross, Appian VP, Product Marketing wrapped up the General Session with a highly anticipated product update. Ross and his team drilled down into the new user, designer and platform capabilities of the 18.2 release, and how customers can use them to enable low-code application development, and drive digital transformation across their organizations.

The Appian 18.2 release makes it easier to run Appian on any platform. Which allows enterprises to build powerful applications with the combination of AI, business process management, robotic process automation and low-code development.

Jorge Sanchez, Appian's Director of Product Strategy, dove deeper into ICC capabilities, and how it will cross reference account information and other data points across customer interactions. He said that the ICC will provide a seamless environment that will be able to track historical interactions, personalize communications, and even chat over text and voice technologies like Google Home and Amazon's Alexa.

Women's Leadership Panel Rocks

Excitement from the morning General Session carried over into the afternoon with an astonishing turnout for the Women's Leadership Lunch: Driving Your Development. This panel discussion was a box office smash. There were more people than seats in the meeting room. But no one seemed to mind, because of the engaging conversation.

There was also a good mix of men in the room. As for the panel, it was moderated by the dynamic duo of Kristin Barber, Appian VP, Northeast Sales, and Terry Robinson, VP, Life Sciences. The agenda featured thought-provoking commentary from an all star lineup of female executives from several global organizations. (Oh, and CEO Matt Calkins made a cameo appearance to show his support).

"It was amazing to see so many men participating in our race this morning," said Barber who also leads the AppianWomen initiative. "And it was really encouraging to see that, because it's important to engage our allies as we think about promoting women."

"I was so energized coming out of today's presentation by Matt Calkins," said Barber. "We are really transforming organizations by helping them to innovate. And I am so privileged to work for a company that also cares about women in the workplace and diversity, and how that's going to help all of you in the work that you are doing to make your companies unique."

Driving Customer Engagement

A big crowd turned out for Scaling Agile: Take Your Agile Program to the Next Level session.Ankur Saini, Program Manager at General Services Administration and Colleen McGann, Project Manager at GSA National Office of Leasing, revealed the difference between Agile and Waterfall management in a project team.

Saini's commentary focused on "Agile as a progression and a journey." He also characterized Agile as "an incremental approach to deliver working software to end-users." Additionally, Saini explained how a team's risk can be lowered with smaller development sprints and more incremental improvements.

General Service Administration's (GSA) McGann noted that one of the biggest challenges faced by agencies is the government procurement process. In the past, lengthy purchasing and approval processes have hampered the adoption of cutting-edge technology by government agencies.

GSA quickly realized just how robust of a tool they were getting with Appian. So, they are continuing to refine their processes through a "Master Feedback Loop," to incorporatecustomer feedback as companies do in the private sector.

Beyond the Need for Speed

Several noteworthy sessions headlined the late afternoon, including Beyond the Need for Speed: The Future of Low-Code for Enterprise Transformation. The conversation was lead by John Rymer, VP, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research. Rymer talked about the dramatic growth in the adoption of low-code development, as a response to the explosion of digital transformation.

A few clips from the Rymer highlight reel: "It's a digital world, and the adoption of low-code development platforms is on fireÖEvery company is transforming their business into digital activities... Low-code has enabled a lot of progress, and it will continue to enable a lot of progress."

Another big takeaway from Rymer's presentation: It's essential for organizations to be able to absorb new use cases and emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, and IoT.

Back to the AI & Blockchain Lab

Rewind to the Monday pre-conference agenda. The knowledge sharing went deep into the afternoon, with several Hands-on Innovation Labs. These sessions were in big demand, overflowing with attendees eager to explore their options for adding powerful AI-driven business rules to Appian applications.

Lab leaders provided a big picture view of the latest trends and tools for artificial intelligence. In a deeper dive, they took attendees on a guided a step-by-step walk-thru of how to incorporate AI into their Appian applications.

Ditto for the blockchain lab. Attendees there learned how to add blockchain to their Appian applications with secure, distributed ledger functionality. There was also a lively interactive presentation of practical use cases, and a hands-on lab where attendees could get an inside look at how to incorporate blockchain technology into an Appian application.

AI: Making Sense of Unstructured Data

I caught up with two lab attendees to get their feedback on what they learned.Balachandra Mira is a Tech Architect & Solution Lead at Bendigo Bank.

"Cognitive AI is essentially the next step we want to take in our automation strategy," said Mira. "And we wanted to explore what Appian has to offer in terms of AI. I think that AI can impact many areas of the business in terms of using machine learning strategies and deep learning strategies. Also, using AI to make sense of unstructured data."

"As a Bank, we have unstructured data in every part of our business," said Mira. "And we want to leverage AI technology to extract raw information out of this data. If you do that in the context of a business process, that's going to help with decision-making, and eliminating manual steps in business processes."

Tech: Only as Good as the Benefits You Get Out of It

Sarvapriya Tripathi, is a Senior Systems Analyst with Ryder Systems.

"These hands-on sessions are extremely helpful," said Tripathi. "I was really interested in learning more about machine learning. We're already pretty deep into Appian at Ryder. So, having this functionality available in Appian itself is a big plus, because it comes without having to do any complex integrations with other systems.

Both lab leaders had stressed the importance of understanding the business impacts of emerging technologies like AI and blockchain. Tripathi concurred.

"The technology is only as good as the business benefits you get out of it," said Tripathi. "It's up to us as technologist to think of the right ways to use it, and to adopt it in the right places in our organizations. But I can think of plenty of cases in my company where AI, machine learning and RPA make a lot of sense."

Tripathi also said that the biggest takeaway he got from the lab was just learningwhat his options are with Appian, from a technology standpoint.

"That's what I was looking for," he said, "and that's exactly what I got."

The Hotspot for Digital Trends

In retrospect, Appian World has become a hotspot for learning about cutting-edge technology and digital trends. So, attending the event is sort of like looking into a crystal ball.

But pushing aside learning, networking, trend watching for a moment, the Conference Party was founded on the belief that fun has the power to unite, heal and restore us.

It really doesn't matter if you think you can dance. It doesn't matter what you wear. If you're ready to cut the rug with a room full of Tony Starks and women tech leaders who rock, get on the Conference Party bus.

Whoot, whoot! Next stop, the Perez Art Museum.

Watch this space for a recap of:

    • John Foley, Performance Expert and former lead solo of the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels.

    • Steve Wozniak, Founder Chairman and CEO, Wheels of Zeus & Co-Founder of Apple Computer.

    • Hackathon winners.

    • And more

Until then,