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Appian World 2019, Day Three Recap: And That's a Wrap

Roland Alston, Appian
May 16, 2019

Appian CEO and Founder Matt Calkins opened Appian World 2019 by saying: "Appian World is not about us, it's about you (customers)." This year was no exception with the conference scoring rave reviews from a broad range of customers.

At the Industry Networking Lunch, I met an Appian integrator who flew an incredible 36 hours from Capetown, South Africa to attend the San Diego conference. He said that it would take him a mind-blowing 42 hours to fly back to Capetown but the conference was well worth the trip.

"I've been coming to Appian World since 2016," he said. "And as an integrator, I was happy to hear about the new integration of Google AI and the Appian Platform. I think that's huge."

On my flight back from Appian World, the passenger sitting next to me noticed the Appian logo on my vest and that kicked off a conversation about the conference. Turns out that she's a long-time Appian customer and a fan of low-code development as well.

"So, what do you do for Appian?" she asked.

"I'm a blogger and I write a thought leadership blog on all things digital transformation. I came to San Diego to cover the conference. So, what did you think of this year's event?"

"I thought it was the best one yet. I'm amazed at how fast it has grown. It seemed like a lot more people showed up this year compared to last."

"There were more than 1,500 registrations this year."

"Really, it seemed like there were a lot more people than that. But I'm really impressed with Appian. I like the product and I think you guys could grow to be as big as, say, an Oracle."

"So, what did you like best about the conference?" I asked.

"I liked all the sessions. There were so many good ones. My biggest problem was trying to figure out which ones to attend. I wanted to attend them all (laughs)."

But I learned that I can become an Appian developer in two weeks and that's something that I want to do.

"How many Appian World conferences have you attended?" I asked

"I've been to several," she said. "I was at the San Francisco conference in 2017 and the one in Miami last year."

"So, what kind of work do you do?" I asked.

"I work in the public sector with a federal agency. I'm a scrum master, so I sit between IT and business. I'm not a developer but I work with them."

"So, how do you like working with the Appian platform? How's that working out for you?"

"I love it. We're working with data across several different, disconnected systems, and the Appian platform is really making a difference for us."

"They just announced that Appian World 2020 is going to be in South Florida and I'm planning to attend."

As our conversation ended and we prepared for landing, I was still buzzing from three days of awesomeness at Appian World 2019. Here are my favorite takeaways from the event:

Low-Code Isn't Magical, But...

Keynoters and general session speakers talked about low-code and inspiration, reinforcing the notion that Appian is in the business of helping customers find inspiration for innovation. In one session, a senior IT executive told a powerful story about spending two years on a multi-million dollar program to re-architect the entire technology platform for her company's product management group.

She wanted to create an integrated platform that impacted applications that touched over 15 different business groups.

She framed the challenge as a great opportunity to influence change but also as very overwhelming. She compared it to moving mountains to get to where her organization wanted to be. She wanted to build a platform with a scalable, flexible foundation and new technology that could support her organization's growth. She needed a user interface that was user-friendly with robust monitoring and tracking capabilities.

Her organization considered using another vendor as a workflow tool to create the platform. But that option came with an enormous price tag and a lengthy delivery time. So, she went back to the drawing board with a recommendation to look at a tool called the Appian low-code development platform.

"It was amazing to watch frustration fade away and get replaced by excitement," she said, "as Appian checked all of the boxes on a long list of requirements we had. People started calling Appian the magic wand."

"So, I decided to attend Appian World to check out the magic of Appian," she said.Halfway through Matt's (Calkins) speech, he started talking about how Appian was going to empower organizations to build transformative applications. He called it the renaissance of integration.'"

From Idea to Application in Just Six Weeks...

She talked about being inspired in that moment. She understood, of course, that Appian wasn't magical but she inspired to continue the journey with Appian. With support from Appian, her team was able to finalize their solution and win approval to kick off a development project with a very aggressive delivery target.

She wanted a platform that could help her organization build a completely new operating model.

"It was a new use case with a lot of questions on the table," she said. "But in six weeks, we delivered a critical business application. This is how Appian became the backbone of our new business operating model. And now we're able to bring new clients into our business on a regular basis. And our backlog of new business ideas is growing every day."

"Appian has given us a foundation to evolve with our people and processes. It's been a true enabler. We've cut our processing time from days to hours and created a positive user experience. Our journey with Appian continues with many more possibilities."

In Appian We Trust...

Appian VP of Product Marketing, Malcolm Ross gave us the low-down on the latest version of the Appian Platform and how it has been hardened with new security features:

    • ISO 27001: A managed set of security controls to minimize damage to an organization's data and operations.

    • HITRUST: A health care certification that verifies Appian meets all of the industry-defined requirements of the Common Security Framework and provides a prescriptive framework for managing the security requirements inherent in HIPAA.

    • Impact Level 4 (IL4): Federal and Department of Defense agencies can now use Appian as a managed service for low-code applications that must meet the strict IL4 requirements for Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). At IL4, an Appian application can be used to manage and store Export Controls, Privacy Information (including PII), Protected Health Information (PHI), and other information requiring explicit CUI designation.

Ross also mentioned that Appian has added four new regions to its 13- region cloud offering: Stockholm Sweden, Mumbai India, Seoul South Korean, and US government East (Ohio).

The Automation Landscape Is Changing...

It's not just about workflow and BPM. So says Appian World panelist Neil Ward-Dutton. "It's absolutely not just about RPA or AI," said Ward-Dutton, who also serves as VP, AI and DX, European Research Practices, IDC.. "All of this stuff adds value," said Ward-Dutton.

"All of them are becoming low code. Whether we're talking about workflow, BPM, integration, RPA, AI, all of them are becoming more democratized," said Ward Dutton. "And that's a huge deal."

So why is this automation trend so important? And why should you care about it? Let's start with the idea of digital transformation. Yes, it sounds like just another tech buzzword and a lot of people tend to roll their eyes at the mention of it. But don't be fooled.

"It (digital transformation) may not be sexy to talk about digital transformation," says Ward-Dutton, "but it's still happening and it's really crucial to get it right."

C-Suite Feeling the Heat..

Research reveals that pressure to get digital transformation right is rising to the C-Suite level.

In fact, approximately two-thirds of CXOs say that they are under significant pressure to deliver business results from digital transformation investments, according to Ward-Dutton.

So, it's not just about creating innovation labs anymore. It's time to get serious about delivering real business results."

"About 70 percent of organizations tell us that it's easy to start up a digital program," says Ward-Dutton but it's really hard to connect it to the core of what happens in IT. Achieving that kind of connectivity is the only way to scale and drive true transformation," says Ward-Dutton.

What it all comes down to is this. There's pressure from the top to drive digital transformation, a new automation landscape where we've got bits and pieces of innovation and automation. But companies are struggling to pull all the pieces together. And, then, there's the digital skills gap which is enormous for European businesses, according to Ward-Dutton.

So, here's the big question: How do we overcome all three of these challenges at once?Perhaps a low-code platform can help.

Something else I learned from the Appian World session is that there's a shift going on in the application development world toward a low-code way of building and changing things.

"Many people make the mistake of thinking that low-code is just about the workflow piece," says Ward-Dutton. "But if you think about it, low-code is about getting more things done with less effort."

The Struggle with Diversity in Tech Continues

In Wednesday's panel discussion: Leading Through Change, the focus was on closing the gender and diversity gap in the digital transformation narrative. Kimberly Bryant, Founder and CEO, Black Girls CODE talked about the importance of increasing the number of women of color in technology by the year 2040 by introducing girls to computer science. The big takeaway from this session was that bridging the diversity gap is not just about doing the right thing. It's about stoking change by empowering young women of color to embrace technology as builders and innovators.

Hard Work Wins Out Over Talent

To close out the general session, our CEO Matt Calkins sat down with tennis legend and philanthropist Andre Agassi for a fireside chat around Agassi's amazing life and career. The audience was inspired by his pragmatic approach to work.

"I'd choose hard work over talent every time."

Andre Agassi

That's day three and it's also a wrap for Appian World 2019.

Stay tuned for the lowdown on what Appian World 2020 has in store for us in South Florida!