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Roll the Tape: Appian World 2021, Day 1 Recap

Roland Alston, Appian
May 11, 2021

For the uninitiated, Appian World is where Appian customers, business partners, and industry and business thought leaders converge for two days of virtual conferencing, mind-blowing keynotes, morning yoga, cardio and bold prognostications about the future of low-code development and business automation.

I could write a GAZILLION words about the day one agenda and still not capture all the tasty parts. So, I’m focusing on the highlights instead. Let’s roll the tape on some of the awesome highlights that stuck out most today. For a full rundown of what’s happening at Appian World this week, check out the official and exhaustive scheduling here. For blog coverage, watch this space for the recap of day two. 

Even before low-code was a thing, Appian World was the launchpad for innovative visions of the low-code future. And this year’s conference didn’t skip a beat.  Appian CEO Matt Calkins kicked off the day with a thought-provoking keynote on the connection between corporate survival and the ability to lead with new technologies in the decade of change and uncertainty.

 “A recent McKinsey study,” said Calkins, “reported that of the companies that said they were able to navigate the COVID-19 crisis effectively, 72% were technology leaders.”

Remote work surged last year, says Calkins, growing by over 200%. But many apps weren’t ready to be used on mobile devices. Many apps couldn’t keep up with the explosion of remote work. Corporate mobile usage doubled, said Calkins. In contrast, Appian mobile usage grew by a remarkable 1,900%, compared to 220% for the overall market. This delta cost businesses a staggering amount in lost productivity. 

“The pandemic affected everyone,” said Calkins. “The first wave was the start of the pandemic. The next wave will come at the end of it with new employment patterns, customer concerns and preferences. And the disruptions will continue because the metabolism of business has changed. Technology is moving faster than ever before. Organizations that lead with agility will double down. Speed is the new battleground. We’ve moved from a world that expects continuity to a new world  that prioritizes adapting to change,” said Calkins.

Calkins also reminded us that change increases technical debt. As the environment changes faster, business applications will go out of date faster too. Appian is the antidote to tech debt, said Calkins. 

“Every Appian application is ready for mobile use on every mobile device without modification. Speed is the new battle ground.  The world expects change and our responsibility is to help our customers cope with this new level of change.” - Matt Calkins

Calkins’s keynote was followed by insightful commentary from Appian CTO Michael Beckley who talked about the future of low-code including future developments in the low-market such as hyperautomation, microservices and kubernetes. 

“The future of low-code is actually work flow,” said Beckley. “Most every app you want to build with low code is a process, a business process you need to automate to adapt to change. A workflow that keeps you up to date with changes in regulation and customer expectations. Workflow with flexibility built in from the start. Workflow to orchestrate humans, bots, AI  and api integrations behind customer interactions. Low-code allows you to do all of that. Your unique workflow will help you win the future,” said Beckley.

The entire day was jam-packed with numerous panel discussions centered around everything from connecting people, technology and data to improve patient outcomes to DevOps best practices and key insights from Appian’s Automation Maturity Study for Banking and Asset Management, to managing risk and building a bridge for business/IT collaboration with low-code. As for new product releases, the latest version of the Low-code Automation Platform was unveiled with new capabilities including data fabric, a new code-free approach to unifying enterprise data. The new release also features enhanced AI-driven Intelligent Document Processing (IDP), new design guidance and developer collaboration features, and enhanced DevSecOps capabilities.

Headliners were clearly front-loaded into the agenda which was capped off by guest keynoter and free-solo rock climber Alex Honnold.

“Climbing was so fringe when I was a kid,” said Honnold. “There was never a moment when I decided to become a climber. It’s just that I decided I wanted to do that more than anything else. I did competitions as a kid but I didn’t really win a lot of competitions. There was no sign I could be a great climber. I just really enjoyed the process of it..."

Climbing without a rope is exhilarating to watch. It’s incredibly satisfying. It’s the hardest I’ve worked for anything in my life.” - Alex Honnold

In a freewheeling conversation with Appian CEO Matt Calkins, Honnold talked about climbing as a transformative experience that helps him put things into perspective. He also talked about starting a foundation that has given over a million dollars of grants to schools. He said that his foundation received and evaluated 400 grant applications last year alone, and that he’s working on a project in Puerto Rico which he may scale up internationally to “translate his fame into something useful.” 

With day one successfully on the books, watch this space for a recap of day two of Appian World 2021 and another mind-blowing agenda.