Skip to main content

Exercises in Extreme Agility: The 2024 Live Build Challenge

Dan O'Keefe, Appian
May 2, 2024

This year’s Appian World closed with our annual Live Build Challenge. A fixture of the conference, the Live Build Challenge allows Appian-certified developers to design and build an application in a compressed time frame—all with the chance to win bragging rights and a cash prize. 

This year’s competition was hosted by Appian’s lead developer advocate, April Schuppel, with expert commentary by senior solutions consultants Justin Shalap and Nathan Talbot and a special guest, Simone Giertz. And it certainly didn’t disappoint! Let’s take a look at how it all unfolded.

Meet the teams

We invited some of the world’s top developers to participate in the challenge. They were broken up into four teams of three. Here’s who was on each:

Team Deft: 

  • Aby Amores, Appian Architect, Deft Consulting
  • Carolina Erazo, Appian Senior Consultant, Deft Consulting
  • Eduardo Bayas, Appian Principal Consultant, Deft Consulting

Team NavLabs:

  • Casey Frederick, Principal Consultant, NavLabs
  • Haley Finegan, Principal Consultant, NavLabs
  • Juliana Boyle, Senior Developer, NavLabs

Team KPMG:

  • Hilmon He, Technical Manager, KPMG
  • Justin Yon, Senior Associate, Appian, KPMG
  • Shannon Mcnamee, Technical Manager, KPMG

Team Spectrum:

  • Akshar Chauhan, 3E
  • Jordan Donnelly, Principal Software Engineer, Dnata Travel UK
  • Harshit Bumb, Practice Head, Appyzie

These teams represent some of the top Appian developers in the world. Now that you’ve met our contestants, let’s talk about what they built.

Aiming for the stars with Appian

Appian World 2024 featured space-themed imagery and banners (all as a tribute to the pioneering work of Axiom Space, one of our customers featured in this year’s keynote talks). It was only fitting to challenge our teams to build a space-themed application. 

Our participants were given a goal of creating a space mission automation and logistics tracking application. This application would make use of Appian’s full platform technology for everything from tracking the international space station’s location to checking inventories for launch missions. 

So, how would they accomplish this mission?

The rules of the road

Prior to 2024, individual Live Build Challenge participants built an application within the span of one hour on the main stage. This year, we shook things up by grouping competitors into teams and running the competition throughout the conference. This demonstrates what small, elite teams can accomplish with Appian in minimal time. Four teams of three developers each went head-to-head, competing for a grand prize of $30,000 USD. 

The teams had three work periods: 

  • A UI design working session.

  • Six smaller mini challenges. 

  • The grand finale on the main stage. 

This breakdown gave participants time to focus on each individual component of the challenge. It also allowed the teams to demonstrate their ability to collaborate across an Appian environment and build modular components that could be combined into a cohesive application.

User interface design challenge

User interface (UI) design takes time. We recognize that. While this is critical for end user experiences, building a strong, slick UI is just as critical for an audience watching a stage competition. So, we decided to give the teams a two-hour UI working window early in the conference. They used Appian’s SAIL design studio to build interface elements like charts, graphs, tables, and more—all to present data and information in a user-friendly, aesthetic manner. This UI design session was supervised by judges and, to add an additional challenge,  each team only had one laptop across all three participants.


Imagine going to a conference and being whisked away at random to build a component of an application. That’s exactly what our participants faced—six mini challenges that tested their ability to develop quickly. For each mini challenge, individual team members were asked to create functionality for the application using Appian native capabilities. 

During these mini-challenges, the teams had ten minutes to build: 

  • A module to track and pinpoint the current location of the International Space Station (ISS). (Unlike the other challenges, this one was capped at five minutes.) 

  • A launch report dashboard using publicly available data on recent launches, ships, payloads, and rockets from a free API. 

  • Email classification and routing rules using Appian AI Skills. This would save time for end users by analyzing and recognizing the purpose of an email. From there, the application can route the information to the correct team. 

  • A logical module using developer expressions to approve or deny a payload used on a mission. For this module, developers were given 15 minutes due to the complexity of the logic. 

  • An expression rule to check whether or not the aerospace organization has enough components to complete an assigned mission. The participants used Appian’s native RPA tools to automate the process (with one team creating the bot and surrounding orchestration in fewer than five minutes). 

  • A planetary survey log tracking component, which leveraged Appian’s data fabric and process models to enable astronauts to capture critical scientific data on planets they would visit. 

These mini challenges showcased a wide range of Appian capabilities—including data fabric for accessing internal data, API connections for accessing external data, and RPA and AI for automating mission-critical tasks and processes.

Launching on the main stage

For the UI and mini challenge components, four teams competed to win the most points from judges. But for the Live Build Challenge’s finale, the two teams with the highest scores—NavLabs and KPMG—were brought up to compete live on the biggest stage of Appian World to close out the conference. Of course, our other two teams—Team Deft and Team Spectrum—made these choices difficult! It was challenging to choose just two finalists.

For judging the finale, each team started with a fresh score. Our judges allotted scores based on the UX of the application. While verifying functionality is critical, the teams were graded only on what would be visible to end users.

Team KPMG hard at work

Their final challenge? Work with an existing app built using Appian’s new Case Management Studio capability. With Case Management Studio, business users can create their own case management solutions without the need for complex Appian development. However, this challenge involved incorporating the existing work the teams already completed with the case management application. This pre-built application tracked three space mission types: delivery, exploration, and emergency. The teams sat shoulder-to-shoulder, working diligently to add their functionality to the pre-built mission case management solution for the first 20 minutes. 

Then, a thrilling twist. 

Appian developers often have to iterate fast to handle changing organizational requirements. So, to simulate this, we had the teams create a new mission type: a detour mission case type. This involved several steps: creating the mission type, validating whether the space ship had enough fuel for the mission, etc. 

The teams were sent behind the main stage to strategize during a 20-minute intermission (while the audience was treated to an incredible talk by influencer and inventor Simone Giertz).

Simone Giertz gives an incredible talk to the audience

After this, the teams returned to finish their projects with just 15 minutes to spare. 

Finally, the teams showed off their applications to the audience and the judges. Here are just a few screenshots of what the two teams built:

Team NavLabs’ Mission Control

Team NavLabs’ Launch Data Dashboard

Team KPMG’s Home Page

Team KPMG’s Mission Control

While all of our contestants produced stellar work, unfortunately, only one could be crowned the champion. And this year’s winner was…

Team KPMG! They took home the grand prize (and significant bragging rights).

Team KPMG wins the grand prize of $30,000 USD

Building applications at rocket speeds

The Live Build Challenge is a blast for everyone involved—from the participants to the audience to the judges. But it’s still a high-pressure competition. Time is limited. Teams have to context switch quickly to accomplish their goals. But with their skills as Appian developers, all four teams handled the challenge with poise and enthusiasm, producing some incredible results. 

If small, elite teams of three can accomplish this much in just four hours in front of a live studio audience, broken up into short mini challenges, what do you think you could accomplish in weeks? Or months?

Also, you can learn more about one of most exciting new capabilities, Case Management Studio, by checking out the Case Management Studio release blog.