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Ep.16: Appian’s Low-Code Platforms – All you need to know

December 8, 2021 | 15 min 51 sec

Podcast Guests

  • Richard Nolan, Lead Appian Technical Architect at Excellarate
  • Tim Clark, Director of Research & Development at Excellarate

Podcast Host – Madhura Gaikwad, Excellarate

Brief Summary

Gartner reports suggest that by 2024, low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65% of application development activity. As low-code technology takes the software industry by a storm, we are intrigued by the major player in low-code platform – Appian.

In this episode, we talk to Tim Clark, Director of R&D at Excellarate, and Richard Nolan, Lead Appian Technical Architect at Excellarate, about the use cases, advantages, and real-life case studies of Appian’s low-code platform.

Key Takeaways:

  • Understanding low-code technology
  • Appian records, key features, and integrations
  • Data security and business continuity with Appian low-code platform

Transcript

Madhura Gaikwad (00:08)
Hello, and welcome to zip radio podcast powered by Excellarate. In this episode, we are talking to Tim Clark, Director of Research and Development at Excellarate and Richard Nolan Lead Technical Architect at Excellarate about Appian Low Code Platform, Richard and Tim discuss about the use cases, advantages and real life case studies of Appian Low Code Platform. So, let’s get started. Welcome board, Tim and Richard.

Richard Nolan (00:33)
Thank you Madhura. So, everyone in the technology business is talking about low-code platforms, whether it’s a technology conference or a webinar or an event. Gartner and Forester reports are making predictions on how the low code market will expand in the coming years. And so will the major players in low code like Appian. But before we dove into the platforms, let’s try to understand the challenges that led our clients to explore low code technology. Tim, you were part of the early analysis of low-code platforms as Excellarate decided to jump on board with one of the products in the environment. Can you tell us what challenges our customers were facing that led us to the Appian platform?

Tim Clark (01:15)
Sure. That’s a good question, Richard. Our customers and being primarily in the insurance tech space for this platform, our customers had a lot of very specific needs to that space. Like most customers, they were interested in time to value. They had had more than enough of the sort of big lengthy custom software builds, you know, with Java where you’re taking 18 months to get something into production. They talked to us a lot about technology, especially Data Silos. They have all these different unique applications that store data in their own way. And sometimes it’s a proprietary format. They have a hard time, sharing data between the applications and also old applications where it’s risky or expensive to update the application logic. So those are, are pretty horizontal needs the that we heard from our clients, but then most, especially with the customers that we serve, especially in the health and, disability insurance industry, data security and reliability is key for them. We started exploring this platform at a time when it seemed like some insurance provider or health provider was getting hacked every couple of months and it was always in the news. So, this was a very big point of sensitivity for our customers is making sure that whatever platform that they choose, that we chose to help them with. We knew that their data would be secure from a, a HIPAA standpoint and, and everything else. They could not afford the risk of being hacked.

Richard Nolan (02:40)
That’s fantastic from a perspective of the vendors who are providing low code in Appian in particular, they’ve published some aggressive numbers on how load code works, but what’s our real-life experience. And, and in particular, what’s our customer experience around it.

Tim Clark (02:54)
Sure. Let’s talk about a few customers in specific and we’ll talk a little bit more generally. Two of the big use cases. One is Aviva. They’re an insurance organization that grew through rapid acquisition through that rapid acquisition. They wound up with 22 different customer service systems. So, you can imagine the challenges that their customer service staff would face whenever, you know, one of their members, one of their customers needed to call in and get anything done. They they’d have to look through 22 potentially different systems to find the information about them. We solve this with Appian by aggregating information from all of those various 22 different customer service systems that all of that information now comes up on one pane of glass instantly, whether the customer is coming in through phone or text message or a chat bot on the website, they get directed right to a customer service representative.

Tim Clark (03:45)
And the information from the appropriate systems loads right on that pane of glass instantly. And as a result of we found a nine times acceleration in customer response times. 9000% faster with a 40% cost savings for customer service, by implementing that Appian solutions to aggregate that data across 22 systems. CME group is an organization, financial services sector, primarily features traders, and they were facing challenges with onboarding and new product introduction, where it was challenging for them to get through those processes, to do the know your client’s due diligence that they needed to do in anti-laundering, that sort of stuff. They implemented an Appian based solution that wound up reducing the time to market for their new products by 80%. So, a couple of real big improvements in real world examples. And that the reason that customers organizations are seeing this kind of huge benefits is that at Appian’s core is a flexibility and efficient business process management engine.

Tim Clark (04:44)
And it really drives fast application development. There’s much more to the platform than business process management, but the, that is one of the keys to building applications with the platform so much faster than you could build them using traditional technologies and using that to structure and orchestrate straight your processes, whether you are integrating with RPA robots or artificial intelligence or human processors. So, at the end with the platform, Appian allows us to hit both the 80 sort of out of the box and the 20 customs, because there’s a rich, full featured developments environments beyond a low code feature.

Richard Nolan (05:18)
Those examples that you cited are, are pretty exciting in those particular cases, for a broader customer set, what are the ways that people are using Appian and people and organizations are using Appian and what’s the best fit for it?

Tim Clark (05:30)
I don’t know that there’s a best fit for it because that might suggest exclusivity where something might not be a really good fit for it, but there are three main pillars or three main ways that we see Appian used within enterprises. The first is sort of the simplest is create new business applications, whether it’s departmental or enterprise wide you have, and you need, or you need to replace an existing system entirely Appian is really good and really fast about building out those case management applications, business process applications what have you. So new apps is, is one of the, the key ways that enterprises implement Appian. There are a couple of other interesting ways as well. The second is to augment existing applications. So maybe you have an older policy administration system that’s challenging to change, but new business practices, new product offerings, new regulations require you to modify the way that platform works or extend the way it works.

Tim Clark (06:25)
Well, you, you could spend the money to build out your old green screen cobalt or whatever technology application to try to support that. And, and that gets into your challenges with tech. It’s really expensive. It’s hard. It takes long time to do that sort of thing with some of the older technologies. Whereas with Appian, we could just plug into those systems data and write that new business process much, much more quickly. So, augmenting applications like that is, is a second way that are enterprises we use it. And the third is something along the lines of Aviva use case where in capturing and aggregating information across multiple applications, so that we can take action on that aggregated data. So maybe you have a use case where you do need to integrate information from your policy admin system and your claim system, and maybe your provider credentialing system pull all that information together and something like a customer service or you even some data analysis.

Tim Clark (07:19)
So Aviva is because it can get to the data wherever it resides, and because it can integrate so easily with other applications, it makes it easy to do those sorts of aggregations and puts all that information onto a single pane of glass where it’s all actionable for a user after they’ve found it easily. So, I mentioned that that ability to get to data where resides and let’s talk about some of the technologies that enable that one of the technologies is Appian records. Richard, can you talk about a little bit about what are Appian records and how do they help you build those rich, full featured applications that we’ve been talking about?

Richard Nolan (07:54)
Absolutely. Records and Appian provide an actionable view of your business. That may not sit in a single database table, or even in a single database. It allows you to extrapolate widely across your enterprise and draw all that data into that single view. When you’re building it, it can be put together very, very quickly. Typically, it can be done in a matter of few key clicks, and that is the basic construction. Then once you’ve done that management of that record data is equally rapid. So, you can use the out-of-box features to auto generate you create, modify, or delete functionality for components of those records or the retire record itself. And now that you’ve established a gantry, the individual components can be rapidly tailored to support deeper business needs, including the assembly of robotic, AI or human intervention in the process of managing that data. So, it gives you a foundation from which you can orchestrate deep business processes around your records. And once the data model and tools are established, it’s really simple to integrate complex data security arrangements or orchestrate pivotal workflow that manipulates the data. You can drive processes out of the data, and then you can secure metrics around how people and data interact.

Tim Clark (09:05)
That sounds like an interesting and powerful tool now, but in order to achieve the full potential of records and help our customers resolve their technology debt, we often need to get information that might not be in Appian. There are a couple of different ways to do that. Can you talk a little bit about the API integration at Appian.

Richard Nolan (09:22)
Absolutely. Appian API integration, you know, where you need to use APIs that deliver or transform the data. They can be configured rapidly using some prebuilt Appen configurations. So out of the box, there are a number of tools that you can just use and consume to, you know, reach out to industry, recognize data sources, but let’s say that you don’t have, you’re not consuming those industry standard data sources. You can actually build new APIs in just a few clicks. So, there are a set of preconfigured boxes in which you can do things like import a swagger file to connect to an API component, or just manually construct it using all the appropriate authentication tools and the data definitions to retrieve that information. Once you’ve done that, consuming that data from the API call is very simple. It can be quickly converted into Appian data types, and they may ultimately constitute their own records or be part of your broader business record view.

Richard Nolan (10:17)
The API source and authorization are separated from the execution configuration. So, you have a great way to insulate your developers and business from API hosting changes and allow for really easy migration between your various platforms. You know, the typical development process would go from Dev to Test to UAT to production. Each of which can have separate configurations that are not impacted by your DevOps transfers of your code base from one to another. And in addition to those low code tools, Appian provides a deeper tool set for allowing for exceptionally complicated JSON or XML to be really easily managed in the Appian platform. One of Appian core driving principles with their no code integrations, for example, to Salesforce is that developers shouldn’t need deep technical knowledge of the APIs. They’re calling. For example, if, if I want to update customer information as a developer, I need to click just a few times to select the API and then map my data into it. But I never need to read a line of the API documentation. I think that’s what really makes this low-code API platform so simple to use in Appian. Now we have talked earlier about data security and business continuity on the cloud Tim, can you tell us how Appian solves those particular issues?

Tim Clark (11:33)
Absolutely. That is one of the key differentiators for this platform amongst all the offerings not just low code, but traditional development as well. Appian does quite a bit of work for the United States federal government and department of defence. And as you might imagine, the security requirements for doing that sort of work are quite stringent. So, as they grew as a company, they created and shared with certification all of the security that they need to do that DOD work and also to support their customers in the financial services and health spaces. So, Appian has so many certifications way more than I could mention, you know, during this call, but they have everything that our customers need certifications like SOC2 and especially HIPAA for the insurance industry. It’s all there. It’s, it’s just available on the platform for us. There’s nothing special that we need to do to get it. We just subscribe to the platform and, and it secure.

Tim Clark (12:30)
And with each new release of Appian that comes out quarterly, they update the certifications, they add new certifications. They’re, they’re absolutely hardcore about security. And that, that is one of the primary reasons we chose to partner with this organization. In addition to those security certifications, Appian does offer the ability to use your own firewall database via VPN. So, we can connect using a VPN into your database so you can protect your own data and you get the side effect of being able to use your own data natively within your network, uh, as opposed to having it out there on a cloud. Somewhere from a business continuity perspective, Appian offers some pretty impressive SLAs with teeth. There’s a cloud back. If they don’t hit the SLAs, according to the, the service model that you’ve selected. So you can get up to a 99.99% uptime SLA guarantee with the Appian platform, 24 by seven support, as well as for business continuity, their recovery time, objective the amount that a system may be down, if it crashes can get as low as a four minute guaranteed and their recovery point objective, the amount of data that you might lose, if the system crashes can be as low as one minutes, those are also, you know, absolutely best in class anywhere you look, whether it’s low code or traditional developments, and so on. OK. So that’s it. And I think we’ve covered a few important topics about Appian platform development with it, in this session today, what do you think is the key takeaway from the session?

Richard Nolan (13:56)
That’s a great question. I think my takeaway is that Appian provides some really solid answers to doing low code application development. And that there’s a very strong approach from a variety of points to bring Appian into your business. So, whether it’s you need to build a complete application or you need to augment an existing application, or you need better views of your data from a process perspective, the tool has all of those, features available to you and provides a very rich ecosystem for your developers to bring the most benefit to your business. But it, I’m going to turn the question around. I’m going to ask the same of you, Tim. What’s your key takeaways for customers with Appian?

Tim Clark (14:40)
I appreciate that. Definitely, everything that you’ve said, but also Appian as a platform is safe. And it’s real for enterprise scale use with data as secure as you need it to be robust enough to, you know, make sure that you are always running your platform, doesn’t fail and it takes away the headaches that your its department may have had if they were managing all of that on their own. It’s well worth taking a look at this the next time you need to solve a business problem with software. And with that, I think we are wrapped up for our session today. Thank you so much Madhura for hosting us and we hope to hear from you soon.

Madhura Gaikwad (15:21)
Thank you, Richard. And thank you, Tim. Thank you for taking the time to join us today. I’m sure our audience enjoyed the insights you shared on Appian’s low code platform. I hope both the few can join us for another session to continue this discussion on low code in 2022. Thank you everyone for tuning into this episode. If you need technology expertise on leveraging Appian’s low code platform, visit our website www.excellarate.com or reach out to us on info@excellarate.com. Thank you.

 

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