Appian pitches new offerings at organizations needing to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. (Pretty much everyone, right now)

Profile picture for user mbanks By Martin Banks March 27, 2020
Appian's conference might have been cancelled, but its planned product announcements went ahead.

(via Pixabay )

Low-code specialist, Appian was due to host its annual conference a couple of weeks ago but, like everyone else, succumbed to the inevitable cancellation in light of the Coronavirus crisis. That said, the firm has made public the announcements it intended to feature at the gathering.

This makes a lot of sense. Provision of increased capabilities and availability of low-code applications development and automated management of business processes could well find valued roles in helping businesses and organizations during the current global exigencies.

Making a whole for a growing number of pieces

In troubled times such as these, one of the important capabilities for any business or organisation is to be able to adapt to changing circumstances as quickly as possible. One of the problems here can be bridging the gaps between individual tasks within a complex process – each of which may be adaptable with relative ease – so that a workable process ‘whole’ can be achieved. To make the point, Appian has quoted from a recent report, ‘Advance Process Automation By Keeping Automation Technologies In Their Own Lanes’,  by analyst firm Forrester:

Successful digital transformation must have a strong process automation foundation. This requires governing multiple complementary technologies, each serving a discrete purpose.

Those discrete purposes must in themselves fulfil their functions to the best of their developers’ skills. But as processes become richer and more complex, the number and complexity of individual tasks make the management of the process ever more difficult. That is the challenge  Appian now seems to be addressing by taking on more of the management of processes with robotic automation, eliminating it as a management issue for the end users.

This is the goal set for Appian RPA, pitched as a complete stack of cloud-delivered services covering unified Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), workflow, business rules, and case management.

The firm has also added more tools to help with the development of the many tasks that can go to make up a business process, such as its new Intelligent Document Processing system, which uses machine learning and AI tools to read documents so that text and data can be extracted from them without either manual intervention or the writing of custom code. This is expected to shorten times for document workflows and add the ability to initiate different process actions on the basis of the data extracted.

Chumming up with Google

The company has also announced an interesting collaboration with Google Cloud in the document processing area which enhances the Appian offering by combining AI capabilities from Google that are pre-configured to work with Intelligent Document Processing use cases. A key target here will be any applications that require smart processing of unstructured documents and data.

Some of those actions will inevitably be new to the business as circumstances change, and the increasingly common approach for developing the new code and putting it into production is DevOps. Appian’s view of this approach, however, is that it is still prone to human error through the many manual steps required by current deployment methods. To address these problems the company has also now introduced a new Development Approval feature designed to apply governance-based automated deployment capabilities. These allow deployments to be reused across different environments, and in addition provide guardrails at both the object creation level and at the security review stage.

Getting applications working on different environments is likely to be helped a good deal by the appearance of the latest version of Instant Mobility. Appian has patented the technology behind this which is aimed at giving developers an environment in which they can design once and then have the application work natively on virtually any device. This latest version supports the latest platforms for the vast majority of mobiles running Android Q and Apple iOS 13.

All of these developments combine to provide what Appian considers is a comprehensive governance environment, providing what it refers to as a `built-in cockpit’ for controlling the coordination of enterprise process automation technologies. It centralises the management, monitoring and deployment of all the automation technologies across an organization, using both web and mobile dashboards for managing automation processes and exceptions.

My take

Interesting approach here, with a tech vendor building it tools and services from the ground up in order to present it to potential users from the top down. There may be many businesses that think governance is an issue only relevant to the mega-corporations operating in finance or pharma, but in practice it applies to every business, including the sole trader. It is something that they all must be on top of,  - and should fear falling foul of - because it has an increasingly nasty bite. So a sales message along the lines of ‘buy some governance’, coupled to the potential enticements of low-code applications development, may well tickle the fancy of a wide range of business managements.