We continue our journey into the world of low-code development platforms. Meet Appian: a low-code BPaaS (Business Process as a Service) development platform that enables citizen developers to automate complex business processes and develop robust and secure apps. The company behind the solution is a reputable low-code movement trailblazer, and its product was one of the first low-code platforms ever to hit the market.
The BPaaS model is commonly referred to as "cloud outsourcing", but it would be more accurate to call it business process management in the cloud (Cloud BPM). Cloud BPM provides a whole range of processes, from accounting and HR to marketing and business intelligence. BPaaS providers use a set of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS services to solve customer business problems based on their digital platform.
When talking about Appian, automation is the first thing that comes to mind. Indeed, the platform enables businesses to develop modern applications and automate business operations in no time. Appian enables integrating all the required elements into a robust workflow management mechanism (BPM engine) and business rules engine. That practice allows the automation of the most complex workflows, easy integration with internal and external systems, built-in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities, etc.
Appian’s main features include case management, three-step application development, and application integration. The company shares intriguing customer stats on its website. For instance, Appian claims that “when you create applications with us, you can build them 10 times faster, reducing your maintenance costs by half”.
With Appian, it’s possible to create compelling and consistent user experiences across web and mobile platforms. What’s more, you can collaborate on your applications with different teams within your company.
The platform has all the required features for the automation and digitization of work processes. Summing it all up, Appian offers its users the following features:
- Easy-to-use and intuitive user interfaces that enable quick implementations;
- Fast development and design via drag-and-drop functions, simplified construction of workflows, and reuse of components;
- Complex business rules, data, planning, and automation features;
- Integration with third-party services using pre-built standard industry connectors;
- Rich customization possibilities;
- Collaboration tools such as document comparison, shared package linking, and group security.
What’s more, any application you’d build with the platform will be both native and mobile-friendly. Plus, you can make adjustments to the application after its release with no hassle.
Appian provides multiple deployment options, including cloud, on-premises, or hybrid. Support includes online case management, phone support, real-time screen sharing, knowledge base, phone, and email. Last but not least, its business model fits both small and big businesses, and we’ll cover pricing options in a corresponding passage.
Artificial intelligence capabilities are also on the list. You can make your applications smarter with integrated AI features from Amazon AWS, Google, and Microsoft Azure.
Let’s see how one can automate various workflows using native automation technologies:
Users can resort to software bots to perform tedious, rules-based operations improving business performance.
Users can extract and structure data from a variety of business docs saving time and costs.
Address compound end-to-end processes and specific situations with AI.
Use customized automations that correspond to operating procedures.
Appian offers a number of license types so that businesses or individuals can choose what best meets their operational needs. Plus, the platform offers a free trial that provides access to the full spectrum of the platform’s features. At the moment, Appian has four pricing plans:
The company doesn’t provide detailed specs of each plan. Instead, they invite clients to describe their needs in detail, and, as mentioned earlier, this way, it gets easier to offer the best option for each specific case.
However, that’s what you can find on their website:
- Register and start developing apps in no time;
- Get total access to the platform with a guided learning experience.
- For a specific department or particular use case;
- Most companies start with this one, and various user types are available. If you need new users, just add more licenses.
- For big, enterprise-like projects;
- Works like charm if you are automating end-to-end processes across your business or deploying apps to multiple users.
- Great for unlimited development;
- Perfect match for building unlimited apps or re-platforming onto Appian.
Pros and cons
Let’s summarize the platform’s pluses and minuses to give you a bigger picture.
I guess we‘ve covered most of the pros earlier on. To cut a long story short, Appian provides its users with the ability to integrate into numerous upstream and downstream systems based on various integration methods. For instance, the ones such as connected systems, pub/sub-methods, various web services, or shared data. If multiple users work across complex business processes, this feature comes as a game changer.
Besides, the company does all it takes to support users in the building process. If you have questions, you can get instant feedback on your app to figure it all out. The development process in itself is split into separate processes to make it even easier. Going down this path, you can assign tasks for database building and UX to different teams. This way, you don't have to worry that you're outsourcing a task to a team that doesn't have the right skills to proceed. Appian also includes built-in collaboration and task management tools.
Surely, some drawbacks exist too.
- Appian doesn't include performance monitoring tools. If your business needs to keep track of how well your application performs after deployment, this can be a problem;
- Appian's API support for third-party Java libraries is far from ideal. If you're looking for an API integration that includes multiple security patterns - such as a token/API key (OAUTH) - you may run into issues with Appian;
- Some of the features for application development don’t base on standard practices;
- Appian has limitations when handling large amounts of data.
The expansion of low-code/no-code tools is the biggest trend that allows non-techies to develop apps, launch startups, and resolve issues at many operational levels. All in all, the platform does all that providing a powerful set of features. If you are looking for a low-code solution designed for people with little coding skills, Appian might be your best bet.
When discussing the future of the business community, Appian Founder and CEO Matt Calkins pointed out that while we don't know if future business systems will ever be the same, we do know that they will be more interconnected and therefore more data-centric. This basically means that such low-code tools as Appian are here to stay. However, if you look for Appian alternatives, the other BPaaS platforms you might like to check out include Nintex, Cflow, and Comindware.
As in other posts in the series, let’s check some of the user reviews:
“I have been working as a developer on Appian for almost 2 years. This tool has been there in my organization for around 5 years now. We have replaced so many tools in BPM but this has always remained intact solely because of its user-friendly approach.” - John, Capterra.
“We've found Appian as an adequate platform for our process automation needs. Its low-code development capability allows us to implement a great range of solutions in terms of size and nature with a reasonable licensing and operational investment, plus the learning curve towards gaining productivity is accelerated. The support for both BPM and RPA paradigms brings great potential to the organization alongside standard, out-of-the-box integration capabilities to orchestrate the processes fulfillment in the back-end systems.” - Jorge, g2.
“With Appian, we were able to build a KYC solution quickly and roll it into production in no time. It provided great flexibility in making workflow changes to meet new requirements without having to make too many changes to existing applications”. - Brenton, Capterra.
Low-code platforms for you
All in all, Airtable is great. However, you might be interested in getting familiar with low-code builders you can use in conjunction. So far, we’ve covered:
Hire low-code experts
Nowadays, software development with little coding is synonymous with the low code development approach. The rise of no-code platforms is the biggest trend that allows citizen developers to create apps and launch MVPs fast and with minimal costs. However, often you need a technological partner to make it work as it should.
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