Appian. The company describes itself as providing "a low-code automation platform that accelerates the creation of high-impact business applications" and that "many of the world’s largest organisations use Appian applications to improve customer experience, achieve operational excellence, and simplify global risk management and compliance".
The company's CEO and co-founder is Matt Calkins, whom Forbes Magazine described in a 2019 profile as a "billionaire, board-game god and tech's hidden disruptor" which is quite the description, and when I learned more about Calkins' work and reputation, you can definitely say it's very impressive.
Calkins is also the author of a new book, entitled HYPERAUTOMATION, which was published on October 14, 2020, and which iTWire will be reviewing.
As you can tell, I really enjoyed speaking with Matt Calkins are learning about low-code app development. It's long forgotten now, but in the 90s my father purchased me an app development platform called "Layout", which was meant to operate in a similar "flow chart" fashion, but sadly the software was before its time.
I'm also reminded of Apple's Hypercard technology, which delivered an almost web-like environment before the Internet as we know it came along, and which too was before its time.
Clearly, the low-code revolution's time has come, and I came away impressed by learning more about Calkins, his philosophies on business, coding, board games and life, and my guess it that you will likely be fascinated to learn more, too.
At the end of this article I have embedded a series of videos from Appian's official YouTube page which go into more detail about the company, its products and services, and about Calkins himself, and I'd definitely like to learn more about the Appian development environment for myself.
There's also Calkins' new book, HYPERAUTOMATION, which was one of the things we spoke about in the video.
HYPERAUTOMATION is described as "a collection of original essays from influential technology and business experts examining different aspects of low-code development in the enterprise, and the impact of low-code on the future of business process automation".
It features a Foreword by legendary chess chess grandmaster, former World Chess Champion, writer, and political activist Garry Kasparov, who discusses how his views on how the human/machine connection have evolved from his historic battles with Deep Blue to today.
In his Foreword, Kasparov states: “The human mind is an unmatched analogy engine, able to apply experience and new information to new circumstances almost instantly. Machines can’t do this themselves—not yet—but with our guidance, they can help feed our insatiable appetite for ever-greater agility."
The book features an Introduction from Appian CEO Matt Calkins that sets the context for the chapters to follow, as he highlights the urgency of the lessons found in HYPERAUTOMATION, writing: “COVID-19 set the spark for the next phase of the enterprise software revolution. In the pandemic, business realised that change was a matter of survival.”
Chapter contributions come from:
- Dr. George Westerman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): “How to Turn Your Company into a Master of Digital Transformation”
- Neil Ward-Dutton, IDC: “From Big Boxes to Intelligence Everywhere: The Changing Face of Automation”
- Lakshmi N, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS): “Survival of the Quickest: How to Hack a Pandemic with Intelligent Automation”
- Sidney Fernandes & Alice Wei, University of South Florida: “From Hurricanes to COVID-19 and Beyond: How Low-Code Helps our University”
- Lisa Heneghan, KPMG: “People Power: The X-Factor of Digital Transformation”
- Chris Skinner, FinTech expert : “FinTech and the Forces of Change in Financial Services”
- John R. Rymer, Forrester (Emeritus): “Low-Code Journey In The Enterprise”
- Isaac Sacolick, StarCIO: “A Business-minded CIO’s Perspective: Why Low-Code is Indispensable for Transformation”
- Darren Blake, Bexley Neighbourhood Care: “Speed is the Key in Pandemic Response”
- Rob Galbraith, InsureTech expert: “Digital Innovation is More than a Side Hustle”
- Ron Tolido, Capgemini: “A Technology Business Needs Simplicity”
- Michael Beckley, Appian: “An Economic Revolution”
We are told that "all proceeds from the sale of HYPERAUTOMATION will be donated to Black Girls Code, an organisation providing young girls of colour opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming".
Video interview question summary, followed by some great videos from and about Appian:
- In my video interview with Calkins, embedded above, I started by introducing Matt, marvelling at his Forbes profile piece, and welcoming him into the program.
- I referred to the video featuring him on the front page of the Appian site, which I've embedded below, in which Calkins deftly explains Appian, how low-code works and its benefits in less than two minutes, but I wanted to know what advances, improvements and innovations that the year 2020 and all of its events had brought to low-code the way Appian does it.
- We then spoke about how Appian started, how I remembered lots of talk about "object oriented programming" in the 90s and whether this was today's much more sophisticated version of that, as well as why he and his co-founders started Appian - what was the catalyst?
- The next topic was "digital transformation" and how it hasn't really lived up to its promises, but how Appian is enabling companies to properly transform themselves digitally seeing as most companies have become software companies at heart, even if they're developers of buildings, mining or other physical things.
- We looked at AI, ML and RPA, or robotic process automation, and how automation used to mean replacing people with technology (which the Luddites way back when were against) and how the definition of automation today "means complementing people with digital helpers". I spoke of cobots which do the same thing with people in a physical sense, which led us to talking about the concept of hyper automation, the topic of Calkins' new book.
- Then I described COVID-19 as "the elephant-sized virus in the room that has radically fast-forwarded business perception around IT and change", and asked how COVID-19 changed Appian, and how big of a boost it brought Appian "as every other business seeks to innovate and change faster to the changing world around them?"
- I then went back to the book and asked Calkins to tell us about some of the great authors that have contributed chapters and some of the most insightful lessons people can learn about in the book. I also mentioned that Garry Kasparov was famous for mastering one of the greatest board games of all time, chess, with Kasparov having written a Foreward in the book, and Calkins spoke of his friendship with Kasparov in a little more detail.
- We then covered the future of low-code, how it will evolve over the next few years, business trends for Australia, the US and the world, and low-code might look like in 2030.
- Given Calkins' love of board games, with his owning of over 700 board games and creation of two of his own games, I asked him to tell us all more about his observations that there are incredible parallels between the games and the way business works, and how Appian creates its software for low-code creativity.
- I asked Calkins what his favourite board games are, what truly makes a great game stand out to him and what else he could tell us about this fascinating side to his life.
- Then I asked Matt to share some great advice he had received in life, great biographies that he had read and if any had really stood out to him, the biggest challenges in his life and how he overcame them, his Ameritrade TV interview and his work with the education sector, and his final message to iTWire viewers and readers, and to his current and future customers and parters, and Matt's answers are all in the video interview embedded above!
Here are some interesting videos that Appian has published, starting with the one I talked about in the video interview, where Matt explains Appian and Low-Code really clearly and well in a short video that's on the Appian home page:
Appian CEO Matt Calkins Explains Low-Code:
Why Companies Choose Appian:
This is Appian: Take a Ride with Matt Calkins:
This is Appian: Take a Ride with Matt Calkins Part 2:
Appian CEO Matt Calkins on Automation in Coding - by the TD Ameritrade Network:
Welcome to Appian 20.2: