Appian Modernizes BPM; New Platform Creates ‘Agile Apps’ That Share Any Data, Run on Any Device
Long-time BPM vendor Appian Corp. says today’s fast-paced business climate cries out for better ways to build and deploy smarter apps. Appian’s new app platform combines BPM’s power to build apps ‘drawing a picture’ with easier ways for apps to share data and run on multiple devices – often with little or no coding. IDN speaks with Appian CEO Matt Calkins.
by Vance McCarthy
"Every software [app] should be able to run on any device; and access the data it needs from everywhere."
Long-time BPM vendor Appian Corp. says today’s fast-paced business climate cries out for better ways to build and deploy smarter apps.
Appian’s new app platform combines BPM’s power to build apps ‘drawing a picture’ with easier ways for apps to share data and run on multiple devices – often with little or no coding.
“BPM has the ability to make an app just by drawing a picture. I just love that. But, the new demand is not simply to be able to build apps faster,” Calkins said. Today’s apps also need to access any data and run on any device – PC, laptop, phone, tablet, wearable or other Internet of Things device, he said. “Every software [app] should be able to run on any device; and access the data it needs from everywhere,” he added.
Appian Platform Lets Companies Unite Apps, Data, Devices and Users
To tackle those custom business apps, Appian’s recipe is to move beyond traditional BPM and case management tools to build a more flexible any-to-any environment for apps, data, devices and users. “We’re not leaving BPM, we’re bring it with us. And we’re going to apply what is great about BPM to this much larger problem – tackling those custom apps that every business needs.”
Under the covers, Appian’s app platform environment brings BPM together with technologies for modeling, data services, UIs and more. The goal: To let companies more easily unite apps, data, devices and users into a common environment.
- Faster, visual ways to build apps
- The ability for apps to retrieve and share data from hundreds of outside sources.
- Apps the capability to deploy without complex coding on any device, including PCs, laptops, phones, tablets and even wearables and IoT devices.
By uniting BPM with these other technologies, the Appian platform provides a unifying environment for stakeholders across the entire app lifecycle – developers, integrators, operations and especially business users. “More than an app platform, Appian is taking apps and data out of silos, and putting them into an environment that is totally mobile and totally accessible,” he added.
Appian Platform 'Thinks Horizontally' -- Breaks Silos, Eases Integration
To grasp the power of Appian’s new app environment – where any app should be able to get any data and run anywhere, Calkins told us there’s one key, “Think horizontally.”
“In the old [custom app] vertical model, every app has its own data source and its own interface,” Calkins said. Today, with so many more data sources and device interfaces, a new ‘horizontal’ model for how apps work is necessary, he added.
“Imagine instead of one or two data sources, you have dozens or hundreds of data sources. Also, imagine instead of one of two [device] interfaces, your users now are using 12 form factors, each requiring a different interface. This is what we’re seeing with customers right now,” he said.
Thinking horizontally also cuts down on costs, Calkins added.
“For every silo you have to pay for integration and interface development. Just from a cost point of view it’s unmanageable,” he noted. So, his conclusion is: Whatever apps are created today should be immediately able to access any data and be able to run on any device.
For IDN, Calkins gave us a detailed look at how the Appian platform environment delivers integration-savvy support using horizontal thinking.
In the Appian platform, we’re putting the pedal down on integration. It is about integrating new apps with legacy apps and data, but it’s even broader, he said. “It is about integrating all of your information into one environment, and being able to easily share it with everybody.”
Calkins painted a picture of how integration can expand the value of apps and data exponentially. “Imagine if every time you plugged in new data or new users, all those assets became available to the entire universe of users. You’d make a point of integrating more and more information. On top of that, more and more users would see the benefits,” he said.
Appian’s platform sports a wide range of integration capabilities, including:
- Library of system-specific connectors to established enterprise apps, including SAP, Oracle Siebel, Microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft SharePoint, Salesforce.com and Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS).
- Pre-built library of integration options for SOAP and REST web services. These include the ability to model and build complex orchestrations.
- Complex event processing (CEP) to let users combine and correlate events from multiple systems. CEP will also recognize patterns, as well as define process-based responses and notifications.
- Data parsing and transformation via data extraction and manipulation tools. These parse and transform content between systems in automated processes.
- A secure data store to make it easier to govern data integration, to ensure data is only shared where there are permissions.
- OSGi framework-compliant plug-ins and capabilities for custom extensibility.
Appian is also enlisting support of many third-party partners for its new app platform. Just last month, the company launched its Appian App Market, a collection of ready-built business apps and components for the Appian platform. At present, there are more than 70 offerings from Appian and third-party partners. Notably, it includes other pre-built integration plug-ins to connect apps and data to Dropbox, Fitbit, barcode and QR utilities, and even SFTP smart readers.
“The changes we’re making, with our partners, are proving that to meet new business and customer needs, it’s time to move BPM to a new vision,” Calkins stated. “BPM was great at automating processes. . . but it also only did it one at a time, in effect creating isolated silos. So, we don’t need quicker ways to build more silos. We need a unifying environment that can be a meeting place of apps, data, people and ideas.”
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