Matt Calkins, Appian CEO, discusses starting the company, problems it is solving, the customers it is targeting and the plans it has for the UK market.
1. When did you start the company and why did you wait so long to IPO?
I founded the company in 1999 at the age of 26. I didn’t start the business to make money but because I believed in the product and what I was trying to achieve in BPM, with the focus now being on low-code. The decision to IPO in May was because the company had grown to the right size and the market was ready for low-code and the benefits it will bring for digital transformation – we also wanted to gain more media attention.
2. When it comes to enterprise apps, what problem is Appian solving for businesses?
It has been expensive and time-consuming for businesses to write their own software and hard for them to use it to differentitate themselves, meaning that they’re slower to adapt to market changes. Appian is geared to give businesses the unique software they need through low-code - instead of coding, teams develop a chart and apps can be delivered a lot quicker to the business, in a more flexible way. This allows them to adapt to changes easily, faster and kept up-to-date. Our low-code platform makes it easy for companies to write their own software and to create unique software. We make it affordable and easier to be different.
3. How long does your low-code process take?
It is remarkably quick. We have our own Moore’s Law whereby every two years we aim to cut in half the software development time. Most mission-critical apps are still built by IT and it makes developers up to 20 times more productive. At the same time, it is very flexible: the software can run on any device and anywhere, i.e. in the cloud, on-premise and in hybrid environments. For example, an Australian bank rewrote everything digitally on the Appian platform and let business users develop their own apps – it was all about rapid change.
4. Can you please explain, who are your users and customers?
Our customers tend to be mid-sized to large organisations, including banks, insurance companies, airports and pharmaceutical companies. Appian is well-suited to industries such as banking and pharmaceutical as the platform can deal with complex environments and is flexible to adapt to compliance changes such as around drug safety. Most of the big pharmaceutical companies are Appian customers.
5. Critics say that apps, which were developed with low code platforms are more fault-prone and have a poorer quality. What do you say to these critics?
Our success and the growth of our customers speaks for itself. They are running business-critical applications on the Appian platform. For example, several top financial institutions have built their enterprise completely on Appian. Pharmaceutical companies are using Appian for their drugs trials – they do this because our platform is robust, easily scalable and completely reliable.
6. The rapid development of apps is often mentioned in one breath with the term digital transformation. From your point of view: What is digital transformation?
I do think that the term means something different for every company. From our perspective, it means the upheaval of traditional business models and enterprises due to connectivity and the advent of the Internet of Things. It is an ongoing journey with no final destination. Digital transformation needs to take place in every company and every business unit – or else they will cease to exist. It is also a fundamental societal change in that people become connected to machines and devices as well as each other via technology. We need to learn new things, develop a new mindset and work differently, in different jobs and across time zones, regions, and countries. Low-code is a key part of this transformation as it allows business processes to quickly adapt to market changes and allows people to work in a way that suits them. Digital transformation will become the new norm.
7. Appian describes itself as one of the leading providers of low code platforms. What distinguishes Appian from other providers?
Appian offers a sophisticated system, which is also easy to work with. Some providers make software easily and some build powerful software, but Appian does both. Our commitment is to make the complicated simple. Appian can run on almost any device and in any environment. There is no code, the software is elegantly charted and can easily and quickly be changed. At the same time, it is reliable, robust and high-performance. Our aim is to make software development, licensing, and change as easy as possible. Therefore, we offer our customers only one kind of license and it always costs the same. It is architected to enable the uniqueness of each business, so companies can be efficient and be themselves, e.g. John Lewis can now share all its same customer data spread across different systems, which has helped to unify the customer experience.
8. What are Appian’s plans in the UK market?
The UK is our second biggest market after the US and is very important to us. Though it took us a while to break the UK banks a few years ago, we’re now firmly established. Since our recent IPO, we’re focused on building our software proposition in the UK, and with our 10 year anniversary in the UK coming up next year, we look forward to securing more growth as more companies are realising the value of low-code as part of their digital transformation.
Matt Calkins, CEO, Appian
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