Business Process Management and Appian

Ivanka Vranješ, Program Manager

Business

12.10.2020.

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When faced with a request for a new system or a redesign of an old one or even with just introducing a new functionality, the first thing that is needed is to model a business process. A business process is a set of activities and tasks that, once completed, will accomplish an organizational goal. Business process modelling is a discipline that requires systematicity and the capability of abstraction.

Since Appian is a model-driven application development platform, the processes and their models are a crucial part of its platform.

Why is BPMN important?

When modelling a business process, it is a must to use BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation). It is the global standard for process modelling and one of the most important components that align business and IT. BPMN is readily understandable by all business users, from business analysts who create the initial drafts of the processes, technical developers responsible for implementing the solutions, to the business people who manage and monitor the processes, according to Object Management Group. Another goal is to ensure that XML languages designed for the execution of business processes can be visualized with a business-oriented notation. BPMN is an open standard that is maintained by the Object Management Group (OMG).

BPMN is important because when the software solution is based on an open standard, you are less dependent on any particular vendor’s products.

BPMN Scheme

When you have a model, you need a tool

Business Process Management Software or Suites (BPMS) and, more recently, Intelligent Business Process Management Suites (iBPMS) have been a key software solution for business process management. The right software solution improves efficiency by reducing bottlenecks and enabling human resources to focus on more complex value-added tasks since software solution takes over those activities that can be automated.  

Why is Appian the right tool?

Firstly, Appian uses the standard BPMN to describe and implement a business process and it is a leader in process automation.

It is suitable for upgrade and solves many business processes especially when moving away from older technologies and manual processes. It allows the automation of many related operations that have always required manual input and turning an operation that took days to sometimes just minutes.

Appian enables faster development.

Since Serengeti has experience with Appian in the financial sector, we can say that in this sector, usually, the status quo is defended by the complexity of legacy systems. Therefore, introducing new functionality could often be very slow. Appian is a low-code platform, and this means that it gives transparency and minimizes technology impedance to foster innovation. Appian combines the power of BPM with the speed of low code. Low code allows building new solutions faster, which is exactly what the financial industry needs to stay in line with continuous regulatory changes, financial demands, and customer expectations for enhanced services.

So, Appian enables institutions to deliver solutions a great deal faster with fewer developers. Well, this could sound a bit worrying if you are a developer, but in fact, in this case, developers are crucial for success. With this platform, they have more time to drive innovation instead of coding similar functionalities or interfaces over and over. They will also continue to deal with architecture challenges and, in general, could be more productive.

Furthermore, Appian solves the dilemma about buying vs. building a new solution. Usually, there are two opposite groups – those who are for building the right solution from scratch because in theory then you would get exactly what you need. Which you sometimes do in the first version, but it usually does not work that way in following versions. On the other hand, by buying the solution from “the shelf”, you would get something that is close enough — but, often you would have to adjust your business to fit it and you are also dependent on a vendor. With the Appian platform, you could faster build applications with the reusable components and easy to change.

What is our experience with Appian?

Since we at Serengeti are certified partners with Appian and we have certified Appian BPM developers, we can say from our own experience that Appian is a useful business process management tool, well suited for scenarios that are significantly process-driven. Appian is great if you have a business process where things must be done in a specific order by a specific group of users. For example, if you are conducting a process that requires integration between multiple systems and engagement of users throughout, Appian gives flexible and easy-to-develop capabilities to define and execute the processing of data and documents.

A huge benefit is also the ability to build Java plugins where needed as often you would end up with the request that cannot be implemented using Appian.

But we must say that you should not expect a no-code development environment. For example, if you need to implement some complex validation business rules or another complex non-standard requirement, you might end up with the need to implement a specific Java service. Therefore, the ability to communicate with outside systems is very well supported through the usage of web services and other integration tools.

Appian's end-user application interface is supported on all major web browsers and native mobile apps are available for the most popular platforms. Complex UIs and complex screen navigation maps might need more effort to implement.

One really good side of Appian is that it is quite easy to get people on board. The learning curve for building forms and simple processes is quite short. However, a substantial amount of experience with Appian is required to properly build applications of any real complexity. To design a complex Appian solution, you need people experienced in Appian to put best practices and good design patterns in place.

To conclude, since Appian uses a visual drag-and-drop approach to application development, it accelerates initial application creation and enables easy and iterative upgrading as requirements change over time. This provides a flexibility that is impossible to have with the traditional way of coding.

The most important thing is that Appian enables business and IT to work collaboratively through a common and simple visual language. With this common tool, the initial requirements are captured more quickly and the changes in deployed applications are implemented faster as requirements change.

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