Recently I had the chance to speak with Michael Beckley, chief technical officer and chief customer officer at Appian, about his company’s move to go public and the DevOps space in general. For those of you who don’t know Michael, he is a founder of Appian and leads the company’s technology vision and oversees customer initiatives worldwide. He also serves on the Industrial Advisory Board for the University of Virginia’s Computer Science Department and is a member of the University of Maryland Advisory Board in Computing. He has an interesting take on the IT space and DevOps in particular. Read on for our discussion.
Alan Shimel: Michael, what do you think has been the “special sauce” that has led to Appian’s success to date?
Michael Beckley: With Appian, companies build unique business applications up to 20x faster and mobile-enable and modernize existing systems. For example, a company like Ryder was able to build a web and native Android tablet application that cut the time it took to rent a truck in half.
But the “special sauce”? That’s Appian’s culture of innovation. Our engineers think long-term and invest in breakthrough tech like our patented SAIL UI technology for zero code native mobile apps. Thanks to SAIL, the web apps you configure in Appian automatically deploy to iOS and Android as native, full-featured apps or specialized micro apps we call “Sites.” As long as we get the culture right, we expect to continue to deliver enduring value for our clients.
Shimel: With becoming a publicly traded entity, some companies have found “managing to the street” does not match their own long-term business plans and their customers needs, how does Appian avoid this?
Beckley: Companies, like people, are an aggregation of their habits. Appian’s habit has always been to hold to our long-term vision of enabling every company to be a software company. We are not your typical Silicon Valley tech company. Our roots are in DC, we largely bootstrapped this business, and learned to be good stewards of capital while helping to support the core missions of federal agencies and some of the world’s largest brands. The proceeds following this IPO will be invested back into our business to benefit our customers.
Shimel: What do you see post-IPO being the biggest areas for growth as it relates to new products and services?
Beckley: We plan to invest in innovating and enhancing our platform. While our platform is industry-agnostic, we have recently made, and plan to continue to make, investments to enhance the expertise of our sales and marketing organization within our key industry verticals of financial services, health care and government. We have made, and will continue to make, investments in research and development to strengthen our platform and expand the number of features available to our customers. As we continue to increase the functionality of our platform and further reduce the amount of developer skill that is required to build robust applications on our platform, we believe that we have the potential to expand the use of our platform.
Shimel: Digital transformation is a term that is being used a lot these days. How far along the adoption curve are we on digital transformation?
Beckley: While many speculate that digital transformation is just a tech industry buzz word, in reality, digital transformation is a living, breathing effort. According to a recent survey, digital transformation is a C-level priority and is considered a top focus for almost 50 percent of all companies this year. From Appian’s perspective, we believe that the utilization of low-code software to drive digital transformation is still relatively new and our customers will be able to succeed in their digital transformation efforts by incorporating low-code development.
Shimel: Where does the DevOps market intersect with the Appian business model?
Beckley: Organizations are turning to DevOps to accelerate development and bring an application’s capabilities to a user quicker. The Appian low-code development platform fits into the DevOps model and supports the seven major DevOps categories including code, build, test, package, release, configure and monitor.
Overall, our business model supports the DevOps market; we’re living in a world where citizen developers are playing such an important role in the enterprise and our platform empowers the citizen developer while alleviating developer resources to focus on the more challenging, business-critical developer work.
Shimel: What about containerization and microservices? How do these technologies affect Appian?
Beckley: Appian already uses containers and microservices. Appian’s enterprise customers often require a mix of cloud, hybrid cloud, and on-premise installations. We view containers and microservices as enabling technologies to support the diverse workloads and deployment models required by our enterprise clients.
Shimel: What about security? What challenges does cybersec pose to Appian’s development of their platform?
Beckley: Appian works with some of the nation’s most important and highly regulated industries, therefore we have built a comprehensive security and compliance structure that meets several industry standards. We frequently undergo third-party audits to ensure that we are always operating effectively to protect our customer data.