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Matt Calkins of Appian: “Ongoing tracking of the health and availability of their staff”

What we offer is efficiency and cost-effectiveness. As an example, on a monthly basis, many businesses need to onboard vast amounts of data, often relying on employees to process the data. It’s a daunting, slow and costly task, and employees can make better use of their time to tend to other parts of the business. […]

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What we offer is efficiency and cost-effectiveness. As an example, on a monthly basis, many businesses need to onboard vast amounts of data, often relying on employees to process the data. It’s a daunting, slow and costly task, and employees can make better use of their time to tend to other parts of the business. In the future and as of now, we can set up a workflow where RPA identifies and processes the data it understands, AI can then handle the data RPA is unable to classify, and lastly, humans can be brought into the final stage of uploading to ensure everything is handled accurately and course correct if needed.


As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Calkins, founder and CEO of Appian, a public software company traded on NASDAQ. Appian provides a low-code automation platform enabling organizations to rapidly develop business applications. He serves on the board of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Sorensen Institute and sits on the Leadership Council for the Virginia Public Access Project. Matt was top Economics graduate of his class at Dartmouth. He is the author of several award-winning board games, and is frequently a top finisher at the World Boardgaming Championships.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thanks for having me. I graduated from Dartmouth in 1994 with a degree in Economics and began working at a hot, well-to-do startup. Through very good fortune and hard work, I became a multi-millionaire by my mid-twenties, but decided to walk out on it because I wanted to act on my personal and professional aspiration of starting a firm focused on doing/creating something impactful for society. To be honest, it was more important to me to help the world in some capacity than it was to make more money. With the rise of the dot-com coupled with my “overconfidence” in the 90s, I aligned with three, likeminded people to create a self-funded business engrained in pioneering a new avenue and solving a critical issue. 21 years later, I am proud to be the CEO of Appian.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

In the early days of starting my next adventure, my co-founders and I were trying to figure out what real-world, niche problem we wanted to solve. The early 90s was the integration and rise of computers in business and at home. It was highly evident that the hardware marketplace was well established, but the software space had a few gaps from program offerings to coding knowledge and capabilities.

While none of the four founders had a software degree, or even a science degree, we became entranced in the software marketplace and sifted through every component. Our great idea turned quest was based on the simple use of a computer mouse to draw a picture or flowchart with lines, boxes and circles which would then convert into a functional programming action for an application. There was nothing like that in the marketplace, and we wanted to help the world over develop tangible, results-oriented solutions that met their critical business needs in a timely fashion.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

At the time of our founding, personalized software was rare. We wanted to own that space, and in turn, developed our low-code software solutions portfolio to help businesses rethink software creation as a cumbersome project with little-value add. What we offer is the ability to take an idea and turn it into a critical extension of their businesses where a person doesn’t need to be a programmer, but can easily communicate and control what they envisioned in a transferrable way to the software’s backend and without interrupting launch timelines. As pioneers of low-code tech, Appian was the first tech company to go public on the stock market and paved the way for this niche.

Up until today, work is often accomplished by one type of worker — people, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or artificial intelligence (AI). However, we need to delegate the work among different kinds of workers. The next step is to allow multiple people to work on similar jobs with the larger goal of facilitating collaboration. Appian comes to this market as the leading workflow technology and we’ve expanded our solutions to include RPA and AI, so everything a company needs to fuel innovation is all bundled together at the time of purchase. We partnered with every leading AI and RPA company to unify the automation market, and this serves as an opportunity for Appian to seamlessly integrate into whatever a company may be using. All workers bring a certain fortitude to their responsibilities, and blending a human and tech approach to tackle the same workforce helps reduce the chances of simple or common mistakes.

How do you think this might change the world?

The software development life cycle is often met with dread for many organizations and their respective IT departments. There are six steps an organization must address in order to make a successful software solution: planning, analysis, design, development & implantation, testing and maintenance. It can be an expensive 6-month to year-long project to launch a single solution, and it might not address the very need it was intended to solve.

What we offer is efficiency and cost-effectiveness. As an example, on a monthly basis, many businesses need to onboard vast amounts of data, often relying on employees to process the data. It’s a daunting, slow and costly task, and employees can make better use of their time to tend to other parts of the business. In the future and as of now, we can set up a workflow where RPA identifies and processes the data it understands, AI can then handle the data RPA is unable to classify, and lastly, humans can be brought into the final stage of uploading to ensure everything is handled accurately and course correct if needed.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

At Appian, we have long talked about the need for enterprise software change and 2020 has proved this change is mission critical to remain competitive, strategic or to survive in today’s marketplace. Changing the patterns of behavior within an organization is imperative, and there will always be a demand for agility. Speed is addictive, and often regarded as a measurement for efficiency, however most organizations don’t think they can achieve it. Our solutions can accomplish organizations’ unmet goals of agility and flexibility, and we are seeing real conversation and awareness grow among business leaders and decision makers to revisit how they can solve critical workflows through the power of software.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Appian is a platform for building new applications, and our customer base across the Fortune 500 and beyond needs to build applications quickly. This is a critical time for everyone in the world, and many companies are left shifting in between multiple parts of the business. We listened to our customers and their many needs to operate their business in a pandemic. As a means to help, we built applications for them, and some in life-saving circumstances.

A real-time, real-world example of how Appian helped protect lives through the pandemic can be seen through our customer Bexley Health Neighbourhood Care (BHNC), a division of the National Health Service (NHS). With a staff of 600 to look after more than 240,000 patients across multiple sites in London, we helped build and deploy a Resource and Care Coordination Solution on the Appian Platform in one week. Our solution saved lives in three critical ways)

1) Ongoing tracking of the health and availability of their staff — doctors, clinicians, nurses and caregivers — as they tended to patients

2) With a limited number of beds and rooms, tracking patients’ health to determine who was safe and well to return home versus patients who needed to stay at the hospital

3) Identifying what we considered the “shielded population”, meaning other Londoners who were not infected. It is important to protect the shielded populations, track their health and ensure they were in prioritizing their safety and reducing the risk of “overexposure”

With hospital staff working nonstop to save lives, we included other capabilities, including tracking the status of PPE supplies and services for site maintenance and managing incident reporting, to help them prioritize patients.

All in all, our real-time healthcare operational dashboard enablesBexleyto continue to serve their community and workforce as well as help inform operational decision-making, maximize healthcare capacity and streamline the patient journey for improved patient and care provider outcomes.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

As I continue my tenure as CEO of Appian, I firmly believe that “business begins with respect in people and dignity in work.” I’ve echoed this sentiment since the inception of Appian. You need to start with respecting your peers and acknowledge the dignity in their work. Their contributions, whatever they may be, build onto our world and they are showing up to pitch in and collaborate to make us as a company or a society better than what it was. It’s fundamental that great business starts with great people. My workload grows with the business, however that never dissuades me from taking the time to interview prospective candidates or speak with my employees. For most of the company’s history, I met with everyone we hired during the interview process. With that in mind, loyalty is not by accident and it speaks volumes that the people who I started business with are still here to help me lead the business into new heights.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow Appian on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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