Orchestrating AI – Appian

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appian

Orchestrating AI – Appian

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last updated:

Appian and its SI partners know that the challenge ahead is in educating the buyer as to why they need to become AI Ready and how they can do that work in a staged and constructive manner.

Appian has been around for nearly 25 years, which is a near eternity in the tech world, and though it may not be the best-known name in tech, it is one of the most embedded and trusted providers of process automation in the US. Appian products are now a vital part of the fabric of Government, Defense, Insurance, and Financial Services. Their brand is less visible than other tech peers because they play a supporting role in the theater of large transformation projects. Systems Integrators like KPMG, PWC, Wipro & Infosys steal the spotlight and take the starring roles.

This is largely why I find Appian’s annual conference so interesting, as the pitch is essentially to SI’s not the end customer. In practice, that means (as much as tech marketing can be) it’s free of BS. Like every other tech conference, the focus was naturally on AI, but this time round, the AI discussions had a ring of truth to them; from the conversations I had with both Appian execs and big SI’s at the conference, the AI stance can be summarized like this:

1: Shadow IT, primarily through the uncontrolled use of ChatGPT and Microsoft CoPilot, is booming even in the most regulated and theoretically secure environments, raising red flag after red flag.

2: Enterprise-grade AI is tough to implement, and frankly, though it has a key role to play, AI is a much smaller part of the pie than the current hype-driven environment would suggest.

That is a welcome sanity check, and we concur, but it’s not saying nothing is happening or that the role of AI in the enterprise is overblown. Rather, it’s a timely acknowledgment of the work that lies ahead, and it was reflected in the conference’s official themes, ‘Orchestrate Change’ and ‘Balancing Human & AI.’ Moreover, there were some success stories on display, most notably in healthcare and logistics, where AI played a small but critical role in major change projects.

As for the conference itself, Appian made a lot of noise, and rightly so, promoting the launch of Process HQ, which essentially combines process mining along with process and data analytics all within Appian’s patented Data Fabric. In practical terms, what that provides is a pretty sophisticated enterprise monitoring and management system. For organizations that are already a good way down the automation road, it’s a compelling story, and Process HQ is certainly worth checking out.

Overall, though, what I came away with from this DC event was a reminder and greater appreciation that AI, for all its power and promise, does not work in a void. Rather, AI must contend with the messy reality of 30 years plus of data accumulation, undocumented and poorly understood processes, spaghetti-like (and typically also undocumented) integrations, patches, and accumulated fixes. Appian and its SI partners know that the challenge ahead is in educating the buyer as to why they need to become AI Ready and how they can do that work in a staged and constructive manner. That’s not to say we will have to wait years to see AI in action; that is already happening in a very targeted and granular manner, automating sub-sets of tasks and activities. But, the true enterprise AI revolution is yet to come.

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