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User Review: "Appian - A software developer's friend"
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Galen Chock profile photo
March 11, 2014

User Review: "Appian - A software developer's friend"

Score 8 out of 101
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Software Version
Appian BPM Suite
Modules Used
All

Overall Satisfaction

Appian was brought into the company to help solve the basic problem of rapidly creating business processes and workflows to automate or facilitate manual processes. The intent was to take 5 initial processes and to map them out using Appian and then to create workflows and end to end processes. Two of the processes that were begun was a "CAR Corrective Action Response" workflow that would replace a semi-manual process. It was to be used internationally by all departments. The second process was to create a way to request more workflow processes to be created. It was to be the one stop shopping site for when a user had a business process they wanted to automate and it would take them through the proposal, approval, design, development and implementation process.
  • I took the Appian training in Reston, VA and was impressed by the flexibility of the product. I am a software developer and found their JavaScript tools to be helpful and useful to customize and manipulate the various forms. It helped me leverage the out of the box product and add what I wanted to add without having to wait for them to develop a node that I needed to use.
  • There is a user community from which you can get help on almost any question or problem you may encounter. This helps when you have something you want to do and don't have the expertise yet to accomplish it. There are many who have come before you that probably know at least one if not 5 different ways to accomplish what you want to do.
  • The documentation of a workflow process uses standard BPMN language. It makes this more universal to have a process be created using third party tools and have it represent the workflow correctly in Appian.
  • I mainly had to get used to the different paradigms that the software has. They are constantly making changes to improve the software so I didn't encounter things that were so hard to work with that I couldn't figure out a work around.
  • At the time I was using the tool, I encountered some technical limitations when using certain browsers. Some browsers don't support the date controls so I had to do some work arounds. The revision control isn't too bad but it does create a lot of revisions that you may have to sort through in order to find what you were looking for if you wanted to revert to a previous revision.
  • We used a Cloud implementation rather than hosting it locally. There are limitations when you do that in that it is harder to access local databases but I was able to eventually get access to local data but I had to do some custom programming outside of Appian to get that to happen.
  • We were not able to implement all of the projects we had going before our company was bought out by another competing company. The new company decided to abandon Appian even though it was a good tool.
  • That being said, I was able to roll out three of the projects that I was working on even though they were not used by the company due to the selling of our company.
As a BPM team we evaluated several other products and narrowed the search down to IBM and Appian. We had the respective companies do a head to head demo and we were impressed with both but found that the cloud based nature of Appian was more appealing so we didn't have to support an infrastructure locally. There are pluses and minuses. As a developer it would have been more desirable to have a local installation so I had more direct access to our other local databases but the maintenance with keeping a local system up with a team of 3 IT people who were already stretched to the limits in bandwidth made the Cloud option more practical.
If given the chance I would use Appian again. It was a good tool and they are constantly improving it. It was fairly easy to use and any developer who knows JavaScript can customize it to their hearts desire. Once I got used to how it operated my creativity increased and I began thinking of many different types of workflows I could create both for the company and for myself.
Since I do custom programming I tend to like to write programs to fill in the gaps for systems that are purchased or developed by other companies. Overall Appian does best with regards to workflows that have definitive starting and ending points or are repetitive processes that need to run when triggered by something else. When I was in training at Appian headquarters I noticed that the company uses their own product for their internal processes and even the employees use it to solve their own business problems. Overall it can be made to do many things. I still tend to write my own software when it comes to relational database tools and processes that I may need to be more asynchronous to any other processes but those can be done in Appian as well.

Evaluation and Selection

  • Price
  • Product Features
  • Product Usability
  • Third-party Reviews
We started with a list of over 20 products. After several members of the team had taken BPM classes they were in a position to understand the terms when reviewing BPM products. We narrowed the list down to 5 and then down to 2 and we were able to make a decision to purchase Appian.
The process got stalled because of a lack of management buy in from the start. Once we got that we were able to proceed quickly to purchasing the product. Get someone on an executive level to be a champion and that will make life easier for arriving at the solution more quickly.

Usability

I think anyone should be able to use the product. It doesn't take a programmer to use it even though I am a programmer and it did help me to understand things quickly, it isn't a requirement and most people who are able to understand basic workflow concepts can pick up the product easily.
ProsCons
Like to use
Relatively simple
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Quick to learn
Convenient
Feel confident using
Familiar
Not well integrated
  • Designing a workflow using BPM was easy once I learned the BPM symbols. Before knowing them however it is still easy since the basic BPMN is used for most of the process nodes.
  • Logic in using the decision nodes seemed straight forward.
  • Customization using JavaScript is fairly simple if you have even a basic programming background.
  • There are some tricks to using the customizing of the nodes using JavaScript that may seem confusing. I just kept a cheat sheet handy when it came to something I used a lot.
  • Sometimes debugging a problem could be confusing if you don't know what the errors are. After you get experience however you can usually solve most problems. Worst case is you revert to a previous version of the model that was working and move from there.
  • When you encounter browser incompatibilities you will find that you are on your own when Appian doesn't support certain features. I had to come up with workarounds for date controls on certain browsers.
Yes - I used it in some of my workflows. There is a basic mobile interface that works with their social media site and is really only for when a "Yes" answer to a workflow question is required. For more fancy mobile interfaces you have to develop those a little differently but it still works well. I was fairly impressed with how easy that part was to use.