How Digital Transformation Can Benefit from Low Code Robotic Process Automation (RPA): Q&A With Appian’s, CTO, Michael Beckley


“RPA isn’t a strategy, it’s a powerful tool for automating tasks. RPA should be embedded in a low code platform to connect and automate entire business processes.”

As the chief technology officer of Appian, Michael Beckley, talks about how RPA will lead the way for digital transformation in most IT environments. With artificial intelligence (AI) taking center stage, the role of RPAOpens a new window has come to the forefront in automating entire business processes. In this exclusive interaction with Toolbox, Beckley explains why technology leaders, are increasingly tasked with building a competitive RPA strategyOpens a new window .

So, will RPA manage work across teams of people and bots? Can it provide more scalable, cost-effective automationOpens a new window options? We asked Michael to share his views on how technology leaders can effectively prioritize business needs, enhance operational excellence and more.

Key takeaways from this Tech Talk interview on the why use RPA:

  • Top 3 tips on how best to use low code platforms
  • Best practices for enhance operational excellence with RPA
  • Trends to follow in RPA as a tool for 2020

Here’s the edited transcript of the interview with Beckley and his view on the benefits of RPA:

Michael, to set the stage, tell us about your career path so far and what your role at Appian entails.

I founded Appian 20 years ago with three friends and we went public in 2018. I have a dual role, as Chief Technology Officer and Chief Customer Officer. As CTO I lead technology strategy and as CCO I ensure our clients are successfully adopting low code for digital transformation.

What is a low code development platform and how has the concept and use of such platforms evolved over the years?

Low code is a visual, drag-and-drop toolset to build applications and automate business processes up to 20x faster than custom coding. Low code as an enterprise platform emerged from the convergence of cloud, business process management, and mobile development technologies.

What are your top 3 tips for organizations that wish to use a low code platform to increase productivity?

First, if possible, pick a greenfield project where low code’s fastest time to market is vital. Second, establish a low code and automation governance structure to vet projects, ensure reuse, and support platform adoption across multiple business units. Your first application should be in production in eight weeks so plan for success. Third, go beyond your traditional developers to recruit technical people from all majors and backgrounds, not just computer science, to augment your low code development teams.

Learn More: Can Robotic Process Automation Boost Revenue? Q&A with Richard French of KryonOpens a new window

As a CTO, what does the term ‘digital transformation’ mean to you? What is the difference in the way a CIO and a CTO would approach this term?

Digital transformation has pushed CTOs into a leading role in delivering new products and services with low code, RPA, and AI. To the CTO, digital transformation is thinking like a software company, a fintech, not a bank, a digital health and wellness platform, not an exercise bike manufacturer. CIOs are no less visionary but often focus more on the operational efficiency, automation, and security aspects of digital transformation.

What are the key priorities for technology leaders today, given the focus on digital transformation, cloud computing and cybersecurity across companies and industries? How can they effectively prioritize business needs and enhance operational excellence throughout the organization?

Tech leaders can’t hire enough software engineers to meet the demands of digital transformation. An investment and focus on low code platforms improve the productivity of the developers you have while enabling firms to expand the pool of available developers. Only by building apps and automating processes much faster can leaders deliver new products and optimize operations at the same time.

Learn More: Robotic Process Automation: Something for EveryoneOpens a new window

If a CTO or CIO of a large organization in a non-technical industry is tasked with building a competitive RPA strategy for the business, where would s/he begin and what should s/he prioritize?

RPA isn’t a strategy, it’s a powerful tool for automating tasks. RPA should be embedded in a low code platform to connect and automate entire business processes. Low code platforms manage work across teams of people and bots and, in many cases, can provide more scalable, cost-effective automation options than RPA alone. AI and API integration is often a better, lower cost option for common RPA use cases like email triage and web scraping. You don’t want people waiting around for bots to finish processing long work queues. By using a low code platform, you will get the most out of RPA.

What would be some of the KPIs for an RPA investment and how could a manager demonstrate ROI?

Manual labor hours avoided is the RPA industry standard KPI. Low code solutions like Appian’s Robotic Workforce Manger include ROI dashboards and bot lifecycle management so you can repurpose or retire underperforming bots as needed.

Tell us about the upcoming projects in robotic process automation at Appian that you are excited about.

With Robotic Workforce Manager, Appian is establishing an open bot platform for process automation that works seamlessly with our RPA partners UiPath, Automation Anywhere, and BluePrism. Our low code platform provides the end-to-end process visibility, data and API integration services, AI services, and new app and interface building tools necessary to automate process at industrial scale.

Learn More: Robotic Process Automation and Cloud Technology—Challenges and OpportunitiesOpens a new window

Which trends are you tracking in this space as we approach 2020?

Low code and RPA are the biggest new trends we’re tracking in the enterprise software space. Appian was the first low code company to go public in 2018. Looking ahead to 2020, we see companies adding low code as a standard brick in the new enterprise tech stack driving digital transformation and this once-in-a-generation shift to the cloud.

Neha: Thank you, Michael, for sharing your invaluable insights on the benefits of RPA. We hope to talk to you again soon.

About Michael BeckleyOpens a new window :

Michael Beckley co-founded Low Code software pioneer Appian Corporation (Nasdaq: APPN) in 1999. As Chief Technology Officer, Michael leads Appian’s technology strategy, oversees customer initiatives worldwide, and provides industry thought leadership in the intelligent automation space. He serves and has served on multiple boards including Appian’s Board of Directors, the Industrial Advisory Board for the University of Virginia’s Computer Science Department.

About AppianOpens a new window :

Appian provides a low code development platform that accelerates the creation of high-impact business applications. Many of the world’s largest organizations use Appian applications to improve customer experience, achieve operational excellence, and simplify global risk management and compliance.

About Tech TalkOpens a new window :

Tech Talk is a Toolbox Interview Series with notable CTOs from around the world. Join us to share your insights and research on where technology and data are heading in the future. This interview series focuses on integrated solutions, research and best practices in the day-to-day work of the tech world.

Would you like to share your thoughts about the future of RPA? Find us on TwitterOpens a new window , FacebookOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window . We’d love to hear from you!