Agile working and disruption take centre stage at Appian World 2020

The business changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic will never go away, say CEO and guests

The distributed workplace is here to stay and the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact. These are two of the key messages from the Day One keynote of the annual Appian World conference.

Taking to a much smaller stage than the one he would have been expecting just a few months ago, Appian CEO Matt Calkins acknowledged the unusual nature of the virtual conference, saying: “2020 [has been] a strange year .... Appian World was postponed, and you’re probably watching this from home and I’m speaking to an empty theatre.”

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He noted that even when the world does slowly start to come back to normal, the world of business we return to won’t be the same as the one we left.

“We’re going to come back to a slightly changed and different business environment than we left. And it will be different in a number of ways, but one important way is it is that we will have come to a new understanding as to the importance of change.

“We’ve seen how essential it can be for a business to be able to change itself rapidly. We know that the fate of the enterprise can depend on an organisation’s ability to change.”

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Calkins’ words were underlined up by Darin Cline, EVP of Operations at Bank of the West – a subsidiary of BNP Paribas – during a panel session.

Asked by moderator Marc Wilson, co-founder and SVP of partnerships at Appian, how his organisation has responded to the continually changing environment, he said: “We’ve had to be more agile than ever before. I think you sometimes see the meme about ‘what led your tech transformation’ and I think this has moved us closer to [being an agile enterprise] moreso, more powerfully than anything we’ve ever seen in the past.”

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“To us this has been a human crisis,” he added. “Our customers need to have solutions that make things easier, because everything is harder right now and internally we’ve had to help our people because we were not a work from home organisation and now, like everyone else in the industry, 88%-90% work from home.

"And so all of our tuning for those first six weeks was to get together daily and listen to the voice and listen to our customers and what they’re going through, what are their hot-spots that we need to come together to deliver.”

Fellow panel member Darren Blake, COO of Bexley Health Neighbourhood Care, added: “From a digital point of view, we developed from nothing over the course of five days an application to track our patients out of hospital into the community and be able to assess the level of care that they needed … so we did that with Appian in five days, we worked over a weekend, we worked into the night and it was the most agile piece of work I’ve ever completed in my lifetime.”

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He added that for his organisation, both remote working and the need to adapt to rapidly changing needs via agile development are here to stay.

“We’re planning on probably a two-year cycle of moving through this. There will be a second wave, a third wave and a fourth wave with different contexts to [them] and it’s only the point at which you get an immunisation that that will seal it for people to be able to return to more normality. So we’ve got a phased approach that we’re going to go through here.

“We’re fully remote now, we’ve got digital technology in all of our general practice surgeries and patient contact is primarily through video consultation. That will not go away now – that digital revolution that happened in a matter of weeks was something that was challenging for us in terms of getting this done, so out through the next few phases of this we will leverage the good that has come out of this in terms of the way we work.

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