Digital transformation and modernization efforts sweeping across Federal agencies have fundamentally changed the way software solutions are created. No longer are IT teams spending years developing products that may or may not address end user needs. To keep up with speed of change, rapid development practices focus on quick, iterative development cycles to deploy working solutions into the hands of end users as soon as possible.
While modernization efforts are helping put the customer at the center of the development process, IT teams can no longer keep up with demand. Modernization has created a never-ending backlog of projects and requests IT teams will never have the time or resources to handle. IT teams are now faced with a big question. How do teams continue to deliver necessary solutions without burning out developers or employing larger, more expensive teams?
Answer: Empower the Citizen Developer.
Citizen Developers are a group of business oriented, end users, who are trained to develop products, workflows, processes, and other working solutions under the supervision of IT Teams; Citizen Developers possess little to no coding knowledge or experience. How is this possible? Low or no-code solutions such as Appian, ServiceNow, Salesforce, UIPath and others, are designed to make it easy for people with no coding experience to jump in and create working websites or applications. Low code platforms are powered by easy-to-understand language and a variety of quick drag and drop tools which allow for easy and robust customization.
To prove just how easy these tools are and how powerful low-code products can be, we challenged our intern to develop a new performance review application for RIVA Solutions using Appian. In just one week, RIVA’s intern Nick was able to create an 85% useable solution, which he presented at Appian’s Government conference in November.
Let’s learn more about Nick and his experience building on the Appian platform.
Meet Nick Marsh, Solutions Intern at RIVA
My name is Nick Marsh, I am a recent graduate from Georgia State University with a major in Business Administration and a minor in German. I joined RIVA as an intern on the Solutions Team in August. Before joining RIVA, I had no prior Appian experience. During the first two weeks of my internship, I completed the Appian associate developer’s certification program which was a quick and easy way to get up to speed on Appian basics and enough knowledge to get working on my Appian platform challenge.
The Appian Challenge
This year the RIVA Solutions HR team piloted a new end-of-year review process. As a part of my internship, I was asked to build a performance review application demo to potentially replace our current, outdated system, which no longer supported our needs and was known to cause a spike in help desk tickets. I used the new HR process as a model to show how an application could be developed quickly utilizing Appian to provide a streamlined workflow and review process. I was given one week to bring the model to life and asked to present the demo live at the Appian Government conference.
Before getting started in Appian, I took some time to create a project outline to map out my initial concept. I used this diagram to validate my ideas with the Solutions Team before beginning the build. Once my concept was validated, I took the performance review process model and converted the information onto a Trello board broken out by roles (lists) and actions (cards). Armed with my Trello board and only a week to complete the demo, I got straight to work.
Building in Appian
I started by creating three user groups: Administrators, Employees, and Advisors. Administrators manage settings, security, and system functionality, while Employees and Advisors are the primary end users who interact directly with the review workflow by entering information and moving the process along.
Next, I set up the process model framework in Appian. Initially I left the pieces disconnected as I first needed to create the individual forms the Employees and Advisors would use to input review comments and feedback. I created the forms using the Appian interface object, a drag and drop feature which made it easy to create and customize forms. Once the forms were created, I set up and added constants and a data store to carry and house the information from the forms.
Finally, I returned to the process model to connect the pieces and ran tests to ensure the process worked. Luckily Appian has a debug menu that shows the path the process model follows and alerts builders if the pieces are working as desired. To finish, I created the public-facing website and resolved any remaining issues. The process took one week from start to finish.
Watch the demo of my final product here:
Over the course of the Appian challenge, I learned a few valuable lessons:
- Leave Time for Error Resolution. Near the end of the build, I had to resolve several process model errors which took more time than I anticipated. As a new citizen developer learning Appian, I did not expect to get it right the first time. The Appian Debug menu is incredibly helpful, but it does take time to resolve and repair workflows. Next time I will leave more time to address issues.
- Update Progress Frequently. I tracked tasks and progress on a Trello board. Over the course of the project, I only updated cards once something was complete. This did not provide enough information for my team to have an accurate sense of progress. Next time, I plan on giving more frequent updates to ensure my team and I are on track to complete the project on time.
- Invest in the Appian Associate Developers Course. For beginners like me, I would recommend the Appian associate developers course because it teaches you the process of building a site. The course leads you through a series of hands-on activities which provide you with good experience to build on in the future.
I had a lot of fun completing this challenge. I was amazed by how much I was able to accomplish in just a week. With more hands-on practice and experience with Appian, I’m excited to see what types of more complex applications I can develop in the future.