Deloitte has helped many federal agencies move off their legacy systems and onto modern platforms. In doing so, Deloitte has been able to identify common use cases for IT modernization and risks associated with their implementation. That’s why they set up an Appian low-code center of excellence, to help guide agencies through the modernization process and speed up delivery using application foundations, reusable components, and design templates.
Federal agencies see an opportunity to improve their business processes when they modernize the underlying technology the business processes use. This presents a tradeoff between giving business reengineering the time and resources it needs to be successful and quickly delivering a new solution. One of the CoE’s main goals is to provide flexible, pre-built solutions that can evolve as business processes do. To accomplish this, Deloitte is creating application foundations that provide majorly reusable functionality and can be production-ready with minimal configuration. The application foundations can reduce development time and help ensure the application is built on a foundation that enables growth.
For example, financial regulatory agencies generally have similar processes when it comes to examining and supervising financial institutions. The different agencies can share a common foundation that they extend based on how their business needs change. This is a great example of a use case the application foundations can help solve.
Meanwhile, for more targeted functionalities, the CoE is building reusable components that allow customers to go live faster. One of the more frequently used ones is Modern Workflow. It allows business users to define their own custom workflow and take action within the system. In the case of Modern Workflow, IT and the business work together by IT building out the complex actions that need to take place and the business defining the workflow. For example, calling web services and updating external systems are complex actions IT needs to build. These actions are then made available to business users who define workflows and when to use the actions. This allows IT to know their systems are being updated properly and enables the people who know the business process, the users, to define that on an as-needed basis. This way, the organization gets a flexible system that still adheres to technical requirements.
And contrary to popular belief, generally the less customization a client has to do, the better.
Doing complex technical work in Appian, an integration for example, doesn’t require customization and can be handled by out-of-the-box Appian. There is no need for custom code developers on the development team because those activities can be done with regular Appian functionality.
Low code is the latest evolution of programming languages. Programming languages have gone through many major evolutions starting with the earliest languages like Assembly and Fortan. There were major shifts to newer languages like C and C++. These were followed by Java and C#. Low-code is the newest major shift. It is a visual and guided experience that can be easier for people to learn compared to traditional custom code. It is very similar to when operating systems shifted from MS-DOS to Windows.
But even with low-code, transitioning off legacy systems is a sensitive process that takes some time. One of the biggest technical decisions to work through is whether to take the big-bang approach and turn off the legacy system as you turn on the new system or to slowly phase out the legacy system and have the modern system coexist with it for a period. The choice significantly impacts the implementation process.
When modern and legacy systems coexist, you need to figure out how you are going to keep their data in sync. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is oftentimes the best way to do that. At the Food and Drug Administration, Deloitte is standing up an Appian instance to phase out part of a legacy system and using RPA to integrate Appian with the legacy system. It is providing an effective user experience by keeping data the same in both systems.
One of the biggest factors in an effective transition is using agile processes. Each agency is at a different stage in the process to move to a more agile mindset, but most agencies are familiar with the concepts and have the desire to make the transition. It can be helpful to start projects with Agile trainings to establish a common understanding of Agile processes among stakeholders.
In terms of creating an Appian application, it tends to be a standard IT software lifecycle where you gather requirements, develop, test, and ultimately go live. However, Appian really benefits from Agile simply because you can make changes so quickly in it.
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