Insight by KPMG and Appian

Why low-code might be the answer for modernizing government operations

The demand for a digital-first strategy at federal agencies has only increased since 2020. The pandemic kicked off a massive migration to the cloud; all of the ...

The demand for a digital-first strategy at federal agencies has only increased since 2020. The pandemic kicked off a massive migration to the cloud; all of the agencies that had not explored it yet, or were just dipping their toes in, suddenly found themselves in need of more digital capabilities. But this sudden urgency has left many agencies without the time to fully evaluate their options and figure out the best way to achieve their goals.

The mindset shift to seeking ways to incorporate leading digital technologies into government operations and transform systems to be as agile as possible is beginning.  Many government organizations are finding answers in low-code development, which provides greater flexibility and agility in the way they perform business operations as well as more extensibility for existing systems. Because it doesn’t require creating custom code, low-code delivers better speed to market and speed to value.

“Two years ago, people looked at low-code in a different light, and specifically, they looked at it for lower-level, back office–type applications. What’s changed dramatically is that we have deployed several significant mission-critical applications in a very short amount of time. What we see now is major application transformation solutions coming out to bid and government agencies asking for low-code as the preferred technology solution,” said Jason Adolf, the industry vice president for public sector at Appian.

Low-code has grown rapidly in the last couple of years. Agencies have used it to embed robotic process automation, elements of machine learning and natural language processing native to their platform and for other more advanced use cases.

And with Appian, agencies can do all these things with minimal disruption to their data.  Appian allows agencies to leave data where it sits while still building from day one.  Down the road, if an agency decides to migrate data to another data store, the end user will never know the difference. There is no disruption in service, which is crucial to the user experience.

“Appian is focused on this idea of being flexible. We can be the source system if you want to use our native database.  But we also allow you to build views of data that are actionable with the data living wherever you choose,” Adolf said.  “The government’s got data sitting everywhere.  If I’m trying to build a view of the business, that data could live in several different places, managed by several different contractors, in several different parts of the organization. Trying to get all of that data migrated or duplicated into some data store in order to start building my application could take months or years.”

Appian also believes in complete automation—that is, the ability to orchestrate people, systems, data, bots, and AI in a single workflow. Agencies can use zero-code integrations, pre-built connectors, and industry-standard connectors. They can use RPA to access legacy systems and custom API’s for bidirectional end-to-end integration.

Agencies need a platform to modernize their operations and systems. A single platform lets agencies manage their entire organization from one place, facilitating integrations, making automation more efficient and providing a better experience for stakeholders and constituents.

And these days, agencies need to be able to achieve all this at an accelerated pace. With the current political environment, changes in government are more frequently being made through policy rather than legislation. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important for federal IT employees to react quickly to new policy changes or regulatory reform to satisfy demands of citizens and policy makers alike. By leveraging low-code, agencies can reduce the time needed to stand up a new capability, and a platform like Appian helps ensure a positive experience for all.

“We find that because of the nature of low-code, we’re able to stand up our capabilities faster and get our folks trained up much, much quicker,” said Kirke Everson, lead principal for U.S. Government Intelligent Automation at KPMG LLP. “And so that allows us to deliver to an increased demand, based on policy-driven changes, much easier than getting a bunch of folks trained up on a number of different coding languages, building custom code, and hoping it works. We’re coming to clients many times with either accelerators that we have built, or accelerators that we leverage from Appian, to meet those demands in a shorter amount of time.”

And there’s also a much lower barrier to entry. Low-code development is easier to learn than traditional coding languages, so agencies have the flexibility to leverage junior employees or non-traditional developers.

“You still need technical acumen to be able to be a fairly seasoned developer in any low-code platform. So you can’t just pull someone off the street and say, ‘Go develop low-code,’” Everson said. “But it is a reduced barrier to entry, versus trying to build something from scratch with custom code. Low-code enables a simplified and structured approach for rapidly implementing a production-ready capability.”

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