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4 Ways Appian Values Working to Impact, Not Just Completion

Tim Carroll and Duncan Macdonald

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Working to impact, not just completion is one of Appian’s core values that demonstrates how we work. It drives our collaboration, how we make decisions and how we work with customers.

Two Appian leaders shared their project examples and ways they’ve seen this value in action in their everyday work. 

Meet Tim and Duncan.

Tim Carroll 

  • Technical Mentor on the Software Engineering team
  • Started at Appian in 2014 in Customer Success

Duncan Macdonald 

  • Area Vice President of Customer Success
  • Started at Appian in 2013 in Customer Success

1. Helping DC Central Kitchen automate processes so they can focus on community impact.

Tim Carroll: DC Central Kitchen is a local non-profit and social enterprise that has been fighting hunger and poverty for over 30 years. Since 2019, we’ve partnered with them to provide our software for free and volunteer to help build Appian applications that automate their processes.

I helped start the partnership and still volunteer with a team of other engineering coworkers at the Kitchen. We’ve heard how Appian has helped them scale efforts to transform millions of pounds of wasted food into millions of healthy meals and distribute them to children, families, and seniors in the DC area.

Before our partnership, they relied on hand-written delivery sheets and data across multiple platforms, spreadsheets, and paper. We heard from their staff that many businesses come in with good intentions but leave after half-finished work. We committed to understanding their challenges and building apps that were most impactful to what they actually needed. Even after setting them up in 2019, we’re continuously working with them on how to improve. 

DC Central Kitchen video 

2. Improving features for low-code developers. 

Tim Carroll: Appian lets you pull in and connect data from different systems, which is a fundamental part of our platform. Our "data fabric," as it's called, makes interacting with data across systems really simple, but it wasn't always that way. We've made huge strides in this area over the last few years, and although I haven't worked on the latest improvements, I led an early feature that really simplified our efforts called "Service Backed Records."

Service Backed Records are how you add external systems' data to the data fabric. Say, for example, you want to connect your Appian database to a customer relationship management (CRM) system and want to keep the CRM system as the source of truth for customer information. You'd use Service Backed Records for that. It wasn't always easy to do though.  The problems with this type of record boiled down to it being an older feature that hadn't been updated to use the latest capabilities of the platform.  When I was a Product Manager, I received questions from our Consultants and low-code developers all the time about how this worked. The documentation tutorial contained thousands of lines of instructions and code and was difficult to understand.  

Inspired by working on improvements to our other integration features, I came up with a feature that, with a relatively small amount of development effort, let us reskin the whole design experience and make it a lot simpler. Around this time I was transitioning to be a Software Engineer and was able to build this new feature in addition to helping design it. Within a quarter, we completely revamped the developer experience to use all of our latest integration capabilities and make this so much simpler. It was a big success! It definitely had an impact on how low-code developers use our platform and commit to truly making every aspect low-code, and accessible. 

3. Building trust in Customer Success: How a 15-minute exec presentation led to years of impact.

Duncan Macdonald: My team started working with a customer who had originally asked for a few minor fixes, but we realized they required a total rebuild of their apps, which was a much bigger project. We saw how the systems they had previously built in Appian weren’t as efficient as they could be, especially as they were looking to scale globally. 

We didn't want it to come across as a sales pitch, but we felt that we had a responsibility and a duty to articulate to the customer what the real situation was, and not dress it up.

After days of research and working together with the client to understand their challenges, we proposed a bigger rebuild project. They were hesitant at first, but agreed to a 15-minute presentation with their executive team where I had to distill everything into a few slides. Within a few hours, they agreed with our approach and it sparked a great years-long relationship. 

I think that kind of transparency and honesty showed them that we do have our clients’ best interests as top of mind, and with our Customer Success team, we don’t just do what’s easy or exactly what the customer is asking for. This transparency really resonated with the exec team and I think it was a breath of fresh air for them. 

The client then started working with our Expert Delivery team and we continue to challenge them on how Appian can best support their business goals. For example, we recommended adding in multi-language architecture from the beginning because we knew they had longer-term plans to use the application across their global business.  Applying this foundational component early required less work to implement than it would to retrofit later and helped the client get that much more strategic value from the product. We’ve now established a trusting relationship where they know we’re always thinking about what will have the greatest impact on our customers.

4. Growing our global team across EMEA and APJ. 

Duncan Macdonald: I joined Appian ten years ago when our European team was about 15 employees and our London office was a tiny loft space. We have established our fourth office in London, which is located in an iconic office space known as the Walkie-Talkie building. We currently have more than 500 employees in Europe and over 2000 employees worldwide. Moving to this new office a few weeks ago triggered a lot of reflection on how far we’ve come, and our growing impact globally.

The community you work with is the most important part of work. It’s the people who help create a fun, safe, supportive environment and determine the kind of impact and vision you can have working somewhere.

Last year, I took a short break from the company, returning to Appian a few months later in a new leadership role. The time away from the organization reinforced my belief that we have an outstanding product and a formidable team at Appian. The sense of community and focus on impact as one of our core values has remained the same since we started in that tiny London loft office, to where we are today.

Learn more about employees’ experience working to impact on our AppianLife blog.

Written by

Tim Carroll and Duncan Macdonald

Tim is a Technical Mentor on the Software Engineering team at Appian. Duncan is an Area Vice President of Customer Success at Appian.