Ideation and Initiation

Skills Covered

This guide teaches you how to align business objectives with the right Appian technology.

Skills checklist:

  • Define and prioritize high-value opportunities to apply Appian capabilities. 
  • Use the Fit Assessment Tool to match each use case with the most appropriate technology. 
  • Translate high-value opportunities into appropriately sized and scoped projects.
  • Calculate and validate the estimated impact of a proposed solution.

Identification and Prioritization

Successfully identifying high-value opportunities for new application development is a cornerstone competency for organizations looking to extend the value they receive from their Appian investments. This requires both a technical understanding of Appian’s capabilities and the ability to accurately identify existing and potential business needs. Traditionally, business partners serve as the primary opportunity identifiers. While there isn't anything wrong with this approach, more mature organizations often have Appian Platform Owners or Product Owners proactively approach business partners with potential Appian solutions, rather than reacting to opportunities that are relayed to them.

When managing IT project demand from business partners, it's also important to prioritize and execute the right projects. Creating a prioritization matrix, based on strategic alignment, expected ROI, technology alignment, timeline for value realization, anticipated risks and other factors important to your organization, will help filter opportunities. While these factors will vary across organizations and industries, having a defined prioritization approach will help your organization select high-value projects that can be delivered on-time.

Appian Recommendations

Be proactive in identifying and defining new, high-value opportunities where the Appian platform can be leveraged for gains in cost, quality, or efficiency. Serving as a consultant or trusted advisor in this model, Appian Platform and/or Product Owners are often afforded a ‘seat at the table’ for critical roadmapping and planning discussions with senior business leadership.

A streamlined Project Alignment and Prioritization Calculator can collect project demand from various stakeholders in a structured format consistently. It should be simple to complete and should collect sufficient details to be able to prioritize the project relative to other projects in the portfolio. Some of these projects may come from annual budget planning sessions, while others may be identified ad-hoc as stakeholders are performing their regular work responsibilities.

While in this role, it's critical to ask the right questions to best understand potential opportunities and how your team can most effectively create solutions for business partners. Asking ‘why’ rather than ‘what’ can provide a deeper understanding into business needs, rather than just understanding that the business requires something. Be sure to use outcomes from the Project Alignment and Prioritization Calculator when working with key stakeholders to guide conversations to high-value outcomes.

Once projects are identified, they should be assessed based on potential benefits and prioritized to ensure development and delivery teams are providing the highest value possible. While benefits and weighting of benefits will vary based on organizational goals, structure and operating model, some factors to consider when prioritizing business demand for your organization might include:

  • Strategic Alignment
  • Sponsor Score
  • Business / Revenue Impact
  • Technology Fit
  • Architecture Alignment
  • Speed of Delivery
  • Business Risk
  • Technology Risk
  • Change Management Risk

BulbPractitioner Tip: Prototype Potential Ideas

Use rapid prototyping to quickly test and validate potential application ideas. As a low-code platform, you can very often create mini-demos to help partners visualize the future at a very low cost. This innovation through iteration process helps improve the quality of opportunities identified, especially very early in the idea generation cycle.

Fit Assessment

When planning for a new application, organizations should seek to find the technology best fit to match their desired needs. Some organizations may jump directly to development, often using their favorite legacy tools, defaulting to custom code creation, or caving to business pressure to use the hot tool of the moment. Unfortunately, these practices can have unanticipated consequences that can result in teams having to: re-develop the application using a more appropriate tool, changing the desired application to fit the needs of the tool part-way through development, or building something that isn’t quite what stakeholders wanted. While these don’t necessarily mean the resulting application is ‘bad’, they more regularly lead to suboptimal outcomes - both in development and once the application is deployed for production use.

Appian Recommendations

Within recent years the Appian value proposition has significantly grown, with the platform adding many advanced capabilities and features, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Process Mining, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Appian’s annual State of Low-Code (SOLC) customer survey indicates that organizations are increasingly looking to the benefits of these features to drive business value. Within the 2022 SOLC Survey, organizations identified the following top 5 benefits they anticipate achieving with Appian within the next 12 months:

  • Enhanced employee user experience
  • Increased responsiveness to business demands
  • Enhanced collaboration across functions or business units
  • Increased application development speed-to-market
  • Reduction of Risk

Appian strongly believes in organizations aligning key benefits to their emerging application use cases. That means making sure new applications can benefit from the Appian platform’s core strengths. To achieve this, we utilize the Appian Fit Assessment Tool to analyze whether your application will take advantage of Appian’s low-code development capabilities and strong end-user experience.

The Appian Fit Assessment Tool is a lightweight and easy-to-use method for analyzing application use cases. It's customizable based on your organization’s specific risk profile, data requirements and more, so be sure to adapt it for your unique needs. Some of the assessment criteria already built-in to the tool include the need to:

  • Deliver functionality rapidly
  • Automate complex business processes
  • Support business processes that cut across organizational groups or teams
  • Create unified user experience across systems

BulbPractitioner Tip: A Customization Example

Since the release of our Appian Fit Assessment Tool, we've reviewed its effectiveness with several customers. One customer, a large U.S. Financial Sector client, added custom criteria to the tool to focus on license utilization. This additional metric helped the organization understand total Return on Investment (ROI) and identify adoption cost savings due to many organizational areas already using Appian applications. Furthermore, it enabled them to identify a new organizational strategy to co-locate Appian integration teams to increase knowledge sharing, and improve enterprise architecture alignment.

Project Sizing and Estimation

Project sizing and estimation is a critical step in the initiation and ideation phase of project delivery. Many projects are not sized appropriately for various reasons, such as: lack of sufficient information on the current state, access to the right stakeholders, lack of understanding of the future state, incomplete knowledge of the systems to be integrated with, and flawed assumptions about project delivery. Projects that aren't correctly estimated routinely lead to budget overruns. This can not only cause stress across an organization, but also reduce business partner confidence that delivery teams can effectively complete projects.

Project size can vary based on factors such as delivery approach, technology selection, integrations, and resource dependencies. However, having a consistent and reliable way to estimate projects will improve project budgeting and increase the likelihood of project success.

Appian Recommendations

T-shirt sizing is a quick and efficient method for planning and prioritizing projects early in the project planning phase. It helps to determine the right projects to invest time and resources in, so that a more detailed scope can be established.

When project scope has been refined enough to understand key processes, business rules, integrations, etc., a detailed budgetary estimation should be completed following the approach on estimating Appian projects. This approach aligns well with the Agile Delivery Methodology, which assumes that the requirement details may change as they're expanded upon. However, the project scope should be managed jointly by the delivery team and the business.

This budgetary estimation approach works by drawing on 'analogous' projects, in contrast to the bottom-up approach to project sizing, which requires detailed requirements and an extended timeline to refine the requirements. An Analogous estimate compares a project's characteristics with the characteristics of similar projects completed in the past. This helps to provide more confidence than the bottom-up approach. With an agile delivery mindset, Analogous estimates allow for requirements to be elaborated and/or substituted during delivery, making it more flexible in the face of dynamic business needs.

BulbPractitioner Tip: Estimation Quality Comes From Experience

It's important to note that this estimation technique requires skilled and experienced leads, managers and architects who have experience delivering similar projects in the past. However, be sure to include junior team members and upcoming leads in the project estimation sessions so that they can gain experience and improve their skills in project estimation.

Value Confirmation

Before development begins, organizations should seek to confirm the value of what they're about to create. While this sounds fairly easy, value confirmation is often more complex than what first meets the eye. Development and delivery teams need to engage key stakeholders, build consensus around outcome metrics, and estimate customer impact, all while keeping the project driving forward. Traditionally, most organizations fall into one of three value confirmation approaches:

Traditional Approach

Approach Shortcomings

Spend several weeks immersed in a ‘comprehensive’ ROI calculation

  • ‘Comprehensive’ is often code for asking wrong or unnecessary questions
  • Delayed time to value as development teams wait for the green light 

Wait until after deployment to see the value and determine metrics


Assume value without stakeholder confirmation

  • ‘The business asked for it, so it must be valuable…’ isn't a viable outcome measure
  • Often requires substantial rework to achieve optimal value
  • Can lead to delivering a product which doesn’t support business needs 

Appian Recommendations

To create an approach that best fits your organizations needs, combine the approaches highlighted in the table above. That is, default to a lightweight value confirmation before deployment and ensure it’s a process that directly involves critical stakeholders. To implement this, we suggest a two step approach:

Step 1

Create a Project Charter in order to ensure value is clearly articulated from the beginning. A project charter is usually created during the Initiate Phase of the Appian Delivery Methodology.

Step 2

After the value charter has been completed, create an inventory of outcome metrics, calculate value, and compare that calculation against stakeholder expectations. Be sure that this exercise in conducted with the same group who completed the project charter. Look to spend no more than a few hours on this exercise and aim towards creating an understanding between the development team and key stakeholders.

To accelerate this process further, Appian suggests using our Value Framework as a starting point and customize it to your organization’s specific requirements. While each organization will have their own list of metrics and measurement types based on their strategy, several suggested categories and accompanying metrics are already built into Value Framework including:

  • Strategic Alignment
  • Sponsor Score
  • Business / Revenue Impact
  • Technology Fit
  • Architecture Alignment
  • Speed of Delivery
  • Business Risk
  • Technology Risk
  • Change Management Risk

BulbPractitioner Tip: ‘Good Enough’ Value Estimation Accelerates Development

Estimating value can be a difficult process, especially when legacy or highly manual contexts are involved. Furthermore, many organizations are focused on attaining a precise value estimate before development even starts, thereby hindering a development teams’ progress. Instead, strive to start with a ‘good enough’ project value and, if needed, supplement with additional measures over the course of development. Good proxy measures can include practitioner and end user interviews, along with approximate value estimation.

Downloadable Resources