Define your Low-Code Strategy

Skills Covered

Defining a low code strategy is the first step before jumping fully into project development. This is more than just 'picking applications to build,' it’s about defining how your organization will use and obtain measurable value from your investments in the Appian low-code platform.

Skills Checklist:

  • Understand the importance of identifying customer needs before development begins.
  • Identify methods to employ for aligning business goals with development outcomes. 
  • Define the ‘good enough’ estimation approach for determining application business value.

Identify Customer Needs

Since it's easy to start building right away, a common mistake with Appian is to 'build first, ask questions later.' This may lead to accelerated production of low-value, disconnected applications. Thus, understanding customer requirements is a crucial first step before beginning development on an application.

As your development team's velocity continues to increase, your ability to build in low-code may outpace your ability to define business value drivers. With that in mind, you must go beyond traditional requirements gathering. Without doing so, you could suffer 'death from 1000 low value apps,' and undermine your business case for investing in low-code. You need to understand the ecosystem of the business, and the broad spectrum of its needs and challenges, before helping to build applications that solve these problems.

Listen closely to how business units articulate issues and needs in their own voice. While it’s important to understand what they’re saying, be aware that what they’re asking for might not be the application the business actually needs. Conducting customer job analyses or root cause analyses can help your team hone what actually needs to be built. These exercises will also ensure both you and stakeholders are able to understand the needs in terms of business benefits delivered, versus features requested.

We highly recommend being proactive partners in this process. Coming to the table with potential application opportunities or use cases can help build trust and confidence that everyone is working towards the same goal.

Clarify Business Goals

Business goal alignment is the ultimate benchmark for measuring the priority of a low-code project. Measurable business goals for a project allow you to calculate the project’s return on investment and can be used as a way to clarify expected outcomes.

Organizational or business unit goals regularly inform project selection and direction. However, these high level goals are often vague or directional in nature. A common pitfall is “Rip and Replace” efforts. These often miss hidden or 'evolved' requirements derived from business goals. Appian platform owners should ask ‘why’ questions to clarify business impact and align with specific business goals.

We recommend using common frameworks such as OKRs (objectives and key results) or other organizational tools to help in this process. Making sure goals are clearly defined will not only help set common expectations, but also track outcomes. This assists with prioritization decisions by asking how a feature contributes to the overall objective. Be sure to harmonize around appropriate project and application expectations building a way of working that is effective for your teams and stakeholders.

Cascade these goals into technology priorities and the solutions you build by breaking them down into smaller, bite-sized goals which can be directly assigned to development teams (or team members).

Measure Business Value

Before development begins, you need to make sure what you are building drives clear and measurable business value. This is not always easy and some organizations under-invest in the activity as teams rush to start building. However, this is vital to ensuring your development teams remain focussed on what matters to your organization.

Setting the groundwork for measuring business value requires you to engage key stakeholders, build consensus around outcome metrics, estimate customer impact, and much more while also driving forward on the project. Traditionally, most organizations use one of the following value confirmation approaches:

Traditional Approach


Spend several weeks immersed in a comprehensive ROI calculation

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

Wait until after deployment to set metrics and determine value

  • "The business asked for it, so it must be valuable" isn't a viable outcome measure
  • Often requires substantial rework to acheive optimal value

Assume value without stakeholder confirmation

  • Can lead to delivering a product which doens't support business needs.
  • Often requires substantial rework to acheive optimal value

With the speed of low-code development coupled with “good enough” estimation practices, this step can be completed much faster. So, how do you create an approach that’s right for your organization? Default to a lightweight value confirmation before deployment and ensure it’s a process that directly involves critical stakeholders. “Good enough estimation’” is rigorous enough for decision making whereas extreme precision does not yield extreme decision clarity. We suggest a two step approach.

Value Calculation and Variables

Create an inventory of outcome variables. These variables should be a quantitative expression of what you and your stakeholders define as value. Use these variables to calculate potential project value and compare that calculation against stakeholder expectations.

You should try to spend no more than a few hours on this exercise and drive towards understanding between the development team and key stakeholders. To accelerate this process further, you can use a Value Framework as a starting point and customize it to your 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:

  • Human Capital Optimization
  • Operational Efficiency
  • Cost Deferral
  • Risk Reduction
  • Business Performance Improvement
  • Customer Impact

Institutionalize Metrics & Reporting

Well-defined metrics enable you demonstrate value to the leadership and establish trust with the business units. There are two types of metrics you’ll want to us:- platform-level and application-level metrics.

Platform-level metrics enable the platform owner to demonstrate that the Appian platform is used effectively and providing value to its stakeholders. Some of these metrics can be easily monitored on the Appian platform using MyAppian including:

  • Platform daily usage
  • Daily Unique mobile users
  • Health Check reports
  • Average response time (cloud environments only)

However, platform-level metrics may not be sufficient when there are multiple applications built on the Appian platform for various business units.

Application-level metrics specific to a project enable the platform owner to demonstrate that the low-code investment is providing valuable returns. These specific metrics vary depending on the type of application and the expected benefits. Also, they need to be measured and tracked for each application. Some examples of application-level metrics that might be included on a custom dashboard are:

  • Number of integrated systems
  • Number of users registered
  • Number of markets launched
  • Number of processes completed
  • Number of records created
  • Number of record/report views
  • Average cycle time of steps in a process
  • Milestone completion time
  • Percentage of tasks completed
  • Percentage of task SLAs met

We cannot overemphasize the importance of having a strong low-code strategy at the very beginning. While an organization may be able to get away without one for a project or two, it is far more powerful to have an established set of strategic goals and metrics, as well as a plan to achieve them. Without a plan, you run the risk of development efforts outpacing your ability to control them.