Speeding up Appian Implementations through DevOps Automation

DevOps is a set of practices that ensures speedy and reliable delivery of business requirements. Popular use of Agile delivery methodologies such as SCRUM and Kanban requiring faster and more frequent release cycles can put a strain on release management processes. Adoption of DevOps practices can greatly ease this strain by improving collaboration between development and operations teams, and by automating key aspects of the development and delivery process.

Appian, a leading low-code platform, makes it easy to build enterprise grade apps at least 10x faster than traditional approaches. Agile methodologies such as SCRUM and Kanban are especially well-suited as the delivery methodology for building applications on Appian’s low-code platform. We discuss below some of the DevOps practices across the Appian development and delivery processes.

Continuous Integration (CI)

Continuous integration is an approach that advocates developers to check-in or integrate their developed objects into a common repository several times during the development stage, which are verified by an automated build. The benefit of continuous integration is that by integrating regularly, we can avoid the potential for cumbersome conflict resolution arising from larger less frequent check-ins and also detect errors quickly.

Appian provides a tool, Appian Versioning Manager, which enables frequent check-ins of developed objects into a common repository such as SVN or GIT to avoid the potential for cumbersome conflict resolution. Appian’s recent releases also provide a number of out-of-the-box capabilities to prevent conflicts that may arise from multiple designers editing the same object such as notifications about other edits taking place on the same object, and warnings before saving a new version of an out of date object. These intelligent features are especially helpful to manage shared development objects that are a part of multiple features marked for delivery on the same timeline. If shared objects are a part of multiple features marked for delivery on different timelines, then too conflicts can be managed through feature toggles with conditional logic to control visibility of not yet released features.

Appian’s Versioning Manager can also be used to create a consolidated build package either encompassing all developed objects in the specified branch or trunk, or encompassing a subset of developed objects typically only corresponding to the features ear-marked for delivery. A tool such as Jenkins or Bamboo can then work with Appian’s Versioning Manager to automate package builds based on pre-defined triggers.

Continuous Delivery (CD)

Continuous delivery is an approach in which teams produce software in short cycles, ensuring software can be reliably released more frequently.

Appian provides a tool, Appian Import Manager, which can be used to automate the deployment of package builds comprising application and patch contents to any environment. A tool such as Jenkins or Bamboo can then work with Appian’s Import Manager to automate deployment of builds into a target environment such as Test or Production environment, and enable continuous delivery.

Release Management and Automation

Once development has been completed, and code has been reviewed using Appian project implementation best practices checklists and Appian’s automated Health Check utility, a build can then automatically be delivered to Test environment using above described CI/CD practices for further testing and validation. Appian supports multiple automated testing approaches such as use of FitNesse Tool for automated end-user, system, integration, and regression testing, and automated testing of Appian Rules by executing a library of test cases. In case test results fail, necessary changes can be made to resolve identified defects in the development environment, and another validation cycle for a new build package can then be triggered. After tests are successful, the package can be marked as eligible for release to production, and all corresponding changed objects can be merged from branch to trunk in the repository. A build from trunk can then be released to the Production environment.

This overview is intended to provide an insight into how DevOps practices can ensure a more reliable and speedy development and delivery of applications built on the Appian platform by implementing practices such as continuous integration, continuous delivery and release automation using various tools. For a more detailed understanding of how DevOps practices can speed up your next Appian implementation, please feel free to contact us at info@polariseme.com.

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Benefits of Adopting Business Process Modeling Systems – Case Study

We recently implemented business process modeling systems for one of the largest providers of innovative, value creating plastics solutions in U.A.E. To continuously stay ahead of the curve, they take very seriously the quality and continuous improvement of their business functions and processes.

Challenge

Our client had been documenting business processes separately for each of their business functions across their organization. This had resulted in more than 30 verbose business process description documents often with non-standard modeling notations. Various challenges had emanated from this approach including:

  1. Misunderstandings about how the business process worked due to use of non-standard modeling notations.
  2. Misalignment in what was being documented and what was being performed by business and IT due to an inability to effectively control quality of such verbose business process description documents.
  3. Cumbersome exercise to maintain business process description documents due to the absence of an easy to use modeling tool, and modeling know-how.
  4. Difficult to locate business process description document for a business function due to absence of a single unified view that enabled easy browsing of business processes.

They had sought to overcome these challenges and achieve higher levels of organizational process maturity.

Solution

To overcome these challenges, we implemented a powerful enterprise-grade Business Process Modeling (BPM) tool, ARIS, that enabled creation of well-documented business processes, facilitated adoption of modeling standards across the organization, and maximized visibility of their business processes. As part of the implementation, we migrated their organization’s existing 300 or more business processes. This migration was achieved by first analyzing and standardizing business process hierarchy using industry accepted best practices, and subsequently migrating the business processes in ARIS using standard modeling notations such as VACD, BPMN, and EPC. Additionally, high-quality reports including navigable business process reports were automatically published to their organization’s internal SharePoint portal accessible by all employees, which served to democratize business process information to every employee. This solution laid the foundation for our client to overcome the challenges they had faced, and embark on a journey of continuous process improvement.

Benefits

There were many benefits that this innovative provider of plastics solution realized after the implementation of business process modeling systems. Noteworthy benefits included:

  1. Increased process agility as it became much easier to maintain and continuously improve business processes.
  2. Enhanced quality as the tool enabled increased stakeholder participation for improving business processes, and implementing better process governance practices.
  3. Achieved higher business transparency as all business processes were documented using standard modeling notations. Also, ARIS provided a single unified view of all business processes that could be easily navigated.
  4. Linked KPIs on their corporate balanced scorecard with each business process. This paved the way for a metric-driven approach to future process improvement.
  5. Automated the creation of high quality reports that were previously created manually. This resulted in tremendous time savings for their business process specialists by eliminating the tedious task of maintaining verbose business process description documents. Instead, the process specialists could now focus on making the business processes more efficient.

These are among the key benefits this organization realized after adopting business process modeling systems. For a more detailed understanding of how your organization may also benefit from implementation of business process modeling systems, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@polariseme.com.

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What, Why and How of Agile Implementation

What is Agile?

Agile refers to an iterative, incremental method of managing design and implementation activities that aim to provide new product or service development in a highly flexible and interactive manner. It is a process of making decisions based on the realities observed in the actual project. It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement.

Why are Agile methods beneficial?

Agile methods are focused on quick responses to change and continuous development to better address project needs. By delivering working, tested, deployable software on an incremental basis, agile development delivers increased value, visibility, and adaptability much earlier in the life cycle thereby significantly reducing project risk. Some of the major benefits of this approach are:

  1. Visibility: Agile development principles encourage active user involvement throughout the product’s development and a very cooperative collaborative approach which provides excellent visibility for key stakeholders.
  2. Quality: A key principle of agile development is that testing is integrated throughout the implementation lifecycle there by enabling regular inspection of the working product. This allows the product owner to make adjustments if necessary and gives the product team early insight of any quality issues.
  3. Predictable Delivery: New features are delivered quickly and frequently, with a high level of predictability.
  4. Transparency: Everyone involved on an agile project knows what’s going on and how the project is progressing.
  5. Change and Adaptation: Adjustments can be made quickly to minimize problems. While the team needs to stay focused on delivering agreed deliverables, there is provision to constantly refine and reprioritize the overall product backlog.
  6. Customer Satisfaction: The active involvement of a user representative and/or product owner, the high visibility of the product and progress, and the flexibility to change when change is needed, create much better business engagement and customer satisfaction.

Prominent Agile Implementation Approaches:

There are various prominent Agile implementation approaches. Two of the major approaches are:

  1. Scrum: Scrum is an Agile methodology where product features are delivered through a series of short time-bound sprints that usually span between two to three weeks. Each sprint results in a small piece of tested and working product. Features from product back log are prioritized in each sprint for delivery. A scrum master ensures that there is a daily meeting to keep track of progress and features are scheduled to be delivered within the sprint time frame. At the end of each sprint there is also retrospective to learn from the sprint and plan for the next sprint.
  2. Kanban: Kanban provides a visual system which aids decision-making about what, when and how much to produce. The work of all Kanban teams revolves around a Kanban board, a tool used to visualize work and optimize the flow of work among team members. This Kanban board also facilitates all blockers and dependencies to be immediately identified and resolved. In the Kanban approach, change can happen at any time where as in the Scrum approach, changes are not encouraged during the sprint. Also, Kanban does not have a time bound sprint and features are released as soon as they are ready.

Some of the other Agile approaches include:

  1. Extreme Programming (XP )
  2. Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) and
  3. Lean Software Development

If you require expertise for project delivery using an Agile approach, contact us at info@polariseme.com

*References: Wikipedia, Benefits of Agile Software Development by Segue Technologies

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Is UAE’s Banking sector ripe for M&A and what role could BPM play?

The merger of National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) and First Gulf Bank (FGB) anticipated to be completed by the first quarter of 2017 is seen as a precursor to more mergers in U.A.E’s financial services industry. The speculators point to there being too many banks serving a relatively small U.A.E. population of about 9 million people. The possibility of other bank mergers such as merger between Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) and Union National Bank (UNB) have also been reported in the news. Mashreq Bank’s CEO and head of the national banking industry association, Abdulaziz Al-Ghurair, also recently stated that Banks in U.A.E. are open to mergers in the near term and deals involving Dubai lenders cannot be ruled out. Due to these reasons we do anticipate increased M&A activity in U.A.E’s banking sector in the near term.

The world’s worst kept business secret is that most mergers fail. Per a KPMG study, eighty-three percent of mergers do not boost shareholder return. Although there may be many reasons for this high failure rate, the role of business process management (BPM) is too often overlooked as a facilitator to reduce risk. Here are some ways that BPM can reduce risk and be an enabler in the successful planning and execution of a merger:

  1. Business Operations Integration: Each organization may have their own innovative and unique processes to achieve business goals before the merger. For instance, customer on-boarding may be handled quite differently at each organization. Proper documentation of business processes will enable the transition team to gain a common and comprehensive understanding of the process without having to rely on someone’s memory for this. An in-depth understanding of the “AS-IS” processes at merging organizations is crucial in rationalizing and reengineering them to a unified “TO-BE” state. The proper documentation, rationalization, and reengineering of business processes to integrate business operations can be accomplished using BPM.
  2. People Management: People management is another challenging aspect of a merger between organizations. BPM provides a framework for the identification of the necessary user roles and describes the participation of these in competing tasks or deliverables for each business process. This can enable the transition team to identify the necessary resources, clearly delineate their areas of responsibilities, and manage cultural challenges much more effectively.
  3. Effective KPIs & Internal Controls: Choosing appropriate process KPIs and metrics that align with strategic goals for the merger is crucial for the measurement and realization of an increase in shareholder return. BPM can provide guidance in creating a business performance framework that dynamically links the valuation of business to process execution thus ensuring alignment with strategic goals. BPM can also be used to ensure new risks are identified, and proper levels of controls are established for the newly merged organization.
  4. Systems Integration: A seamless and unified systems experience can be accomplished using the workflow and advanced integration capabilities of any modern intelligent BPM software technology. Tailor-made BPM solutions can be developed that perfectly align with the unique “TO-BE” business processes and integrate disparate systems ranging from legacy in-house developed systems to various commercial of the shelf (COTS) products.

BPM can play a key role as an enabler for a successful merger between organizations. Should your organization require expertise in BPM to plan and execute merger activities, contact us at info@polariseme.com

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Abdul Latif Jameel launches Legal Contract Review Application built on Appian’s powerful low-code platform

Polariseme, a leading business process management (BPM) consultancy, today announced that Abdul Latif Jameel (ALJ) has launched a comprehensive Legal Contract Review solution to replace the manual approach for reviewing and approving legal contracts. Abdul Latif Jameel (ALJ) is comprised of diversified businesses with deep roots in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey (MENAT region). Over the years, ALJ has established an extensive operation infrastructure, built the largest vehicle distribution network in Saudi Arabia, and accumulated comprehensive automotive expertise throughout the region.

Challenge:

ALJ had been manually managing the review and approval of legal contracts such as NDAs, transportation contracts, MOUs, service level agreements, and supply or general purchasing agreements. This approach had resulted in many challenges including:

  1. Time-consuming review and approval process of legal contracts by ALJ’s legal and finance teams thereby cutting into their valuable time.
  2. Lack of visibility into current approval status and approval audit of a legal contract for those involved in the review.
  3. Absence of a unified view to search reviewed legal contract records since all document versions were scattered across hard drives, emails, and filing cabinets.
  4. Non-standardized vendor communication due to varying email responses and legal contract formats sent to vendors from ALJ’s different departments.
  5. Manual tracking of legal contract expiry that made it cumbersome to manage renewals of soon-to-expire contracts.

Solution:

PolariseMe had an existing and comprehensive Legal Contract Review solution available on the Appian App Market. After initial review of this solution, ALJ determined that the solution addressed more than 90% of their requirements for managing legal contracts. Since this solution was built on Appian’s powerful low-code platform, the solution was further configured within a short span of two weeks as per ALJ’s requirements.

This solution addressed ALJ’s challenges in managing legal contracts as follows:

  1. Automated the entire process of submission, review, and approval of legal contracts for ALJ’s legal and finance team. Solution also provided the flexibility for ad-hoc exceptional approvals and additional recipient input for certain contract clauses, if necessary.
  2. Made available a unified and organized collection of all legal contract review cases as records. These contract review case records were searchable and filterable based on criteria such as contract value, reference number, and vendor name. Additionally, legal contract and supporting document versions could be managed from the record.
  3. Gave visibility to all involved on the current status of the legal contract review cycle using graphical milestone view and automated news updates. A complete approval audit for the legal contract was also made available on the record.
  4. Standardized communication with vendors by automating email communication using uniform email content and consistent document format for approved contracts.
  5. Enabled more effective management of expiring contracts by providing automatic email reminders before contract expiry dates, and automating the contract renewal process once initiated.

Benefits:

The Legal Contract Review solution provided ALJ a standardized yet flexible case-based approach to manage the review and approval process of legal contracts. This solution automated many of the menial tasks involved in the review and approval process such as routing of tasks, conversion of approved documents to appropriate formats, emailing of approved contract version to vendors, maintaining audit details, and managing the automated reminders for renewal of contracts. This automation resulted in tremendous time saving for ALJ’s high cost resources including legal and finance team members involved in the review. Tracking of legal contract cases became much easier with a unified and organized view. All pertinent information and audit details of a legal case review such as versions of legal contract created during the approval were easily accessible from the legal case review record. Furthermore, the solution could be continuously enhanced to meet the demands of an evolving regulatory environment and changing business landscape since it was built on Appian’s powerful platform that tightly integrates business process management, data management and more.

Customer Quote:

“Appian helped us to organize our task doing contract review with the business, we used to review our contracts manually and now we have Appian in our plate we are now more organized we can easy track the contract and automated to the next concerned department. We work in a single platform and everyone will be updated on its progress. Hassle free and tension free as the system will auto escalate our request as per defined SLA.”

Download Case Study – Legal Contract Review Solution

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