REI Insights

4 Missteps to Avoid When Modernizing Public Health Systems in Appian
February 15, 2023
Scientist inspecting medication.

We work with a public health agency that ensures the public is safe from dangerous or fraudulent products. As with any large organization, that agency faced a challenge – its 20-year-old information management system was slow, clunky, and difficult to use. It was time for a change. That’s when the agency turned to REI Systems and the low-code platform, Appian, to modernize and streamline the system.

Appian’s simple visual interface lets non-technical users create applications quickly and easily, using building blocks such as process flows, forms, and reports, without writing a single line of code. This helps organizations make their processes smoother, automate their work, and be more efficient by quickly getting the applications they need.

Although there is a growing trend in government for low-code development, successful implementation hinges on key considerations. We have identified lessons from our experience with a public health agency that can help other health agencies avoid mistakes when using Appian for modernization. Understanding these lessons also reduces the risk of similar mistakes in other modernization projects.

Lesson 1: Make sure you have the budget for staffing.

Appian experts are often more expensive than regular developers, so it’s important to have a staffing plan to make sure the right number of resources are assigned to your project. A critical aspect of this plan should include an Appian architect with a deep understanding of the platform’s capabilities and the goals of your project.

This architect will be responsible for setting up the framework of the application, which requires a thorough understanding of the platform’s features and how they can be leveraged to achieve your desired outcomes. Without a properly skilled architect, challenges can arise during the development process, leading to unexpected costs and delays.

To avoid this, it’s crucial to carefully plan and budget for the resources you need from the start, factoring in the cost of Appian experts. Investing in the right talent will help you achieve a successful and cost-effective Appian development project.

Lesson 2: Pick the right talent with the right skill set.

Low-code development promises to revolutionize how organizations build and deploy applications, but it takes the right talent to fully realize its benefits. Early on, we discovered that having an Appian expert was vital to the success of this modernization effort.

For example, the required field asterisk icon is different in Appian compared to the industry standard that all users are familiar with seeing. Having an Appian expert who understands these differences can communicate what is possible in Appian – and what was not.

Also, when staffing a project, think about the right mix of skills. Perhaps you won’t need a UI/UX expert; instead, it’s more important to have a strong analyst who understands the framework and can communicate with the customer about their requirements. This person can be more impactful than a traditional product owner.

Lesson 3: Know Appian’s pros and cons.

Before starting a project with Appian, consider its advantages and limitations. Quicker development, improved efficiency, and lower costs are some of the benefits of low-code solutions, but it’s not the same as traditional custom software development and may have limitations. Communication of these constraints and realistic expectations are key to success.

After launching a minimum viable product, reassess if more customization is needed and stay informed of low-code’s technical limitations to make the best decision for your project.

If your agency has a legacy system, you can’t compare it to the new, modern application being built. Understand that the old system was created with custom code, and this new application uses low-code, which is not the same. Comparing them is like comparing apples to oranges and doesn’t make sense.

Lesson 4: Educate the end users from the get-go.

Appian development emphasizes teamwork between developers, business users, and stakeholders to ensure the final product meets everyone’s needs. Not everyone will be familiar with this approach. Invest in training and education to help your staff understand the approach of Appian and how it differs from traditional software development methods.

One key aspect is to educate them about what Appian can do – and what it can’t do. Too many changes can slow down progress and up expenses. Keep in mind the limitations of low-code when using it, as it’s meant to provide quicker results. A great deal of customization – tweaking buttons or user interface elements, for instance – will go against this purpose and lead to higher costs.

Finally, Appian development also differs from traditional methods in the way it approaches design. Instead of presenting a design mockup in Adobe XD or Illustrator for example, provide the actual live development system for approval instead. This is different from the typical UI/UX wireframing and prototyping process customers may be used to and helps to ensure the final product meets the needs and expectations of everyone involved in the project.

For more information about how your health agency can leverage Appian for modernization efforts, contact one of our Appian experts at info@reisystems.com.  


Aswini Balasubramanian is a senior project manager at REI Systems

Priyal Harode is a program manager at REI Systems.