Driving Digital Change Through aPaaS and Automation

This post is excerpted from GovLoop’s recent guide, Preparing for the Era of Digital Transformation

An Interview with Jason Adolf, Industry Practice Leader, Federal, Appian

The digital economy is filled with challenges and opportunities. For government, it’s not just a matter of keeping up anymore: it’s about staying ahead of the digital economy. To do that, government needs the most innovative digital technologies to modernize IT environments, drive efficiencies, and increase cost effectiveness, all while meeting citizens’ high expectations for digital customer experiences.

But legacy systems built five, ten or twenty years ago can’t meet the expectations of today’s citizens, nor the needs of today’s government employees. It’s up to government to respond with digital transformation. How? Agencies can use automation delivered via an application platform-as-a-service (aPaaS). An aPaaS is a cloud service that offers fast and comprehensive development and deployment environments for application services.

GovLoop spoke with Jason Adolf, Industry Practice Leader in the Federal Sector at Appian, to discuss how government can holistically tackle challenges to digital transformation using automation and aPaaS. Appian specializes in providing low-code solutions to help agencies drive transformation in the digital era.

Agencies have plenty of reasons to invest in digital transformation given the White House’s interest in making government more efficient. “The current administration is interested in reducing the cost of doing business in government,” Adolf said. “This pushes agencies to go from legacy systems to modernized tech environments that cost less to operate.”

Ironically, despite the concept of modernized technologies saving costs for government in the long run, the burden of maintaining legacy systems prevents agencies from pursuing real digital innovation. Additionally, when government leaders attempt to replace those outdated and legacy systems, they find the task much more difficult than simply ripping out one system and replacing it with a better one.

“The primary reason why agencies are not able to innovate is because they’re hamstrung by the types of legacy solutions and infrastructure that exist within their agency,” Adolf said. “The tools they have in place that are core to their mission in many cases are not designed to support innovation. They also have a lot of different tools in their environment. That means agencies are buying different products from different vendors until you have a lot of systems and complex problems to handle.”

To overcome these obstacles, agencies need to invest in one comprehensive platform to address different needs and missions. That’s where aPaaS can help. “First, with an application platform-as-a-service, organizations can build whatever they want on top of a single platform,” Adolf said.

With aPaaS, a developer can create a new application to meet emerging needs, without having to replace underlying infrastructure components. “It gives you all the tools needed to build a complete application from top to bottom without having to do real software development in a managed environment,” Adolf said.

In addition, through low-code, modular development systems, aPaaS solutions enable users to create their own apps within the platform, even if they don’t have a great deal of technical knowledge. A graphical user interface then simplifies the development tasks. Process management tools working in the background control data workflows and give IT the authorization management functions needed to maintain secure operations.

An aPaaS with particularly strong business process management (BPM) capabilities can help dramatically increase automation to drive greater efficiencies. This removes manual tasks from agency staff workload, allowing them to focus on other mission priorities. “Automation removes the easy, repetitive workloads off humans, allowing people to innovate,” Adolf said. “With more time, they can focus on work they need to be doing and deal with the complex issues.”

Appian’s aPaaS solution, for example, is intuitive to use and combines the power of enterprise-grade BPM with the speed of low-code development. It leverages a simple social interface, and delivers a development experience that is more like drawing than coding. Point-and-click and drag-and-drop options replace manual coding for rapid visual development. This allows even non-technically skilled users to change application processes to increase efficiency and productivity.

Getting started may be easier said than done but the payoff is worthwhile. “Agencies have to try it, as the investment required to start is not that high,” Adolf concluded.

Government is in the throes of digitally transforming the way operations, business and customer service are run. As a result, agencies are more reliant on modern technologies than ever to help them meet their requirements and goals of efficiency and cost effectiveness. Leveraging aPaaS and automation will enable agencies to free up the people required to maintain legacy systems while focusing on the innovation needed to drive digital transformation.

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