What happened

Software specialist Appian (NASDAQ:APPN) outpaced the market last month by gaining 13% compared to a 3% spike in the S&P 500, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The rally added to market-thumping gains for investors in the volatile stock, which is up 20% over the past year but had been up by 40% -- and down by 20% -- at various times during that period.

A customer service representative speaking to someone via a headset.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Investors bid shares up on the expectation that the company would deliver solid fourth-quarter results. Appian didn't disappoint, as a 44% spike in subscription revenue helped it produce 19% higher sales in the period. Revenue for the full 2018 year improved 28%, which CEO Matt Calkins said was a testament to the company's leadership position in the low-code industry.

Check out the latest earnings call transcript for Appian.

Now what

Calkins and his team issued a mixed forecast that calls for sales to grow by between 14% and 16% to mark a slowdown from the prior year. Subscription services gains should decelerate markedly, down to about 29% from 40%. Yet, by keeping shares higher, investors seem to be signaling that they believe the company has a good chance of outperforming that target, just as it did in the fiscal year that just closed.