Appian (NASDAQ:APPN) has had an incredible run since going public just over two years ago. The company has also been extremely volatile -- and that has certainly been the case in 2019. While the stock is up nearly 50% so far this year -- more than triple the performance of S&P 500 -- investors have endured more than one instance of the stock falling double-digit percentages.

Appian will have another opportunity to make its case directly with investors when the company reports the results of its second quarter after the market close on Thursday, Aug. 8. Let's take a look at what Appian does and its recent results to see if that provides any insight into what investors can expect when the company reports earnings.

A man and woman working on a computer, designing a smartphone app.

Image source: Getty Images.

What's low-code, anyway?

Appian has capitalized on the growing dominance of mobile apps and the ongoing shortage of skilled coders to develop those apps. The company's low-code platform facilitates the design and development of software applications without requiring advanced computer coding skills. For users who possess those skills, it speeds up the process by making it more efficient. 

Because Appian has helped facilitate the app economy, the company has seen high demand for its platform. Another driver has been the "Appian Guarantee," which pledges that new customers will be able to finish their first project in just eight weeks. 

Leads to impressive results

In the first quarter, Appian reported revenue of $59.6 million, up 15% year over year. Professional services -- which is a low-margin business and tends to be lumpy from quarter to quarter -- generated revenue of $24.7 million, essentially flat year over year. The subscriptions, software, and support segment grew to $34.9 million, up 30% year over year.

From a long-term perspective, the most important component of the the company's results is recurring revenue. During the quarter, subscription revenue grew to $33.6 million, up 32% year over year. The subscription revenue retention rate clocked in at 116%, meaning that once customers discover the ease of Appian's platform, they tend to expand their use of its tools. On the conference call, CEO Matt Calkins said the number of seven-figure deals increased during the quarter by eight of the company's existing customers. 

What the quarter could hold

On the strength of its first-quarter results, Appian raised its full-year guidance. The company is now forecasting total revenue in a range of $255 million to $258 million, which would represent year-over-year growth of between 13% and 14%. Appian is expecting subscription revenue in a range of $150.5 million to $152 million, an increase of between 30% and 31%, and its professional services revenue to remain flat at $100 million. The company is also anticipating an adjusted net loss per share of $0.50 to $0.55.

For the second quarter, Appian is guiding for total revenue in a range of $63.3 million to $63.8 million, which would represent year-over-year growth of between 6% and 7%. Subscription revenue is forecast to be between $36.5 million and $36.7 million, an increase of between 35% and 36%. Appian is anticipating an adjusted loss per share in the range of $0.17 to $0.18.

The consistent increases in the company's recurring revenue and high retention rate are good indicators of Appian's future success, and investors will be looking for more of the same when Appian reports earnings.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.