I've known about Appian (APPN 2.61%) for a few years, and I gave it a thumbs up in Motley Fool CAPS a while back. In the four years I've been following it, Appian's stock price has doubled, running up 105%. That's a solid if unspectacular return. (Although it was way higher a year ago -- the stock price has crashed from $150 a share last June to its current price around $57.)
While I was reviewing Appian's recent earnings report for one of the Fool's video services, I had the opportunity to dig a little deeper into the Appian story. And I was amazed at what I found.
Appian is top dog in the no-code/low-code revolution
Appian offers a cloud platform where software is simplified. Gartner estimates that two-thirds of the apps developed in 2024 will be low-code. Microsoft has a low-code platform; so does Salesforce.
What separates Appian -- the company's been around for over 20 years -- is that its simplified software platform is mission-critical. So if you're an insurance company, for example, you can run your business on Appian's platform. In fact, any large-scale business can run its major software operations using Appian's low-code cloud solution.
Why would you want to do that? Well, out-of-the-box software can be very inflexible. It won't allow you to do things that you want, or need, to do. So you might subscribe to a software solution, and then you're unhappy with it. So you drop that subscription and try somebody else.
With Appian's no-code software platform, you can easily tweak the software to get it to do what you want. You build new apps on top of the software. That ease of use and flexibility is why more companies are ripping out their expensive IT solutions and are moving to Appian's cloud.
Its main competitor, Pegasystems, was so impressed with Appian's offerings that it hired people to spy on Appian and steal their trade secrets. That's what a jury concluded this week as it awarded Appian $2 billion in damages.
It was Appian's dominance in the low-code space that made me bullish on the stock. But while I was watching the story play out, I hadn't invested any money here. That's when I dug into the story some more, and I got really excited.
The company's Q1 conference call is worth a read
Buried in the transcript to Appian's Q1 earnings call, there was a statement in the Q&A with analysts. Matt Calkins, the company's chairman and CEO, said:
There's interest around our growing solutions portfolio. There are now 75 solutions written by our partners in addition to the solutions written by Appian. And ... those partner-driven solutions are up in revenue, 265% year over year. So there's interest in other features as well as low-code data [that] has seen extreme usage over the past year.
When a company subscribes to Appian's cloud solution, it pays fees based on the number of its employees on the platform, plus whatever software solutions the company has ordered. So, like many software-as-a-service stocks, Appian has a "land and expand" strategy.
And Appian's revenue growth is 29% in Q1, not bad for a mature company. But what made me blink a couple of times is that 265% growth rate in partner-driven solutions.
I love all the third parties building apps on Appian's platform
When companies have tech issues, they often call in consultants to help solve the problem. Many of these companies have partnered up with Appian to help spread the no-code revolution. These are some of the biggest names in IT consulting, like Accenture, Cognizant, Deloitte, EY, Infosys, KPMG, PwC and Wipro.
To me, that's huge news. I expect Appian, like any other software company, to build apps that its customers will love. But what's highly unusual is that consultants are using the platform to build apps for Appian clients.
And these IT consultants want to distinguish themselves from their competitors. So using Appian tools, they build out software solutions that solve problems.
From an investor standpoint, you really want to own a technology platform that is so popular, it attracts third parties to build on top of it. For instance, what makes YouTube (part of Alphabet) such a fantastic investment is all the content that is created by third parties. Appian is the top dog and first mover in the low-code space, and that gives it an incredible network advantage.
Appian is still a small company, with under a $4 billion market cap. I expect the valuation to increase exponentially as more and more IT consultants use the Appian platform to solve all the problems and IT headaches caused by rigid, inflexible software solutions. That's why I'm going to be buying shares in this small company, as soon as Fool trading rules allow me to do so.