I don’t think any code is so user-friendly yet: Muzammil Patel from Acies Techworks

Founded in 2017, Acies TechWorks’ next-generation no-code platform powers enterprise applications. Acies won an outstanding project award for its work on a bank’s data management framework at the second edition of the Regulation Asia Awards for Excellence 2019. ‘regulatory requirements. Our job was to make sure that data flows are better managed, data dictionaries are built correctly and data is recorded,” said Muzammil Patel, Global Head of Strategy and Corporate Finance at Acies .

Analytics India Magazine spoke with Muzammil Patel to learn more about the company’s technology solutions and no-code platform.

OBJECTIVE: Walk us through the no-code journey of Acies TechWorks.

Mouzammil Patel: We wanted to be technology driven when we started. We learned that knowing coding is one thing, and developing technology and maintaining it is another. After a few years, we started making a concerted effort to unify backend coding to create more maintainable systems internally. We are traditionally a financial company and our customers demand security and privacy features. (After some coding and hiring issues, the founders thought), how can we remove that coding entirely and get domain experts to start building apps from the ground up? Within a few years, we were able to unify the backend and remove the coding element entirely. Today, our applications are built on our local platform and used by several banks, financial companies, etc. Much of our no-code use case passed through our systems about a year ago when a customer asked why we couldn’t have the platform itself? We quickly realized that we couldn’t have the whole domain to ourselves, and we couldn’t create all of the existing apps. The only way to scale was to open up the platform more widely. We first opened it up to the B2B business market, then to industry experts, and this year our goal is to really democratize it and open it up in a way that you can log into a portal and start building your enterprise-wide application.

Tech Works is our technology business and its backbone is the no-code platform. We have other applications built on this platform. Our advisory business maintains cash flow for investments in the technology sector. We are now focused on supporting the implementation of our technology and helping our customers rethink how to operate in this new low-code world. It’s not an easy process on organizational structure or culture. Lighthouse is our learning management platform where we take content from the technical side and make it available more broadly. Our fourth vertical is business.

AIM: Tell us about your technology stack.

Mouzammil Patel: We started by anchoring things on Python frameworks because Python is initially the easiest syntax to use and it’s not hard to find people with Python expertise. Going deeper, we realized that it wasn’t the most optimal framework for high speed or better UI. Parts of our computation occur in C for speed. So at a very superficial level, it’s built on top of a Python framework. But very fundamentally there is HTML, CSS, React and more. We use many technologies from the Apache Foundation for data streaming units, higher speed analysis, and handling large data items. Traditionally, low code has focused on process flow, but we’re putting our energy into data management and IT. But none of these technology components from the Apache foundation help with that, so we’ve built several things around that.

AIM: How can companies go no-code?

Mouzammil Patel: Initially, it is difficult to believe in no-code. Many people have gone from being experts in a professional field to simply learning to code and build apps. Then, making a whole cultural transition where the code is going to be replaced by no code is difficult. It took us about a year to make this cultural transition. However, people started realizing that they could build very quickly. Customer transition was also difficult. We’ve worked with clients who initially reacted by saying no, it’s not possible. There’s still a long way to go, and I don’t think we’re there yet. But it will inevitably happen; I think the problem with no code even today is that what you’ve eliminated is the coding and to some extent the architecture, but not the business analyst layer. I don’t think any code is so user-friendly yet, where you can give it to a business user as a self-service business application. We are working to achieve this last layer through the simplicity of the user interface and the engagement of natural language. These two things are essential so that no code becomes practically self-service for a professional user. I think it’s a transitional phase.

AIM: Can you share some case studies?

Mouzammil Patel: We work with a large private sector bank in India on the wealth management side. Their biggest challenge is collecting data from various sources, analyzing it, and letting sales teams know which customer is giving what feedback and what products they need to sell. The challenges also include simpler things like customer onboarding, KYC and more. We’ve done projects without code, including the computational and analytics part, but the computing part is tough here. They wanted to double their automation. The other thing they set as a goal was the time RMs spend actually engaging with the customer versus moving customer documents from point A to point B. The idea was to cut their time by 50 % of the day less than two hours. We have been largely successful in creating solutions for these.

We have also worked with a few banks on their traditional asset and liability management. Traditionally, the problem with almost all ALM implementations was that for every system, ten people worked on it. Banks need to generate and collect data on a daily basis, but they wanted to reduce their number of employees to one or two, or even less. Our models allow the insurer to process approximately 7 billion transactions processed on our platform.

AIM: What lessons have you learned over the years?

Mouzammil Patel: We operate in countries other than India, primarily in the ASEAN region; Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Middle East, and we have a dispersed presence in Europe and the United States. From a global trend perspective, we see a couple of things happening. First of all, we are seeing a lot more pooling. When it comes to everything from central KYC, why should it be repeated in different places? Why shouldn’t people have a unified utility? Thus, with regard to the whole pooling in the field of financial services or infrastructures, we observe a spectacular acceleration. It is a direct cost reduction at all levels. On the analytics side, we see that people have made a lot of investments in BI tools. We are starting to see many people wondering how the technology would be designed to deliver unified data, compute and BI together and asking for such a unified model. People want to switch to self-service analytics. AI and ML still need a lot more computing power and hyperparameterization; these occur. But with ML, the basic predictive models have to be part of the ecosystem.

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