Intelligent Document Processing 101: How to unlock dark data

Find out how Appian Intelligent Document Processing uses machine learning and AI to extract data and improve business processes.


Appian’s Intelligent Document Processing solution allows you to extract and structure key data, enabling end-to-end business process automation.

In the very recent past, there were only two options for data extraction; you either used error-prone optical character recognition (OCR) software or relied on even more error-prone (and extraordinarily slow) manual labour. 

Now that we are a predominantly paperless, hybrid-working society, who split our time between office and home, and work without disruption across a multitude of different devices, we have neither the time nor the physical space for manual document processing.  

One of the main issues with everything being digital, however, is that a lot of key business data remains uncaptured and effectively lost in unstructured formats such as documents, emails, images and PDFs. Without the ability to scan, extract and re-allocate this data, it remains unseen and unused, for all intents and purposes non-existent. 

A solution such as Appian’s Intelligent Document Processing application changes all of that, bringing unstructured data into the light and sending it to where it will be most useful. 

What is Intelligent Document Processing?

Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) is the ‘next generation’ of data automation and processing. With the use of robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP), it quickly and efficiently scans, classifies and extracts relevant information, validating the extracted data and using it to ‘learn’ and become more effective over time. 

IDP is a key ingredient in intelligent automation. Being able to extract and classify both structured and unstructured data is the cornerstone of all automation projects, as, without a digital understanding of the data, manual intervention will still be required. With IDP and RPA working together, information and automation integrate and function harmoniously, leading to rapid data processing, reduced costs and the flexibility to augment or scale as needed.

How can IDP help solve business challenges?

IDP has the potential to be a major efficiency booster for organisations which rely on slow and manual data extraction. As we move towards an increasingly fast-paced digital world all businesses will soon need to process data autonomously. Having the ability to process complex data sources such as insurance claims, invoices and emails with bots will not only improve efficiency but will open the door to more flexible working options. 

Companies that work with sensitive and compliance-related data will also find IDP to be a powerful way to improve security and limit the risk of information leaks. Because there is a reduced need for humans to interact with the data, security breaches and errors will be minimised, and workers can be freed up to deal with more creative and strategic tasks. 

Perhaps the most important benefit of IDP, however, is its ability to quickly and significantly improve data usability. According to IBM, over 80% of company data is ‘dark data’ – meaning it is locked away in PDFs, emails and scanned documents. With the use of AI and RPA, IDP is well-equipped to unlock and unify these data sources so that they can be analysed and acted upon. 

And it is this unlocking of data that hints at IDP's long-term promise; to unify disparate systems, to structure data so that cognitive technologies can learn to be more efficient, and to be a key player in end-to-end process automation and remote workforce enablement.

Appian’s Intelligent Document Processing application

Appian offers a pre-built solution that uses AI and machine learning to extract and classify data from documents. With a pre-trained AI model, it can immediately tackle semi-structured documents like invoices and does not require templates for operation. Five to 10 sample documents for learning purposes can also teach the AI to auto-classify documentation, further removing the need for manual work. For current Appian users, it can be set up within minutes and integrates seamlessly with existing systems. 

For more detailed instructions on how to set up IDP on the Appian platform, take a look at their get started guide

Want to learn more about Appian’s Intelligent Document Processing solution?
Get in touch with the team today and we can discuss potential use cases for IDP technology within your organisation.

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