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Infuse AI into Your Processes with the Appian AI Skill Designer

Dan O'Keefe, Appian
May 16, 2023

Artificial intelligence (AI) has captured the collective imagination. Most news stories focus on the impact AI will have on the future and the productivity growth we might see.

Yet, the rank-and-file at most companies know the challenges of truly integrating AI into their workstreams. Organizations need results now. Solving real business challenges requires combining the power of AI with human workers in a seamless workflow.

That’s why we’re proud to announce the release of the AI Skill Designer as part of the Appian 23.2 launch. With the Appian AI Skill Designer, anyone can leverage the power of AI to process content and build intelligent applications while keeping enterprise data and AI models private and secure.  

The challenges of integrating AI.

Organizations have traditionally had two options for integrating AI into their workflows: they can either use a large public cloud AI service or invest in AI experts to build in-house AI models. Large public cloud companies may allow you to integrate their AI, but they require you to use their IT infrastructure. While there are some benefits to this approach, it also offers less control, flexibility, and, crucially, less data privacy than other approaches.

So, many companies choose to build their own AI capabilities in house—a process that has traditionally been complex and time consuming. Organizations hire data scientists to build new models or adopt existing ones and train or fine-tune the models as necessary. Then there’s the underlying data preparation work and the need to hire software developers to create useful functionality or visualizations. This can be cost-prohibitive for some organizations.

Appian’s new AI Skill Designer allows teams to apply artificial intelligence to critical use cases, including email classification, document classification, and document extraction—all within a low-code paradigm. Just add the AI Skills as you would any other design object, no third-party software or extensive data team required. 

What AI Skills are available?

Before developing the AI Skill Designer, we listened to our customers about the most important use cases. Document processing was far-and-away the top request. To that end, we offer:  

  • Email classification: Custom-trained skill to classify emails and route them to the appropriate person. 
  • Document classification: A document classification AI you can custom train to recognize and route documents to the appropriate workflows. 

  • Document extraction: Pre-built AI that lets you pull critical information from semi-structured data in PDFs, such as key-value pairs, tables, and checkboxes, and turn it into structured data for use in your applications.   

Simply select your desired skills from the menu to get started: 

How it works.

For two of the skills—document classification and email classification—you can train your own model using the AI Skill Designer. This requires a few steps: 

  1. Select the skill you want to train.
  2. Train the model.
  3. Test results and review metrics.
  4. When satisfied, deploy the model to production.
  5. Tweak when necessary.

You can create a new model at any time while keeping the old version. This allows you the option to retrain the model with up-to-date data to prevent data drift while keeping the skill operating model live, without interruption.

For example, to create a new email classification skill, you start by selecting the new skill as an object in the AI Skill Designer. Then, you create an email type, upload samples, and start training. Once satisfied with the results, you can publish the model—and access old models any time with easy versioning. 

Document classification works the same way. First, you select the new skill as an object in the AI Skill Designer. Then, create a document type (e.g., invoice or insurance claim form) and upload samples. All you need to do is provide a strong, representative sample of the documents you want to add—we recommend at least 50 documents—and   Appian will train the model for you. 


In both cases, you can add these skills to workflows as easily as you would any other design object: 

Document extraction works a little differently. It comes with pre-built models, so you don’t have to train anything—just add an extraction AI Skill to your normal workflow and enter the type of information you want to pull from the document type:

Why use the AI Skill Designer?

The AI Skill Designer from Appian offers multiple critical benefits.

First, it lets you easily work AI into your workflows. With our AI Skill Designer, you can deploy AI-driven processes that operate automatically at scale—which will result in an outsized return on your investment (and you’ll continue reaping that return for years to come).

Second, the AI Skill Designer allows you to integrate AI with the capabilities of the wider Appian Platform to offer true end-to-end process automation. For example, you could use email classification to route incoming emails to the appropriate work teams and automate responses for the more routine tasks like password resets via other automation tools like RPA. With the AI Skill Designer, AI Skills work together with all the other capabilities of the Appian Platform.

Third, our AI Skills offer greater privacy than other options. You train your own models—and we never use your data to train anyone else’s models, unlike a typical large public cloud service. There’s no third-party software required, so you gain greater security over your company’s sensitive data.

Finally, the AI Skill Designer lets you adapt easily. One common challenge related to AI is data drift. This occurs when input data distribution changes over time. In simpler terms, real-world data might change (for example, an invoice changing format), which makes the AI model less effective over time. With Appian, you can deal with this easily—simply upload a new batch of data, run the training again to create a new version of the AI model, and deploy. You’ll adapt in record time. 

What’s next?

This won’t be the end of what’s possible with the AI Skill Designer (or our commitment to bringing you the best in automation). Now that the framework has been built, we plan on enhancing the Appian AI Skill Designer with even more AI Skills over the coming months and years.

You can learn more about our AI Skill Designer—including our integration with OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT—by reading the press release.