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What is Intelligent Document Processing?

Catherine Canary, Appian
February 8, 2024

In a world drowning in documents, intelligent document processing (IDP) is a lifeboat. Imagine freeing yourself and your teams from the frustration of manual data entry (and the human error that always comes with it). This is the promise of IDP—a transformative force for any kind of document processing work.

What is IDP?

At its core, intelligent document processing is an automation technology that blends optical character recognition (OCR), robotic process automation (RPA), and artificial intelligence (AI). It helps computers decipher unstructured documents, letting you access valuable data hidden in paper forms and siloed databases. 

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Why should you use IDP?

You can use IDP software to make processing documents of all kinds faster, easier, more accurate, and less expensive. Let’s talk a little more about each of those benefits of IDP.

Process documents faster.

Gone are the days of tedious manual data extraction. With IDP, documents are swiftly scanned, interpreted, and categorized, allowing for rapid processing. Say goodbye to the sluggish pace of traditional methods.

Increase accuracy.

Human error, the perennial nemesis of data accuracy, is effectively eradicated with IDP. IDP leverages advanced machine learning and deep learning algorithms, ensuring precision in every data extraction and classification process.

Lower costs.

By automating repetitive tasks and minimizing manual data entry, IDP slashes operational costs. The efficiency gains translate into tangible savings, making it a strategic investment for forward-thinking organizations.

How Appian Customers Are Using IDP

A financial asset management firm had to gather invoices from 22 vendors who billed on varied weekly and monthly schedules. This required an employee to visit each vendor’s website on the day their invoice would be posted, download the invoice, manually enter information into an app, and then wait for further processing. They turned to Appian to automate this process. They leveraged Appian’s platform approach, using RPA in tandem with IDP and AI, to build and deploy a broad invoice processing application that: 

  • Uses a bot to access each vendor’s website to download the invoices.

  • Uses AI and IDP to extract data from the invoices. 

This combination allowed the firm to automatically process 100% of invoices from all 22 vendors in the application.


What are the use cases for IDP?

IDP can be used in any industry for almost any use case involving document processing.


Use case: Claims processing

In the insurance sector, IDP becomes the unsung hero of claims processing. Rapid extraction and validation of data from claim forms, receipts, and medical reports translate into faster claims approval and a streamlined reimbursement process.


Use case: Procurement

Governments grapple with massive documentation in procurement processes. IDP comes to the rescue by automating the extraction and organization of key information, reducing manual workload and enhancing procurement efficiency.

Financial Services

Use case: Compliance

Navigating the labyrinth of regulatory compliance is simplified with IDP. Extracting and analyzing information from policies, procedure documents, and financial records ensures a faster and more accurate audit preparation process.


Use case: Large-scale process automation 

IDP is not just a standalone solution but a crucial component in large-scale process automation efforts. Meaning while you can use it for automating individual tasks, it is better used as part of an enterprise process automation effort. IDP seamlessly integrates into end-to-end automation initiatives, making it an indispensable tool for enterprises aiming to automate their diverse business processes

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Take a platform approach to IDP.

It’s true that there are plenty of standalone IDP solutions on the market. But I hate to say it, if you’re thinking of IDP as a single, separate automation undertaking, you’re probably doing it wrong. It’s a smarter strategy to invest in a holistic AI process platform with IDP as just one capability. This integrated approach, which includes RPA, AI, and data fabric technologies, paves the way for organization-wide, large-scale process automation.

AI, in particular, is a critical capability to combine with IDP. That’s why the Appian Platform includes AI Skills, a design object that lets you classify and extract data from documents entirely automatically. Watch the video below to see how AI Skills allows teams to apply artificial intelligence to critical use cases, including not only document classification, but also email classification and document extraction.

Why consider a platform approach?

  • Seamless integration: IDP becomes part of a cohesive automation ecosystem.

  • Comprehensive capabilities: Address not just document processing but broader business automation needs.

  • Future-proofing: Position your organization for the future by adopting a scalable and adaptable platform.

From enhancing speed and accuracy to contributing to broader automation initiatives, IDP stands as a beacon guiding organizations toward a future where the burden of manual document processing is but a distant memory.

Want to find out more about the competitive edge you stand to gain with IDP? We wrote this eBook for you: 6 Key Advantages of Eliminating Manual Document Processing