Dissecting Appian 21.2’s Product Announcement

In our last blog, we talked about how to get started with the Appian low-code platform. Not too long after the publication of that blog, Appian broadcasted some exciting news: Appian announced the second batch of enhancements to the platform for 2021!

We were all looking forward to the release of version 21.2, as there were quite some interesting features on the roadmap. Continue reading if you want to know what’s in this latest Appian release. In addition, you will find out how Appian can help you to streamline your end-to-end business process automation.

User Experience

When developing an application, whether you do so with a Low-Code Application Platform (LCAP) or with custom development, the focus should always be on the end-user. Therefore, it may not come as a surprise that Appian has implemented improvements specifically designed to increase the user experience. Let’s have a look at what they have in store for us.

Mobile Offline Actions in Sites

Use Appian whenever you want, wherever you want. With this enhancement, it becomes possible for users to start processes without any network connectivity. Once your connection is restored, the process will be executed automatically.

Figure 1 Offline Mobile Availability (source: Appian)

Custom Background Colors

Corporate branding of your application was already possible with earlier releases. However, the options were somewhat limited. With Appian 21.2, you have the freedom to choose any background color you like for your interfaces. As a result, designing applications that match your organization’s branding now becomes child’s play.

Dark Color Schemes

Besides custom background colors, Appian also introduces three new dark mode styles: charcoal scheme, navy scheme, and plum scheme (see figure 2). Charcoal being a more grey color scheme, navy being very dark blue, and plum being very dark purple. Nice feature if you are a fan of a dark user experience!

Figure 2 Dark Color Schemes (source: Appian)

Loading Indicator on Buttons

Before this release, the loading bar was only visible on the top of the screen. Unfortunately, not all users recognized the latter. Therefore, they came up with a handy solution: a loading indicator on buttons. This may look like a small enhancement, but we believe this has a huge impact on the user experience.

Figure 3 Loading Indicator on Buttons (source: Appian)
Appian Portal Deployment Architecture (Beta)

Even though this feature is not part of the release itself, it is a major enhancement of the platform. It allows developers to automatically bundle Appian components (such as interfaces, rules, and integrations) into their microservice deployment architecture. This means that you can deploy your Appian application outside the core Appian runtime, and use it in any environment you like (such as an Amazon Web Service architecture).

Low-Code Capabilities

Even though Appian is already recognized as a Low-Code Application market leader, they have no intention of slowing things down. They continuously try to improve the platform’s low-code capabilities and, by doing so, speeding up development time. This was no different with this release.

Low-Code Data

One of the most occurring problems that organizations face these days, is data living in multiple silos. Such a scattered data architecture can slow down development time significantly, even when developing with a Low-Code Application Platform (LCAP). This is why Appian already introduced the ability to sync external data within the Appian architecture in more previous releases. But with Appian 21.2, you can even visually connect your data through relationships and create a single virtual data model across different data sources straight from the platform itself.

Figure 4 Visual Designer to Build Relationships Between Data (Source: Appian)
Auto Generate User Filters

Filters enable users to quickly and efficiently retrieve the data they need, so they can get their job done. Therefore, they contribute significantly to the user experience of the application. This is why Appian introduces the auto generation of those user filters. The platform is intelligent enough to detect relationships from the data model and automatically creates user filters for you.

Auto Generate Interfaces

Besides user filters, Appian 21.2 also introduces the auto generation of interfaces! Appian recognizes all the custom and normal fields of your data model, and automatically generates the user experience based on the data types. What a time saver!

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Besides democratizing application development, Appian also strives to create a more intuitive bot development experience. They have tried to do so by giving the possibility to assign tasks to the robot without having to write any code.

Windows Applications Automation

One of the most remarkable additions is the low-code actions for Windows user interface (UI) automation. This includes ready-to-use controls to open/close applications, get attributes of the applications, interact with elements, set search content, and wait for elements. A huge step forward for all Windows users!

Consolidate Keyboard Actions

Also configuring keyboard interactions becomes much more intuitive. You can use keyboard shortcuts by simply ticking the right checkbox from now on. Think about making your bot press the alt, ctrl, or shift button, combined with additional keys or text.

Post-Action Steps

When one of your robotic workforces completes a task, you don’t need to insert your waits anymore. This is automatically built-in to every element, together with the option to automatically capture a screenshot from each step before continuing.

Bulk Exception Handling

Do you have multiple failures in your robotic process automations? Don’t worry, because you are now able to perform bulk actions on failed processes. These actions include reassigning, updating, closing, and re-triggering these processes.

And there is even more exciting news coming from the RPA-corner: with Appian 21.2, one robotic resource is freely available for all cloud customers! A great opportunity to start your RPA journey at no cost, if you ask us!

AI Capabilities: Intelligent Document Processing (IDP)

There is no such thing as a hyperautomation platform without AI capabilities. This is why we are also very excited about the enhanced Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) capabilities that come with the platform.

Figure 5 Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) (source: Appian)
Native Extraction for Scanned PDFs

In this fashion, Appian improved the native AI capabilities of the platform with this release. The first important addition is that Appian’s document processing now supports extraction from scanned images and PDFs to identify key-value pairs.

Highlight Tables for Reconciliation

The next AI capability we’re excited about is the ability to highlight tables for reconciliation. This means that it becomes easier to train the AI model so it can handle more complex data structures (such as grids). By simply holding the Shift key and highlighting the table, Appian will automatically identify and map its structure.

Automatically Validate Documents

Thirdly, it becomes possible for end-users to identify which extracted data is essential for the process. By doing so, users can decide which fields are required when the AI service runs. The document will only be sent for manual review if the indicated field (think about a purchase order number) is not provided. No need to say this can speed up your process significantly!

Custom Validation for Auto Document Processing

Besides automatically validating documents, you can also set custom rules to validate the content of the extracted fields. Avoid manual reconciliation by running business logic on a document extraction and make sure the data matches your criteria.

Intelligent Process Automation at Its Best

Too often, process automation is still associated with only Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Understandable, since this technology has already proven its worth a long time ago.

However, at RoboRana, we truly believe the automation market is ready to look beyond this piece of technology. We’re moving toward a hyperautomation — or Intelligent Automation — toolbox, and the latest release of the Appian platform only confirms this.

Summarized, this release combines different technologies such as Low-Code Application Development (LCAD), Case Management/Business Process Management (CMN/BPM), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and bundles them into one Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) platform.

The technology is ready. Now, it is up to you. Dare to challenge your organization and reinvent your processes to reach true automation benefits. Ready to take the leap? At RoboRana, we are more than happy to support you in your automation journey. Just reach out to us!

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August 2, 2021

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