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Working with Email


Appian is the ideal place to access, combine, and take action on your enterprise data, and email is a common source of this data. Thankfully, Appian offers many ways for you to ingest, process, display, and send emails. With Appian, you can centralize the wealth of information that comes in emails from vendors, colleagues, or customers and use that information in your workflows.

The way you configure Appian to interact with email depends on your purposes and the data involved. This page describes how to use email with Appian, including guidance and tips to improve your design experience.

Tip:  Some email configurations may be specific to your deployment method. Review Email on Appian Cloud and Mail Server Setup for additional details.

Determine what you're working with

As you explore the methods of getting email into Appian, you'll want to consider:

  • Volume: How many emails will be sent to Appian?
  • Size: How many KB or MB of data is contained in the emails?
  • Attachments: How big are the attachments? What file formats do you expect?
  • Senders: Do you want to only accept mail from a list of valid senders through an allow list?
  • Server type: What type of server do you use for email? You may need to involve your IT professionals.
  • Spam: Do you want to implement strategies to keep spam out of the inbox?

The method you choose might depend on these factors, so we've pointed these out below.

Getting emails into Appian

There are multiple methods for email ingestion in Appian, depending on the number of emails you're working with and what service you use.

Send a large volume of emails to a process

If you want to ingest a larger volume of emails into Appian, we recommend using alternative methods instead of the Receive Message Event. Learn more about sending an email message to a process. You can also use plug-ins or RPA to automate high-volume email ingestion in Appian:

Email service Recommended integration method Usage considerations
Outlook MSGraph Email Poller plug-in Saves as structured data and EML file as document.
IMAP Mail Poller plug-in Limited functionality.
Legacy systems Windows Automation actions (RPA) Robotic tasks interact with the screen as humans would.

When ingesting emails into Appian using these methods, we recommend the following:

  • Messages should be in EML format.
  • Limit subject lines to 78 characters.
  • Limit the body size to between 15 and 100KB.
  • Set up a dedicated Outlook inbox for each Appian environment to poll. This scales better and plays better with the MSGraph plugin functionality. Outlook admins know how to set up multiple mailboxes to auto-copy mail to a dedicated inbox. Another things that's easier to set up from the onset than refactoring later.

Best practices

As you test your implementation, pay special attention to:

  • How emails appear when sent to Appian using the CC or BCC fields.
  • Variations of what can be received in Appian.
  • How inline images are received and stored in the process.

Processing emails with Appian

Once an email message is in Appian, you'll want to build pathways or additional smart services into the process so you can act on the email appropriately. Here are some recommended patterns for processing emails in Appian applications.

Build a triage process

A fully automated email process could quickly pollute your production data if spam or other unintended messages are processed in Appian. To prevent this, we recommend building a triage workflow into your process. Use logic to determine when a human being should review the data, and write to a record or other database after a person verifies the information is legitimate.

Classify emails based on their type

Your business probably responds to customer inquiries differently from how you respond to invoices or purchase orders. If you receive many message types in large volumes, it can take a lot of time for human beings to read and route these messages based on their content.

Appian can classify these emails for you. Build an email classification AI skill to train a machine learning model to identify patterns in messages and predict what category each email belongs to. Then, you can build pathways to route those emails to individuals or further automated steps in the process.

Extract data from an email

Tip:  The integration methods listed above already extract and save EML data to the database. The following guidance only applies if not using one of those integration methods.

The content of an email is often specific to the type of email. So once you've categorized the emails, you can extract important data to then use throughout your application. The Create & Read Email File Utilities plug-in contains smart services and functions you can use to extract important information from email files.

Case management

Emails are common in case management scenarios. Incoming emails might trigger creating a new case, or may be relevant to an existing case. You can configure a process model to determine if an email is relevant to an existing case by using a case number or customer name, and then route them to the proper individuals in the organization.

Further, you can configure your process to assign a task to those individuals or save any attachments from the email into Appian.

Displaying email content in Appian

For best results, we recommend the following when displaying email data in an Appian interface:

To view HTML or attachments, configure links to open in a new tab. If possible, we recommend not using the a!documentViewerField to view emails.

If you must display an email or attachment in-line, generate a PDF of the HTML and use the document viewer component. Alternatively, you could also use a Web API to link to the original email and show a preview in Appian.

Sending emails from Appian

Finally, you can send email from an Appian process model. This might be useful in processes that generate a confirmation, receipt, or proof of any other type of transaction.

Appian provides built-in functionality to send emails for the following situations:

  • Password resets
  • Forgot password
  • Task assignment

Note:  Outbound email is very sensitive to a combination of site, smart service, and domain name configuration. For example, when an email is sent from the Send Email Smart Service, how that email both appears to the recipient and how it's processed by the receiving server can vary wildly depending on site properties, smart service configuration, domain name configuration, and how the site has configured custom senders.

We recommend thoroughly testing processes that send email to ensure it behaves how you expect.

Using the Send E-Mail smart service

Plain text emails are the easiest to configure and have the most predictable appearance in a variety of email clients. The following are unsupported in emails sent from Appian:

  • Inline images
  • Indentation
  • Divider lines
  • Nested lists

Develop a template to send standardized emails from the Send E-Mail smart service. With a template, you can use variables to populate an email with record data at runtime.

To prevent spoofing or the email being marked as spam, configure the custom sender for messages sent from Appian. We also recommend configuring the Reply To field so that any replies to the emails you sent go to a monitored inbox.

Additional methods

You can also set up an integration with an email service such as Outlook using the Microsoft Graph API. To do so, create an HTTP connected system and choose an integration method based on your intended design pattern. Then, use the Call Integration node in your process model to call that integration and pass your intended data to the Graph API.

Best practices

The following tips can help ensure emails sent with Appian appear and behave as you intend:

  • Test with different email clients to verify formatting appears as desired.
  • Consider the following aspects, which may affect performance when sending email from Appian:
    • Volume of email
    • Size of emails and any attachments
    • Number of recipients
  • Test the message's spam score using free online tools.
  • You may also find it useful to add a toggle to the application to enable or disable sending emails.

Working with Email