Build an End-to-End Robotic Process
This content applies solely to Appian RPA, which must be purchased separately from the Appian base platform.

Overview

Appian RPA contains modules to put the power of robotic process automation in your hands, without having to use Java. You can configure these modules in the Appian RPA console by adding values to parameters in the robotic process workflow configuration and storing returning values as robotic process variables.

On this page, you will learn how to create and configure a low-code robotic process. This page also describes how to integrate the robotic process in your application using a process model.

For guided walk-throughs on how to create robotic processes using Java, see the RPA tutorials. These tutorials describe specific steps to create robotic processes with defined purposes. This page talks about the same process, but more generally and at a high level.

Create a new robotic process

Robotic processes are created in the Appian RPA console.

Each robotic process is created from a template. Templates provide you with a zip file containing your robotic process's source code and a pre-built workflow in the robotic process configuration. If you're developing a robotic process using purely low-code functionality, you can disregard this package. However, if you plan to use low-code and Java modules, you'll want to save this file. See Custom Code Development for information on how to develop robotic processes with Java.

To create a new robotic process:

  1. Go to the Robotic processes tab.
  2. Click Create robotic process 2235137.png in the toolbar.
  3. Choose a template to start building your robotic process. To start from scratch, select Blank. rpa-pick-template-create.png
  4. Enter these details:
    • Name: Name to identify the robotic process. This value must be unique and can't be changed.
    • Permissions: Assign permissions to configure security for the robotic process.
    • Group: Location of the Maven project. This field uses the default value, although it can be modified.
    • Version: Version of the robotic process. This field uses the default value, although it can be modified.
    • Repository: Choose the URL used in the Maven configuration. This field uses the default value, although it can be modified.

    Most low-code robotic processes will use the default values for Group, Version, and Repository.

    rpa-create-process.png

  5. Click Create. The browser downloads the robotic process's source code and opens the robotic process configuration.

Configure the robotic process

After creating a robotic process, you are taken to the robotic process configuration. This page allows you to add general and technical information about your process, create the process workflow, add support files, and modify your security.

This section explains how to configure two key aspects of your robotic process: creating process variables and defining your workflow. To learn about the other configuration options available, see Configure a Robotic Process.

Create robotic process variables

Robotic process variables are placeholders for data that can be accessed throughout the lifecycle of a robotic process. These variables can be called in your workflow to pass data between workflow actions, and even between the Appian RPA console and your Appian application. See Using Robotic Process Variables for an example of how variables pass data between workflow actions, and even between your robotic process and other design objects.

To create robotic process variables:

  1. Click on the Task tab of the robotic process configuration.
  2. In the VARIABLES section, click New Process Variable Add new process variable icon.
  3. Enter a name for the variable.
  4. Under Type, search for a primitive data type or the name of an existing CDT in your Appian application.
  5. Select the Array (multiple value) checkbox to allow the variable to contain multiple values.
  6. Add an Initial value if applicable.
  7. If this variable is a parameter, select the Parameter checkbox.
  8. Select the Required checkbox to prevent a robotic process's execution until the input field has the necessary data.
  9. Click SAVE CHANGES in the toolbar.

rpa_variables

Parameters

You may want to configure your robotic process so it waits to execute until you provide it with some necessary data. For example, before the process executes, you want to provide a path to a file that needs to be processed, or a username that the process should enter in a browser.

These inputs are created from robotic process variables marked as Parameters. These values become input fields in the robotic process's Execution options.

You can only pass one value per parameter to the robotic process when executing the robotic process from the console. You won't be able to pass an array, for example. To pass multiple list values in the input field, you need to use the runWithParams endpoint in your integration object to execute the robotic process.

Modify the workflow

Robotic processes follow the steps defined on the Task tab of the robotic process configuration. It guides the robotic process's operations and determines the starting point and which actions to accomplish.

Depending on the template you selected when you created the robotic process, you may have some preexisting actions appear in your workflow.

Screenshot of the robotic process designer configuration

Add an action

Actions require the robotic process to perform a specific task before continuing with the next action. Similar to the Interface Designer, the Actions Palette shows you the actions that are available to add to the robotic process. Use the search bar to quickly find an action by name, or browse the list of actions within each module.

Screenshot of the Actions Palette

To add an action to your workflow:

  1. Go to the Task tab of the robotic process configuration.
  2. Click and hold an action in the Actions Palette.
  3. Drag and drop it to the section or action group where you want to add the action.

When you add an action to the workflow, the configuration options appear in the Configuration Pane within the designer. The configuration options vary based on the action you're adding.

rpa-new-designer-config.png

To configure an action:

  1. If your selected method includes CONFIGURATION parameters, configure the parameters as appropriate in the Configuration Pane:
    • Enter a static value.
    • Select a robotic process variable from a picker.
    • Use the expression editor to write an Appian expression. You can reference a robotic process variable in the expression editor using pv! and concatenate variables as needed.
  2. If your selected method includes OUTPUT parameters, configure the following parameters:
    • Operator: Select an option to store the value as a single-value variable (is stored as) or add the value as a multiple-value variable (is appended to).
    • Target: Enter the name of the robotic process variable where you want to store or append the value. If your process variable is type CDT, you can specify which field of a CDT to store the value into using dot notation.
  3. Configure the AFTER COMPLETION parameters:
    • Wait before executing next action (seconds): Enter the number of seconds the robotic process waits before it continues to the next action in the workflow.
    • Take a screenshot: If you select this option, the robotic process takes a screenshot of the resource immediately after the action completes successfully.
  4. Click SAVE CHANGES in the toolbar.

Use credentials

A robotic process may need to call a username and password to log in to a website. To pass this information securely, Appian RPA uses credentials. You can add credentials in the Appian RPA console and refer to them in a robotic process without exposing the information. You can configure a robotic process to use credentials through the Browser, Windows Automation, and Keyboard modules.

During a robotic process execution, Appian RPA reserves the credential entries being referenced. If the same credential is being used by other robotic processes and reaches its maximum usage, Appian RPA waits and tries to reserve the credential again. If the credential is still unavailable, the robotic process fails and you'll see an error message in the execution log.

  1. In the Appian RPA console, go to the Robotic processes tab.
  2. Click Credentials in the toolbar.
  3. In the Credentials editor, add the new entry. Enter the application name (such as Gmail), username, and password.
  4. Add permissions for the credential. Only robotic processes that share permissions with this set of credentials will be able to use them.

Next, add the credentials to your robotic process. Remember you'll only see credentials that share permissions with you and the robotic process. In this example, the robotic process is logging in using a web-based portal, so it's best to use the Browser module. Building a robotic process to log into an application? You can use the Type text action in the Keyboard module or the Interact with element method in the Windows Automation action to input credentials.

  1. Go to the Task tab of the robotic process configuration.
  2. Click and drag INTERACT WITH ELEMENT from the Actions Palette to your Main section..
  3. Under Interaction type, choose Update value with username.
  4. Choose the Selection method for the credential:
    • Any available credential: Use any credential associated with the chosen application. The robotic process uses any available credential's username for the selected application.
    • Specific credential: Use a specific credential entry. Select a credential entry to use in the Select credential dropdown menu. Each entry shows the credential's application name and username. The robotic process will use the username associated with the credential.
  5. Configure additional options for the action and click SAVE CHANGES.

When the robotic process reaches this part of the workflow, it will populate the chosen field with the username associated with the credential. If the credential has a maximum usage limit, the credential will be automatically reserved at this point as well. The credential is released when the robotic process execution ends. If your use case requires you to release the credential before the end of the process, you can use custom code to release a credential earlier in the robotic process, rather than at the end.

Add another action directly after this one to populate the password:

  1. In the configuration of the new action, open the Browser module and click Interact with element.
  2. Under Interaction type, choose Update value with password.
  3. Choose the Selection method for the credential:
    • Previously referenced credential: Select the application associated with a credential referenced previously in the robot's workflow. The robotic process uses the password associated the selected application and previously referenced credential. If no credential was previously referenced in the robotic process, the execution will fail when this method is selected.
    • Specific credential: Use a specific credential entry. Select a credential entry to use in the Select credential dropdown menu. Each entry shows the credential's application name and username. The robotic process will use the password associated with the credential.
  4. Configure additional options for the action and click OK.

When you're finished, click SAVE CHANGES in the toolbar.

Send documents to Appian

You can use a robotic process to retrieve documents from a legacy system and send them to Appian. Automating this process can be especially helpful if you're dealing with a large volume of files, or if you want to use Appian's document extraction suite to process the information they contain.

First, create a robotic process and configure it to retrieve the files from another system. In this example, the robotic process downloads PDFs from a web portal:

  1. Go to the Task tab of the robotic process configuration.
  2. Click and drag OPEN BROWSER from the Actions Palette to your Main section..
  3. Choose the Browser Type to open and the URL to navigate to.
  4. Click and drag Interact with element from the Actions Palette to your Main section..
  5. Configure the options so the robotic process identifies the download link or icon on the page, and choose Click on element as the interaction.
  6. Configure additional options for the action and click SAVE CHANGES.

After the robotic process completes this action, the file should be downloaded on the resource. Take note of where the downloads are saved; you'll use this path in the next action.

Next, configure the Upload Document action in the workflow:

  1. Go to the Task tab of the robotic process configuration.
  2. Click and drag UPLOAD DOCUMENT from the Actions Palette to your Main section..
  3. Configure the available options:
    • Upload Type: Choose Upload a file.
    • File Path: Input the full path of the file to upload using a text string, a robotic process variable, or the expression editor.
    • Document Name: Choose the name of the document object to create in Appian using a text string, a variable, or the expression editor.
    • Target Folder: Choose where to save the document in Appian. Enter a folder ID or use the expression editor to enter a constant.
  4. Click SAVE CHANGES in the toolbar.

Continue building and configuring other components of your workflow. When the robotic process executes, it will download the file to the resource and then send them to Appian.

Add a conditional flow

The robotic process designer allows you to quickly configure conditional flows. Conditional flows are decision points for a robotic process's execution, where the path of the flow adjusts based on specified conditions. The results of conditional actions determine the path the process will follow. Use conditional actions to make your robotic processes more dynamic. For example, if a web element is present, copy the value; otherwise, add an error message to the log.

Conditional actions only return true or false and include:

When you place conditional actions in the workflow, they automatically generate Yes or No flows to configure. Actions that return true map to Yes flows; actions that return false map to No flows. Add actions to the resulting flows just as you would for the main workflow.

Conditional action screenshot

To add a conditional action:

  1. Go to the Task tab of the robotic process configuration.
  2. Click and drag an action from the CONDITIONS section of the Actions Palette to your Main section.

    If your conditional action is more complex than just yes or no values, considering using the Evaluate expression method from the Appian Services module to create an if statement.

  3. Add more actions to the resulting Yes and Now flows to indicate which actions should execute depending on the condition.
  4. Click SAVE CHANGES in the toolbar.

Choose setup and clean up actions

You may want to configure actions to occur before or after the robotic process's main workflow executes. Before an execution, you may want to prepare the resource by opening and logging into an application. Similarly, when your robotic process completes, it should reset the resource to its original state.

Appian RPA includes default Setup and Clean up sections in the workflow where you can configure these actions, such as closing any open applications or terminating any background processes.

You don't need to add the setup or clean up section to the main workflow because these actions are important to ensuring a stable and predictable resource. Appian RPA calls these sections automatically during a robotic process execution.

To configure setup or clean up actions:

  1. Go to the Task tab of the robotic process configuration.
  2. In the Workflow, select Setup or Clean up to expand them.
  3. Click and drag an action from the Actions Palette to the expanded section..
  4. Optionally, add more actions to the workflow section and configure them as needed.
  5. When you've finished, click SAVE CHANGES in the toolbar.

GIF: Expand Setup section. Then, drag Open Browser action from Actions Palette to the Setup section.

Use the robotic process in your application

Now that you've created the robotic process, you can integrate it with a new or existing process model in Appian. This way, you can choose how and when the robotic process starts in the context of a broader business process. Although there are multiple ways to execute a robotic process, this section will focus on how to use the Execute robotic process smart service in a process model.

Create a service account

Before you get started, you'll need to create a service account and generate an API key to authenticate with Appian RPA.

  1. Go to the Appian Admin Console.
  2. In the Authentication menu, select API Keys.
  3. Click Create.
  4. Enter a description for the API key.
  5. Select the service account to associate with the API key. Click Create Service Account to create a new one and associate it here.
  6. Click Create.
  7. Copy the API key. You'll use this when you create the Appian RPA connected system.

Create the Appian RPA connected system

Next, create the connected system to establish a connection with Appian RPA.

  1. Go to the Appian Designer.
  2. Open your application.
  3. Click NEW > Connected System.
  4. Select Appian RPA as your template.
  5. Give the connected system a name and description.
  6. Enter the API key associated with the service account.
  7. Click Use in New Integration.
  8. In the Create Integration dialog, choose Execute Robotic Process in the Operation field.
  9. Enter a name and description for the integration.
  10. Click Create.

Configure the integration

The Execute Robotic Process integration can be called from the smart service in the process model. Configure the integration after you create the connected system object:

  1. In the integration designer, configure these execution details:
    1. Robotic process: Select the robotic process to execute. This list contains robotic processes you have permission to see in Appian RPA.
    2. Resource: Select the resource where the robotic process should execute. Choose First available resource if you don't need to use a specific one.
    3. Description: Enter an optional description to be sent to the execution log in the Appian RPA console.
  2. If your robotic process expects parameters to execute, create rule inputs and map them to the parameters in the robotic process configuration.
  3. To test your integration, click Test Request.
  4. Observe the results to verify if the connection was successful.
  5. When you've finished, click Save Changes.

Create or update a process model

Now that you've set up the connection to Appian RPA, it's time to put it to use:

  1. Create a process model object or find and open an existing process model.
  2. In the Process Modeler, drag the Execute robotic process smart service to the Process Model canvas.
  3. Open the smart service to configure it.
  4. Click the Setup tab and choose the integration you set up earlier.
  5. Click the Data tab to configure the input and output:
    • If the integration uses rule inputs, configure the smart service inputs to pass the appropriate value for each rule input.
    • The smart service lists variables as an output. If a robotic process variable is a CDT, you can reference a specific field using dot notation.
  6. Click OK to save the smart service configuration.
  7. Continue designing or updating the process model. If you're using the robotic process results in other nodes, be sure to update those properties appropriately.
  8. To save the robotic process results in your Appian datastore, add and configure a write to data store node.
  9. Publish the process model.

View the results

Finally, you'll want to consider how to display or use the results of the robotic process. How you display the results is determined by your goal. If you're sharing a set of this information with others, an Appian record in your application could be a good option. Alternatively, if you're looking to troubleshoot or optimize your robotic process (notably in the development phases), you might want to take a look at the Execution Details in the Appian RPA console.

This section describes both approaches. Learn how to create a record type and populate it with details from a CDT, and how to create a record-powered grid.

Create a record

Appian records aggregate and display your data to provide users with information they need, whether to act or be informed. When a robotic process execution concludes and sends information back to Appian, it's time to use it in your application.

See Create a record to learn how to display robotic process results alongside your other Appian data.

View the execution details

Sometimes it's more helpful to view all information about a robotic process, including metadata about the execution. All of these details are available in the Appian RPA console.

To view execution details:

  1. Go to the Robotic processes tab in the Appian RPA console.
  2. Click the robotic process you're interested in.
  3. On the List of executions, click an execution to view its details.
  4. Three tabs appear:
    1. Workflow: This tab shows you the actions the robotic process went through. The workflow appears just as it does in the robotic process configuration. See modify the workflow for more information about how to set this up.
    2. Results: If your robotic process acts on items, the results tab displays information about each execution cycle, as well as a summary of the process overall. This tab uses color-coding to show items by their status.
    3. Execution log: This tab shows the most technical information for the robotic process. Each time the robotic process starts or completes an action, or encounters an issue, it sends a message to this log with a timestamp. The execution log is valuable for troubleshooting and debugging. You can configure your robotic process to send custom messages to the log as well.
Open in Github Built: Wed, Aug 10, 2022 (11:17:47 PM)

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