About Appian RPA

Robotic Process Automation

Learn how to develop effective and efficient robotic processes for your business.

What is RPA?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a series of scripted programs that perform routine actions a person normally does. A process takes data as an input, performs actions, and provides an output, either in the form of additional data or accomplishing a task. For example, you might be asked to regularly copy customer information from an email and paste it into your company's lead tracking software. This is a manual task that doesn't take much thought, but can require a lot of time.

Robotic processes act much faster and more precisely than a human being does. Robotic processes can step in when humans could be performing other tasks that require higher levels of thinking, such as tasks that require judgment or complex evaluation. So instead of copying and pasting data, you can spend that time contacting potential customers and building relationships.

RPA transforms business processes to be more efficient, highly available, easily replicated, and reliably consistent. Automation lets businesses delegate routine yet time-consuming tasks to a computer program, freeing up an employee's time and mental energy to focus on more impactful and high-value work. RPA saves businesses time, money, and brain power.

About Appian RPA

Appian RPA is a feature of the Appian platform for automating tasks using RPA. Appian RPA is made of multiple components hosted in both the Appian Cloud and in the customer environment. The components communicate during the development and execution of robotic processes.

As you begin to learn about Appian RPA, you'll learn the terms and phrases used throughout the feature. We've developed a list of Appian RPA key terms to use as a reference.

Appian RPA's web-based console is where users can create and configure robotic processes, resources, queues, and other RPA objects. The definition of these objects are stored on the orchestration server. Robotic processes rely on Java artifacts stored in the console repository. Developers use Maven to push new or updated Java methods to the repository. These artifacts can then be used in the robotic process definition.

When a robotic process runs, the orchestration server retrieves the needed Java artifacts and assigns the execution to a resource. The agent on the resources are constantly polling the orchestration server and will see this new assignment. The agent then retrieves the artifacts needed for the robotic process to run (if not already on the resource) and start the execution.

This diagram demonstrates how Appian RPA components communicate:


Key terms

  • Robotic process: A scripted program designed to automate tasks and steps in a business application. Notably, robotic processes can be built to interact with user interfaces and perform steps that a human being might otherwise need to do.
  • Resource: The physical or virtual machine on which a robotic process runs.
  • Agent: A Java process that executes robotic processes initiated on the RPA Console. Agents run on resources. The agent serves as a connection between the resource and the Appian RPA Console.
  • Console: The dashboard where you can create, monitor, and change robotic processes. You can also control permissions, scheduling, and other settings from the console.
  • Console repository: Where Appian RPA Java code is stored. You'll deploy code to the repository when you develop or modify code for your robotic processes. When a robotic process is executed on a resource, the Java code is also deployed from the console repository to the agent that connects the resource to the console.
  • Workflow: The ordered steps the robotic process executes. Create a workflow in the console.
  • Queue: A set of items that are part of a common process and that will be processed by one or more robotic processes.
  • Module: A collection of related out-of-the-box (OOTB) methods that a developer can use. These methods are not specific to an individual robotic process but can be reused throughout Appian RPA processes.
  • Library: A collection of custom methods written by the Appian RPA developer. Libraries allow developers to reuse custom methods across different robotic processes.
  • Template: If you're just getting started with robotic processes or using a robotic process to automate a routine activity, you can start with a template. A template lets you begin developing with common modules and steps in the workflow. You can then edit these pieces to fit the needs and goals for your robotic process.

Elements of robotic processes

A robotic process is made of two main parts: the Java code and a workflow. The Java code works behind the scenes to power the robotic process. To develop new methods in Java, you'll need to write the Java code locally and deploy it to the console repository. You can create a workflow in the Appian RPA Console to configure the steps a robotic process should take when it starts.

Administrators can use the Appian RPA Console to initiate, schedule, and monitor robotic processes. RPA is also integrated with Robotic Workforce Manager (RWM), where you can view reports that provide insight into how often and quickly a process runs. This data can be used to help demonstrate the value of your business's robotic automation implementation.

There are three main user types in Appian RPA: administrators, developers, and operation managers. Developers code robotic processes, push the necessary files to the console repository, and deploy robotic processes, while administrators set up resources and configure additional settings from the console. Operation managers help manage and troubleshoot robotic processes that encounter problems.

Learn how to create a robotic process with Appian RPA.

How to use robotic processes in Appian

Now that you're familiar with RPA, it's time to get started using robotic processes in your applications. In practice, robotic processes and process models work together to automate tasks and events in Appian. A process model can trigger a robotic process, retrieve the results, and capture data as variable values to use later. Similarly, a robotic process can be configured to start an Appian process.

To use a robotic process in an Appian process model, you'll use the Appian RPA connected system and set up integrations. Similarly, you can use the Appian Services Module to communicate with Appian during process execution. For example, use the module to trigger a process model or upload a document.

If you are currently using Robotic Workforce Manager (RWM) to automate some of your processes in Appian, take a look at the RWM docs to learn more about how the two work together.

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