Low-Code Robotic Processes

Use a low-code robotic process in your application

Appian RPA contains low-code 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 and storing returning values as robotic process variables.

On this page, you will learn how to create and configure a low-code robotic process in the Appian RPA Console. 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 page.

To create a new robotic process:

  1. In the Robotic processes menu, click Create robotic process 2235137.png in the toolbar.
  2. Choose a template to start building your robotic process. To start from scratch, select Blank. rpa-pick-template-create.png
  3. Enter these details:
    • Name: Name to identify the robotic process in the console and in your Maven project. 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 value is populated with a default value, although it can be modified.
    • Version: Version of the robotic process. This value is populated with a default value, although it can be modified.
    • Repository: Choose the URL used in the Maven configuration. This value is populated with a default value, although it can be modified.

    rpa-create-process.png

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

Save the source code

When you create your robotic process, the source code is downloaded to your machine. If you're developing a robotic process using purely low-code functionality, you can disregard this code. However, if you plan to use low-code and Java modules, you'll want to save this file.

The source code contains the IRobot interface and the @Robot annotation, which allow the Appian RPA API to identify a robotic process. Every Appian RPA robotic process must implement the Client module interface IRobot. You can use the source code to add more complex Java methods and module dependencies.

To interact with the source code, you will use Maven and an IDE. Any time you add or modify the Java code, you must deploy to the Appian RPA Repository so the changes appear in the console.

Configure the robotic process

After creating a robotic process, you are taken to the Robotic process configuration page. 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 Robotic process configuration.

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 from low-code modules 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. In the Robotic process variables section, click Add variables.
  2. Enter a name and description for the variable.
  3. Under Type, search for a primitive data type or the name of an existing CDT in your Appian application.
  4. Add an Initial value if applicable.
  5. If this variable is a parameter, select the Parameter? checkbox.
  6. Select the Required? checkbox to prevent a robotic process's execution until the input field has the necessary data.
  7. Select the Multiple? checkbox to pass an array of values in the input field.
  8. Click Save variable.

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 in the Workflow section of the configuration. It guides the robotic process's operations and determines the starting point and which actions to accomplish.

Depending on the template you selected, you will have some preexisting actions appear in your workflow. Similar to an Appian process model, each robotic process will always have a start and end action.

rpa-modify-workflow

If you click the list icon 951644.png on any of the existing actions, you'll see they are each associated with a method. These methods are configured within the source code that was generated by the template. To learn about the individual methods, review the template's source code.

rpa-start

In addition to Java methods, you can use the methods available in the low-code modules to easily configure workflow actions using a user interface. This is where you can call the robotic process variables you created earlier in the configuration to pass data as parameters or store returning method values.

Add a generic low-code method

Generic actions require the robotic process to perform a specific task before continuing with the next action. Generic actions can use any of the methods available from a low-code module.

To add associate a method from a low-code module with a generic action:

  1. In the Workflow section, add a general action rpa-task-icon
  2. Select the action and then click the list icon 951644.png.
  3. From the Module tree, open a low-code module and select a method. The right-hand pane displays the method and any available parameters that can be added or values that can be stored.
  4. If your selected method includes parameters, you can:
    1. Enter a static value
    2. Select a robotic process variable from a picker
    3. Use the Expression editor to write an Appian expression. You can reference a robotic process variable in the Expression editor using pv! and concatenate the variables as needed.
  5. If you select a method that returns a value, choose to either store or append the value to a robotic process variable using the Operator dropdown.
  6. In the Save Into field, enter the name of a variable. If your process variable is a CDT, you can specify which field of a CDT to store the value into using dot notation.
  7. Click OK.

get-attribute-method

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 a credentials feature. You can add credentials in the Appian RPA console and refer to them in a robotic process without exposing the information.

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. In this example, the robotic process is logging in using a web-based portal:

  1. Go to the robotic process configuration.
  2. In the workflow, add a new generic action or find the existing action where you want to add credentials.
  3. Click the list icon 951644.png on the action.
  4. Open the Browser module and click Interact with element.
  5. Under Interaction, choose Update value with username and choose the credential to use. Remember you'll only see credentials that share permissions with you and the robotic process.
  6. Configure additional options for the action and click OK.

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.

Add another action directly after this one to populate the password. You'll choose Update value with password under Interaction.

Building a robotic process to log into an application? You'll use the Type text method in the Keyboard low-code module to input credentials. In the Text section of the method configuration, choose Type username and choose the credential to use. Remember you'll only see credentials that share permissions with you and the robotic process. Repeat this configuration in a second action and select Type password.

Add a conditional low-code method

Conditional actions represent a fork in the workflow. Based on the input, the workflow could proceed in different ways. Unlike generic actions, conditional actions can only use methods from low-code modules that return string or boolean values because the value must match the output label on the conditional workflow action.

For example, say your workflow is iterating over several items. Your workflow has a conditional action that will determine what the process should do if there are more items, or if all items have been processed. If the action has output labels of yes and no, then the method associated with the conditional action must return a string value.

rpa-conditional

To add associate a method from a low-code module with a conditional action:

  1. In the Workflow section, add a conditional action 2232755.png
  2. Click the list icon 951644.png.
  3. From the Module tree, open a low-code module and select a method. The right-hand pane displays the method and any available parameters that can be added or values that can be stored.

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

  4. Choose to store or append the returning value to the robotic process variable using the Operator dropdown.
  5. In the Save Into field, enter the name of a variable. If your process variable is a CDT, you can specify which field of a CDT to store the value into using dot notation.
  6. Click OK.

Add the action to the workflow

Once your method is configured, you need to add your action to the workflow so your process can perform the action. Similar to an Appian process model, actions are connected by arrows.

To connect your actions:

  1. Select an action and click one of the four connector points.

    rpa-action

  2. Click and drag your mouse to a different action. A connecting arrow appears.
  3. Double-click the action or the connector to label it.

If you want to insert a new action between two existing actions, first delete the connecting arrow by selecting the arrow and clicking delete on your keyboard. Move the action between the existing actions and connect the actions in a series.

rpa-connect

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save. Click OK to confirm your changes.

Choose clean up actions

When your robotic process completes, it should reset the resource to its original state. Appian RPA includes a default Clean up section in the workflow where you can configure the clean up actions, such as closing any open applications or terminating any background processes.

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

To configure clean up actions:

  1. In the Workflow toolbar, select Clean up from the sections menu.
  2. Click a default action and then click the list icon 951644.png.
  3. In the Module tree, open the Server module and select from the available methods. Methods enable the robotic process to send a file to the server or communicate different types of messages. Visit the Server module page to learn more about configuration options for these methods.
  4. Optionally, add more actions to the workflow section and configure them as needed.
  5. Click Save when you're finished.

Use the robotic process in Appian

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. Click Save Changes after you're finished.

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.

This version of the Appian RPA documentation was written for Appian 20.4, and does not represent the interfaces or functionality of other Appian versions.
Open in Github Built: Thu, Oct 14, 2021 (02:44:31 PM)

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