What is Appian RPA?

Robotic Process Automation

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

Robotic processes provide another way to automate work using Appian. Orchestrate your automations directly in your application using integrations and process models. Bring your people, technology, and data together in a single workflow to build complete automations using low-code.

This page provides an overview of robotic process automation and how you can use it in Appian.

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. In the case of RPA, these processes often interact with user interfaces, making them able to interact with legacy systems that might not have APIs or other more technical means of interaction.

Consider the following example: you're 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 takes a lot of time. Think about how much time you'd save if you delegated this task to a robot. Instead of copying and pasting information hundreds of times, the robot takes care of it for you.

Robotic processes act much faster and more precisely than a human being does. These routine tasks are not only completed faster, but have fewer errors. Robotic processes can also 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

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 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. These components communicate during the development and execution of robotic processes, as shown below:

Appian RPA's web-based console is where users can create and configure robotic processes, resources, and other RPA objects. You don't need to know Java to realize the power of Appian RPA; instead, use low-code methods to configure actions in the workflow. More experienced developers can also use Java to create workflow libraries and plug-ins for robotic processes if they prefer. Share your workflow libraries and discover more in the Appian AppMarket.

The following diagram shows how you'll develop and execute robotic processes through Appian:

Ready to get started? Visit Appian RPA design patterns to learn more about the best ways to use automation in your applications.

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: An application 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.
  • 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. Appian RPA contains low-code modules and Java modules for you to develop robotic processes.
  • Method: A function designed to perform a specific action within a robotic process. Methods are grouped together in modules, most often based on the applications they interact with.
  • 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.
  • Console repository: Where Appian RPA Java code is stored. Java developers deploy code to the repository when they develop or modify code for a 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.

Who uses Appian RPA?

There are three main user types in Appian RPA: administrators, developers, and operations managers. Developers design and configure robotic processes, connect the necessary components, and deploy robotic processes, while administrators set up resources and configure additional settings from the console. Operations managers help manage and troubleshoot robotic processes that encounter problems. Learn more about Appian RPA user roles.

RPA integrates 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. RWM also lets you execute robotic processes without having to access the Appian RPA console.

If you are currently using 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.

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.

These pages can be helpful to get started using RPA in a process model:

Java development

Technically speaking, a robotic process is made of two main parts: the Java code and a workflow. Robotic processes rely on Java artifacts stored in the console repository. The Java code works behind the scenes to power the robotic process. Java developers use Maven to push new or updated Java methods to the repository. These artifacts can then be used in the robotic process definition.

To develop new methods in Java, you'll need to write the Java code locally and deploy it to the console repository. You can then create a workflow in the Appian RPA console to configure the steps a robotic process should take when it starts. You can use both default and custom methods to configure these steps.

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:


Prefer to work with Java? Get started with custom code development in Appian RPA.

Open in Github Built: Fri, Jan 21, 2022 (10:23:57 AM)

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