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

Robotic processes follow a workflow, or a sequence of tasks. The workflow is the guide that leads the robotic process's operation, determining its starting point and driving it through a series of tasks and actions.

The workflow of an Appian RPA robotic process can be compared to a sequence of tasks performed by a human. Visually, the workflow makes it easy to monitor a robotic process's operation. It enables a global view of all execution phases and allows you to analyze what action the robot is on, when it began, its duration, and its result. The console draws the workflow as the corresponding robotic process operates.

For example, let's suppose one person should perform a task that involves gathering names and contact information from people who have sent their résumés through the company's website. This data then needs to be documented and saved on Notepad, using one line for each name.

Assuming that the data source will always contain at least one résumé, the workflow could look like:

rpa-workflow-example.png

The workflow mimics how a human would go through the process: The person would open Notepad first, then read a résumé, then write the candidate's name and contact information in Notepad. If there are more résumés, the cycle would go back and the person would read the next résumé. If there are no résumés left, the Notepad document would be be saved and closed, reaching the end of the whole process.

Defining the workflow is the first and one of the most important steps for building Appian RPA robotic processes. A good design will make the robot easier to develop.

Looking to speed up your low-code robotic process development? Use the task recorder to capture your interactions in a web browser and automatically create actions in the workflow.

At the top of the workflow, you'll find options to help you find what you're looking for:

  • Collapse all action groups to see the process at a high level.
  • Expand all action groups and conditions to see the whole hierarchy of the workflow.
  • Search to locate specific actions in the workflow. Search is helpful when you need to make targeted changes in larger processes, such as bulk changes or refactors. Search reveals which actions have configurations that match your search query, so you know which actions to update to keep the robotic process operational. The search capability also looks for matches in expressions within action configurations.

rpa-workflow-navigation.png

Actions

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 low-code module.

rpa-new-designer-palette.png

To add an action to the workflow:

  1. Click and hold an action in the Actions Palette.
  2. Drag and drop it to the section or action group where you want to add the action.
  3. Click and drag the action to reorder it relative to the other actions in the section or action group.

That's it! You can configure the action in the Configuration Pane.

Action groups

Action groups help you organize actions that work together to achieve a desired outcome. For example, you may want to organize your workflow so that login actions are contained in an action group.

To add an action group to the workflow, click and drag Action Group from the Actions Palette to a section.

Loops

Loops repeat actions until a condition is satisfied. Use the Loop action to process items in a list such as files in a directory or line items on an invoice. RPA supports the following loop types:

  • While: Executes the loop until the loop expression returns false.
  • Repeat: Executes the loop a fixed number of times, equal to the integer in the Iterations field.
  • For Each: Executes the loop for each item in a list.

Loops can't repeat more than 1000 times.

In the following example, the loop will execute the Create a folder and Copy a file or folder actions until the Loop Expression returns false.

Screenshot of the loop action in the system

To add and configure a Loop action:

  1. Click and hold the Loop action in the Actions Palette.
  2. Drag and drop the action to a section or action group.
  3. Select a loop type from the Configuration Pane.
  4. Configure additional properties from the Configuration Pane depending on the loop type.
    • While loops must have a loop expression.
    • Repeat loops must have a number specified in the Iterations field.
  5. Drag and drop additional actions from the Actions Palette into the loop action. Actions will only repeat when inside the Loop action.

Action expressions in loops can reference function variables. Supported function variables in loops include:

Function Variable Description While Repeat For Each
fv!index The current iteration of the loop, starting at 1. Yes Yes Yes
fv!isFirst true for the first iteration of a loop, otherwise false. No Yes Yes
fv!isLast true for the last iteration of a loop, otherwise false. No Yes Yes
fv!itemCount The total number of loop iterations. No Yes Yes
fv!item The current item. No No Yes

Conditions

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

Task recorder

The robotic process designer supports the task recorder tool. The task recorder can automatically record your browser interactions and translate them into robotic process actions. You can start a recording from a section, action group, or conditional flow path.

To start a recording:

  1. Hover over a section or an action group heading to reveal the Start Recording task-recorder-icon.png icon.
  2. Click Start Recording task-recorder-icon.png.
  3. Before you can begin recording, choose an available Resource and Browser.
  4. Enter the webpage to visit in the Navigate to URL field.
  5. Click OK.

Sections

By default, every workflow has a Setup, Main Section, and a Clean up section. Click the arrow in the section's toolbar to expand or collapse that section.

Setup section

Certain tasks may need to be completed to prepare the resource for an item execution. You can define those actions in the setup section of the workflow.

If you use credentials in a setup section, the credentials are reserved and won't be released until the clean up section successfully completes. This may impact credential availability if the setup and clean up sections are skipped for consecutive executions. See Execution Settings to learn more about how the robotic process behaves when the setup and clean up sections are skipped for consecutive executions.

Clean up section

Whether the robotic process ended successfully or not, the end of an execution is a good moment to close the applications that the robotic process has opened or send the files generated during execution to the server. It's important to reset the resource to its previous conditions so subsequent robotic processes can execute successfully. Without consistent starting conditions, other robotic processes may not be able to start or complete.

rpa-cleanup-section.png

In the clean up section, you can configure the steps the robotic process should take when it's complete, such as closing programs it opened. Remember that the steps you configure in this section only apply to the robotic process you're currently configuring.

You don't need to add the clean up section to your main workflow. The robotic process will always execute the clean up actions.

If the same robotic process executes multiple times consecutively, you have the option to skip the setup and clean up sections for faster executions.

Configure a robotic process workflow

Required role: Developer or Administrator

Looking to speed up workflow design? Create workflow sections using the task recorder.

To configure a robotic process workflow:

  1. Go to the Robotic processes tab.
  2. Find the robotic process you want to configure in the list.
  3. Click Configure 2236505.png in the Actions column.
  4. Go to the Task tab of the robotic process configuration page.
  5. Add actions to the workflow.
  6. Add conditions and loops.
  7. Configure the actions you added.
  8. Move actions or delete actions as needed.
  9. Click SAVE CHANGES in the page toolbar.

Configure an 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

See the RPA module documentation for details on each action's configuration options:

  1. If your selected method includes CONFIGURATION parameters, configure the parameters as appropriate:
    • 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.

    For example:

    rpa-method-configuration-parameters

  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: 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 page toolbar.

Robotic process variables

You can use robotic process variables to pass data between workflow actions and other design objects like process models and interfaces. The new robotic process designer includes an improved variable grid that should look familiar if you've worked with rule inputs in the Expression Editor or Interface Designer. All of your process variables are neatly located in the VARIABLES section of the designer.

rpa-variable-grid.png

To create a process variable:

  1. Click New Process Variable rpa-add-variable in the VARIABLES section.
  2. Configure the process variable details:
    • Name: The name you will use to reference the variable. Only letters, numbers, and underscores are supported.
    • Type: The data type of the variable. The Credential type is used to reserve credentials for use in robotic subprocesses.
      • Note: The following system types cannot be selected for a robotic process variable type: Encrypted Text, Time, complex system data types, and hidden CDTs. See the Data Types page for a complete list of system data types.
    • Array (multiple value): Optional. Indicates if the variable can contain multiple values.
    • Initial Value: Optional except for variables of type Dropdown. The default value of the variable at the start of the process.
    • Parameter: Optional except for variables of type Password and Dropdown. Indicates if the process variable can pass values to the robotic process before it executes. Before the process executes, the user will be prompted to provide an input.
    • Required: Optional. Requires a parameterized process variable to have a value before a process starts.
  3. Click Create.

It is now easier to reference your robotic process variables. Text fields that are found in the configuration options for robotic process actions now allow you to select from a variable picker. Use the variable picker to choose a process variable as a value for your process. What's more, when you rename variables, we'll now automatically update their names throughout your entire process!

rpa-variables.png

See Robotic process variables for more information.

Move an action

To move a single action within a workflow section, drag and drop the action to a new position.

Delete an action

To delete an action, hover over the action and click Delete action.

Robotic process execution

The robotic process execution page has been redesigned to match the new robotic process designer layout. Your execution flow will display vertically, the same as it appears in the designer. Read-only views of the robotic process variables display beside the execution.

To execute your robotic process:

  1. Go to your robotic process.
  2. Click Execute rpa-execute-icon.png.
    • Note: Do not select the Debugging? option on the Execution options menu. The redesigned robotic execution page doesn't support debugging yet.
  3. The execution flow automatically displays on the Workflow tab.

As the process executes, actions, loops, and action groups clearly show the flow of execution via icons:

  • rpa-executing-icon.png : Animates while the action is executing. Action groups and loops that contain the executing action also display this icon.
  • rpa-completed-icon.png : The action is complete.
  • rpa-loop-icon.png : The current iteration of the loop. In this example, the loop executed five times. The count continues to update as the loop executes, and when you re-execute the robotic process, the loop counter resets.

rpa-execution.png

In the preceding example, you can see that the main execution flow executed successfully. We know that the No flow for the Does browser window title match? action did not execute because there is no green checkmark rpa-completed-icon.png beside it.

Open in Github Built: Fri, Sep 23, 2022 (01:20:36 PM)

On This Page

FEEDBACK