What is Appian RPA?
This content applies solely to Appian RPA, which must be purchased separately from the Appian base platform.

Robotic Process Automation

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

Robotic tasks 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.

Key terms

Throughout this page and the RPA documentation, you may see some terms that may be new to you. Refer to the following definitions:

  • Robotic process automation (RPA): Automation of routine, repetitive, and predictable activities using user interface interactions that emulate human actions for applications or browser apps.
  • Robotic task: A scripted program designed to automate tasks and steps in a business application. Notably, robotic tasks can be built to interact with user interfaces and perform steps that a human being might otherwise need to do.
  • Host Machine: The physical or virtual machine on which a robotic task runs.
  • Agent: An executable file that connects the host machine with the RPA console. The agent must be present on a host machine in order to communicate with Appian and begin a robotic task.
  • Console: The dashboard where you can create, monitor, and change robotic tasks. You can also control permissions, scheduling, and other settings from the console.
  • Robotic task definition: The ordered steps the robotic task executes. Developers create a workflow in the console.
  • Action: The smallest unit of work within a robotic task. An action is designed and configured to achieve a specific purpose within the robotic task workflow. For example, clicking a button on a web form is a single action. Actions can also be created and configured as Java methods, which are grouped together in modules.
  • Queue: A set of items that are part of a common process and that are processed by one or more robotic tasks.
  • Library: A collection of custom methods written by the Appian RPA developer. Libraries allow developers to reuse custom methods across different robotic tasks.
  • Template: A pre-built robotic task that lets you begin developing with common modules and steps in the workflow. You can edit these actions to fit the needs and goals for your robotic task.
  • Module: A collection of low-code actions or custom-code methods that a developer can use in their robotic tasks. Modules are separated most often based on the applications they interact with.

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 tasks act much faster and more precisely than a human being does. These routine tasks are not only completed faster, but have fewer errors. Robotic tasks 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 related terms and phrases. We've developed a list of key terms to use as a reference.

Appian RPA is a capability 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 tasks, as shown below:

Appian RPA's web-based console is where developers and administrators can create and configure robotic tasks, robots, and other RPA objects. You don't need to know how to code to realize the power of Appian RPA; instead, use low-code methods to configure actions in the workflow.

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

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

Who uses Appian RPA?

There are three main user types in Appian RPA: administrators, developers, and operations managers. Developers design and configure robotic tasks, connect the necessary components, and deploy robotic tasks, while administrators set up robots and configure additional settings from the console. Operations managers help manage and troubleshoot robotic tasks 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 tasks without having to access the Appian RPA console.

If you are currently using RWM to automate some of your business activities in Appian, take a look at the RWM docs to learn more about how the two work together.

How to use robotic tasks in Appian

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

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

Robotic Workforce Manager (RWM)

Appian Robotic Workforce Manager (RWM) can help you manage your automation practice without granting wide access to the Appian RPA console. RWM supports adoption and implementation of RPA across your business and can help you manage automation requests, monitor robotic tasks, and address any issues that arise.

RWM is available and pre-installed for new Appian Cloud sites with RPA enabled. If you are adding Appian RPA to an existing site, you can download and configure RWM separately.

Java development

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

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

When a robotic task runs, the orchestration server retrieves the needed Java artifacts and assigns the execution to a robot. The agent on the robots are constantly polling the orchestration server and will see this new assignment. The agent then retrieves the artifacts needed for the robotic task to run (if not already on the robot) 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, Jun 02, 2023 (06:02:31 PM)

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