Blue Prism Tutorial
Every organization wants to lower its costs and keep up with change. Using technology effectively is an important part of doing both. Yet business needs can sometimes outpace an IT group’s ability to satisfy those needs. For example, automating a business process can make it faster, more reliable, and less expensive. But doing this typically requires integrating multiple applications, which can be time consuming and expensive. And once the integration is done, the process is often hard to modify. What’s needed is a way to automate a business process quickly while still letting that process adapt to change.
One way to do this is through presentation integration. Once derisively known as “screen scraping”, this technology has matured into an effective approach to interacting with applications. Because it’s simpler than more traditional integration technologies, using presentation integration to automate a business process can be faster and less expensive. And because presentation integration can be used today on a wider scale than was possible with screen scraping, it can support enterprise processes. This makes it useful in a variety of situations, including cases where automating a process in the traditional way would be too expensive. Blue Prism provides process automation based on presentation integration. By providing tools for business analysts, the product can also help people who aren’t technology specialists create and modify automated processes. And by exposing application user interfaces through reusable services, it can help those applications fit into modern service-oriented environments. This paper describes Blue Prism, explaining how the technology works and how it attempts to reach these goals.
Blue Prism is a set of tools, libraries, and runtime environments for automating business processes through presentation integration. Figure 2 shows the product’s main components.
Blue Prism has built-in support for connecting to various kinds of application user interfaces, including browser-based HTML interfaces, Windows interfaces, mainframe applications accessed via terminals, and interfaces built using Java. Whatever the interface technology, the adapter used to connect to an application is called a visual business object (VBO). Each VBO implements a particular set of operations against an application’s user interface. For example, a VBO might be capable of logging in to an application, entering a customer name into a particular screen, retrieving a result, then logging off. A developer or business analyst uses Blue Prism’s Object Studio to create these objects graphically—writing code isn’t required. Each VBO exposes its operations to a Blue Prism process. To create a Blue Prism process, a developer or business analyst uses Blue Prism’s Process Studio. This tool lets its user graphically define the steps in the process, each of which invokes operations in VBOs to interact with an application. Once again, writing code isn’t required. In a very real sense, a Blue Prism process acts like a human user accessing each application to carry out the business process. To store VBOs, Blue Prism processes, and information about them, the product provides a SQL Serverbased database. IT and business people can use a tool called Control Room to start Blue Prism processes, view information about running processes, and more. Another tool, System Manager, allows configuring users, viewing audit logs, and performing other management tasks.
Automating business processes through presentation integration isn’t hard to understand. Still, to see how these pieces work together, it’s useful to walk through a typical scenario. The next section does this, showing how the various parts of Blue Prism are used.
Imagine a simple business process carried out by a call center operator to determine a customer’s shipping cost and place an order. This process requires the operator to interact with three different applications, entering information into each one and getting information in return.
the process first requires the operator to enter the customer’s name into a client/server application with a Windows interface, then get back a code indicating how much business the firm gets from this customer (step 1). The process next requires the operator to enter the customer’s name into an mainframe application, retrieving the customer’s mailing address
(step 2). Finally, the operator enters all of this—the customer name, code, and mailing address—into a Web-based application that determines the shipping cost and places the customer’s order.(step 3).
To automate this process with Blue Prism, a developer or business analyst uses Object Studio to create a visual business object for each of the three applications. To interact with the application, each VBO uses an appropriate interface: the Windows interface, the mainframe interface, and the HTML interface, respectively. Each VBO implements the same operations that a call center operator performs on this application. For example, the VBO that interacts with the client/server application might contain a login operation, an operation that enters the customer’s name, another operation that retrieves the customer code, and a logout operation. Once these objects have been created, a developer or business analyst uses Process Studio to define graphically the steps in the Blue Prism process. Each step can invoke operations in one or more VBOs. In this example, the process has three main parts: entering data into the client/server application and 9 getting a result, entering data into the mainframe application and getting that result, and entering these results into the Web-based application.