When you starting looking at your service model there are a number of frequently asked questions that you will hear from various internal teams. Below we have listed some of the most common FAQs.
The Control Room is Blue Prism’s command centre: it provides a centralised administration console for controlling, monitoring, executing and scheduling automated processes on the Digital Workforce as well as an overall hub for Digital Worker management.
Often underutilized, understanding the Control Room is critical to reaching the full potential of your Connected- RPA Digital Workforce.
The scheduler allows Blue Prism to execute processes at specified times and repeat their execution at various intervals. The scheduler is a background process which waits for the next schedule activation time and then activates any schedules due to run at that time. A schedule represents the point of execution of a set of tasks.
Each schedule is self-contained and contains defined data, such as a name & description, timing data and a set of tasks to perform. A task represents a component of a schedule. It defines a set of sessions which are set to be performed on resource PCs. A task also defines the next task for the schedule to execute on completion or failure of the current task.
The schedules can be configured to run once, or be repeated at minutely, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or yearly intervals. Calendars can be employed to cause the schedule to run only on working days, skipping specific certain weekdays and/or public holidays.
A process running on that RR (Runtime Resource) has gone into a warning state, meaning it has called an action on a business object which has gone over the specified warning time (which is 5 minutes by default). If this action is expected to take some time, the warning threshold can be adjusted on the affected stage in the process diagram.
Restricting digital workers so that they can only work one process and not cross skilling them to work all business processes.
If a human worker had completed all of their work the line manager would provide them with more work to complete. If completing more work or different permissions/access rights to the systems used is required, then this would be provided to ensure the worker is fully utilized. Digital workers should be treated in the same way. If a digital worker completes all work for a business process ahead of time it should then be reallocated to different work/processes.
Building a polling process, where a digital worker is idle polling for new work when there is none. The digital worker performs no work until another work case arrives from the source.
There are two solutions to inefficient polling processes:
- Does the process really need to be a polling process? If human workers used to have an SLA of greater than 1 day for completing work this should be the same for the digital workforce. Instead of polling for work all day the digital worker should be utilized on other tasks.
- If you have processes with a short SLA, needing to work requests as soon as they arrive, then a polling process is the correct option. Where the actual workload for the process is expected to be low a digital worker sat waiting for more work to arrive is being poorly utilized.
The main method of making polling processes more efficient is to a create a parent, or master, Blue Prism polling process that collects work requests for multiple processes and decides which business process to actually work based upon work priorities.
To help you build your own solution for the correct way to poll, the Blue Prism portal has a Guide to Dynamic Process Execution:
and Blue Prism Dynamic Scheduler Examples:
Restricting digital worker’s working hours because of a few time restricted systems -Many businesses are forced to limit the hours their digital workers can work because the main systems used in their organization is not available 24/7.
For example, the main banking system at a bank might be unavailable between 8pm and 6am for overnight batch updates.
To cater for this system downtime you can re-orchestrate your solutions so that separate processes are created for each application. This allows for more efficient scheduling where systems that are unavailable overnight can be used by digital workers during the day and systems available 24/7 are used overnight.
It should be noted that this process orchestration is not always possible, especially where system updates must be done in a specific linear order.
It is important that you agree a consistent approach to managing the control room and process/resource management. To do this, you will need to agree and implement controls and guides to day to day running of processes/digital workers.
The Operational Handbook is an all-encompassing guide to the day to day management and running of your automations and the control room. The handbook is vital to ensure there is consistency and control in place to keep the business processes and the operation of your RPA capabilities safe.
A template for an operational hand book can be found here – https://portal.blueprism.com/documents/operational-handbook-template
Anyone who has access to the production control room can see the process session, schedules and the resources, providing they have the permissions to view all. You can manage the permissions and restrict the access of users using the Process Studio.
- Scheduling allows for time critical processes to be completed within defined Service Level Agreements (SLAs) even during peak volumes without the need to recruit for overtime or out-of-hours human workers.
- Digital Workers can be allocated to certain processes or can put to work across all processes like a multiskilled worker dependant on volumes. This allows for you to be reactive according to business needs.
- You have access to all run data and run logs that can tell you exactly what actions have completed by your Digital Workforce; this can be more transparent than actions completed by the human workforce and ensures full auditability of processes automated.
- It is a real time view of what your Digital Workforce is currently working on, at what speed and how effective it is.
A business referral is a business rule built into to an automation to allow for human intervention. When documenting a process for automation you can identify where a case needs to ‘fall out’ of automation for some further action or response from a human worker.
A system exception is where there has been a failure to complete the process due to the system Blue Prism is integrating with fails or the Blue Prism resource fails.
Both business referrals and system exceptions are provided on an excel output report once the process has completed.
Currently the standard scheduler doesn’t account for any bank/national holidays, however Blue Prism is fully configurable to build your own calendar. This means you can add any holidays or non-working days to allow for your own type of scheduling.
You can find a complete guide to using the scheduler here.
The Work Queue feature provides this functionality to store, manage, share and report on process work. A work queue is where work request data is held and monitored. Every work item worked by digital workers should have a related work queue item.
You can easily see in the environment view where a process has stopped or been terminated as the process will appear in red text for “Stopped” status and black text for “Terminated” status.
You can also use the filter in the status column to select stopped or terminated to see all processed that have been failed. Also, they can be filtered by resource and time the process session ran.
Example: If there is a time dependent process that needs to be completed by a certain time, the business process owner can ask the Process Controllers to confirm the business process session has completed. The Process Controller can filter by the process and time the process ran to provide answers.
Digital workers act autonomously, started by schedules which start digital workers at required dates and times. Process controllers supervise the digital workers and ensure that automated processes are running as required.
In the cases where a schedule is not used to start the digital workers you can manually start and stop dependent on your business needs or this can be triggered by web service calls from a 3rd party application.
In addition to configuring dates and frequencies, Process Controllers also define the Start Up Parameters of the scheduled process sessions which serve as the instructions to the digital workers when assigning work to them.
The Process Controllers have a defined communication channel and associated Service Level Agreements in place.
The Blue Prism Process Controller is a key role that supports and administers the day to day running of Blue Prism processes in the live environment. Think of the Process Controller as you would a department manager, they are the manager of the digital workforce.
The Process Controller will schedule and run Blue Prism processes, monitor the stability of the Blue Prism environment, communicate with the IT/infrastructure team for environment related issues, investigate any issues in the live processes, and raise change requests or support calls where required.
These are typically the type of skills required for the Process Controller role
- Good organisational skills, to schedule processes, monitor resources, and log issues.
- A basic understanding of business processes. Capable of analysing a process.
- An enquiring mind, good at problem solving.
- Good inter-personal communication skills – able to explain issues to a Blue Prism expert and follow instructions accurately.
- Understanding of the Blue Prism product and Robotic Process Automation
- Basic Process Studio and Object Studio skills
This will depend on the architecture of your COE and Business; the number of digital workers, the security requirements of your RPA environment and processes you have in production. Blue Prism’s recommendation is there should always be a Process Controller, the level of control or the requirement for a full time role will depend on the following criteria:
- If you have low numbers (50 or below) in each of these then this wouldn’t be financially beneficial to have a full time Process Controller looking after your automations and digital workers.
- It is likely the Developers can manage the day to day management of your processes unless there is a Logical Accesses Model in place which requires segregation of duties.
- As the number of digital workers and processes increase then you will need full time management of these.
- They are also integral to managing the expectations of the Business and IT Stakeholders, communication of how and when processes have run is vital.
- The number of Process Controllers per digital workers is really dependent on business needs or what the roles and responsibilities of the Process Controller role.
- Some existing COE's work on the rule of thumb of 50-100 digital workers per Process Controller, this is purely a guideline and would need to be determined when the roles and responsibilities are outlines along with business expectations and service level agreements.
The RPA delivery team is responsible for testing and promoting new automations to production. It is very important that Control Room in the production environment should not be used in a test phase or to complete any kind of testing.
A checklist for deployment is good practice and should be completed in order to provide consistency and control.
- Ensure that a deployment control policy exists that determines what the policies are to deploy into production
- Ensure the documented policy has been shared with the key stakeholders and signed off agreement is in place
- Determine which environments are covered within the deployment control policy
- Capture and define the approval procedure of who this action belongs to and how they sign off is requested
- Define how releases are documented, requested and validated by the COE before a release is deployed. This should be documented in the operational handbook.
- Determine who has the permissions to deploy a release into any environment and document this control mechanism. This should be documented in the operational handbook.
After the deployment, the digital workforce operates as instructed by the Process Controllers.
The Process Controllers and Development Team can view the Control Room and the process sessions running.
The Process Controllers should be the only people with in your team that can control the digital workers and process sessions.
Enterprise COEs with a robust Robotic Operating Model (ROM) should have a Logical Assess Model (LAM) in place to ensure only the right roles have access to control the digital workers and process sessions (e.g. Developers may not have access to control the digital workers).
There is also the ability to manage process session and digital workers through the use of the Multi Team Environment functionality.
This is dependant on if your processes are time sensitive and/or present risk to your business if not completed within a defined timescale. Blue Prism has an Alerting Mechanism to help support the day-to-day management within the control room and this should be utilised.
Blue Prism can also send email alerts or can be configured to integrate with SMS alerting. This should be documented within your operational handbook and agreed with the business owner when discussing their process requirements.
The process owners should be responsible for handling/completing the business referrals and system exceptions. The purpose of a business referral is to allow for human intervention/review of a case to take further action. As the process owners the business are responsible for ensuring this is completed.
System exceptions, that prevent the automation from working should be investigated initially by the controller to ascertain reason for failure to work with either IT or the Development team for a resolution. If the case still needs to be completed this can either be represented to the Digital Workers or completed by the business teams (dependant on the business process).
It is best practice to periodically report and analyse all system expectations to ensure optimum efficiency.
This really should be determined by your own individual needs and business. In most cases it is good practice to allow for contingency time in your scheduling to account for any unforeseen events, just like you would when resourcing a human team. You should always allow for planned system maintenance.
All processes and their service level agreements and expectations should be documented in the Operational Handbook. Within the handbook there will be reference to Business Continuity plan to ensure that there are measures in place to handle such incidents as these.
Should there be complete failure you should refer to the Disaster Recovery plan. If this is Blue Prism complete failure, then you should contact Blue Prism support - [email protected]. You should then refer to the disaster recovery plan documented within the handbook.
In the case of complete IT outage, you will need to refer to your business IT Disaster Recovery plan.
The Blue Prism Control Room is monitored by the Process Controllers who identify if there is an issue. Initial investigation is performed by the Process Controllers using service support documentation
If the issue cannot be triaged by the Process Controller then the operations team will be notified (as per the agreed Business Continuity Agreement, see the template and refer to the operational handbook). The COE will work to get the Digital Workers back online.
In the case of Blue Prism complete failure, you must contact Blue Prism support directly through – [email protected]
You should also follow your defined disaster recovery plan.
Terminations should occur rarely, if you are experiencing a high volume of terminations this could signify problems with the build quality, the testing approach, peer reviews and quality gates. A review of the end-to-end RPA process for your COE should highlight where there are issues in the process.
If there are still issues that are not related to the RPA process, then you can contact Blue Prism Support for advice on the below email – [email protected]
Alternatively, there is a control room page on the Communities Portal where you can share experiences with other Blue Prism customers. You can find the Communities Portal here –
Hypercare is a period where the process has been deployed and requires close monitoring and fixes if any issues arise. This can also be known as a warranty period.
The Development team must account for this when releasing the process into production as it will require their time to react if any issue arises. The Process Controller should work with the Development Team during the hypercare period to ensure the process are running effectively and should not impact the business service levels.
Hypercare periods should be documented in the Operational Handbook.
The Operational Handbook is an all-encompassing guide to the day to day management and running of your automation and control room. The handbook is vital to ensure there is consistency and control in place to keep the business processes and the operation of your RPA capabilities safe. This document is to give instruction, information and advice of the running of a Blue Prism automated process in a daily production environment. Its audience is for those who run the processes and therefore provides high-level information on the processes, and more detail on any key operational dependencies.