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Alfresco Process Automation

Overview of processes

Processes are the collection of components that are used to build and represent business processes using BPMN 2.0 specification.

There are three concepts associated with modeling processes to understand and differentiate between:

  • Diagrams are the container that process definitions are modeled in. A process diagram can contain multiple process definitions when pools are used to separate them. Process diagrams are colour coded with the following definitions:

    • Blue indicates completed nodes
    • Green indicates current active nodes
    • Red indicates failed nodes
  • Process definitions are the templates that a process follows, made up of BPMN elements and sequence flows. A process definition describes the business logic that will be followed repeatedly at runtime.

  • Process instances are specific running instances of a process definition. Each process instance will have a unique process instance ID but they can share the same process definition ID indicating which process definition was used to start the process instance. There can be any number of process instances running using the same process definition in an N:1 relationship.

Create a process

To create a process:

  1. Sign into the Modeling Application and open a project.

  2. Click the NEW dropdown.

  3. Select how to create the process:

    • Create > Process creates a new, empty diagram and process definition.

    • Upload > Process allows for uploading an existing diagram .bpmn20.xml file into the Modeling Application.

    Alternatively use the + or Upload buttons next to Processes in the left-hand menu.

  4. Enter a name and optional description. By default the name will be shared between the diagram and process definition and the description will apply to the process definition.

Import a process from Process Services

Process diagrams exported from Alfresco Process Services can be imported into the Modeling Application by selecting the APS Process option when choosing to create a new process by importing an existing model.

The Process Service element types that are supported for import are:

Process Services type Process Automation type Notes
Script task Script task A script and a script task will be created for each script.
  • Only Javascript is supported.
  • Multi-instance is not supported.
  • Execution listeners removed.
  • Asynchronous option removed.
  • Exclusive option removed.
  • Is for compensation option removed.
  • A script task is created as a service task in Process Automation.
User task User task A user task will be created for each user task.
  • Forms are not supported.
  • Date format is a fixed date.
  • Due date is not supported.
  • Initiator is set as the assignee in Process Automation.
  • Category option removed.
  • Exclusive option removed.
  • Allow email notifications option removed.
  • Email template option removed.
  • Task and execution listeners removed.
  • Asynchronous option removed.
Mail task Email connector An instance of the email connector is created and an email connector task is created for each mail task.
  • A single email connector instance is created for all mail tasks that are imported.
  • Some connector parameters are imported from Process Services, whilst others need to be set.
  • All parameters will need to be mapped between process variables.
  • Connector needs to be configured.
  • Multi-instance is not supported.
  • Execution listeners removed.
  • Asynchronous option removed.
  • Exclusive option removed.
  • Is for compensation option removed.
  • Any JSON templates will not be imported.
REST call task REST connector An instance of the REST connector is created and a REST connector task is created for each REST call task.
  • A single REST connector instance is created for all REST call tasks that are imported.
  • Some connector parameters are imported from Process Services, whilst others need to be set.
  • All parameters will need to be mapped between process variables.
  • Connector needs to be configured.
  • Multi-instance is not supported.
  • Execution listeners removed.
  • Asynchronous option removed.
  • Exclusive option removed.
  • Is for compensation option removed.

Diagrams

Diagrams hold one or more process definitions. If multiple process definitions are modeled within a diagram it is important to remember that the scope of each is restricted and the only way to communicate between them is via message or error events.

Diagram properties

The properties for a diagram are:

Property Description
ID Required. The unique identifier for a diagram. This is system generated and cannot be altered, for example model-1bf32338-2bc2-4af2-9496-e9a031e22142
Diagram name Required. The name of the diagram. Diagram names must be in lowercase and between 1 and 26 characters in length. Alphanumeric characters and hyphens are allowed, however the name must begin with a letter and end alphanumerically, for example requests-and-orders.

Diagram XML

The ID and name of a diagram are set as XML attributes of the definitions element, for example:

<bpmn2:definitions id="model-1bf32338-2bc2-4af2-9496-e9a031e22142" name="requests-and-orders">

Process definitions

Process definitions are designed using BPMN elements which in turn can reference other modeled components within a project such as forms, connectors and decision tables.

A process definition is created when a diagram is created and it will share the same name as the diagram. Use the BPMN element pools to create separate process definitions within a diagram.

Process definition properties

The properties for a process definition are:

Property Description
Process ID Required. The unique identifier for a process definition. This is system generated and cannot be altered, for example Process_1w18m9x.
Process definition name Required. The name of the process definition. Process definition names must be in lowercase and between 1 and 26 characters in length. Alphanumeric characters and hyphens are allowed, however the name must begin with a letter and end alphanumerically, for example request-process
Executable Required. If set as false then the process definition will be deployed at runtime but it will not be possible to create any process instances using it. The default value is true.
Documentation Optional. A free text description of what the process definition does, for example A process to request stock orders.

Process definition XML

The ID, name and executable status of a process definition are set as XML attributes of the process element. Documentation is a sub-element of process, for example:

<bpmn2:process id="Process_1w18m9x" name="request-process" isExecutable="false">
        <bpmn2:documentation>A process to request stock orders</bpmn2:documentation>

Process modeling

The Modeling Application contains three tabs for creating and editing processes.

Diagram Editor

The Diagram Editor is the GUI for modeling processes by dragging and dropping items from the palette. The palette contains the BPMN elements that can be used to model a process and import other models created in the Modeling Application into a process. The palette also contains four tools for editing items on the canvas:

Tool Description
Hand Use the hand tool to pan around the diagram and select elements to view their properties.
Global connect Use the global connect tool to draw sequence flows between elements on the diagram.
Create/remove space Use the create/remove space tool to move elements around the diagram.
Lasso Use the lasso tool to drag a box and select multiple elements on the diagram.

XML Editor

The XML Editor contains the XML for the process diagram. Changes made in the Diagram Editor or in the XML Editor are reflected in the other. When importing or downloading a process the .bpmn20.xml file will reflect what is in the XML Editor.

XML excerpts are provided as examples with each BPMN element.

Extensions Editor

The Extensions Editor is a JSON editor that stores any extensions made for process definitions. When a diagram contains more than one process definition, there will be an entry for each in the Extensions Editor. Extensions are broken down into four areas:

Extension type Description
constants Constants are values that will not change for the duration of a process such as the service task implementation of a decision table.
mappings Mappings are the record of how variables are passed between the process and other models and BPMN elements such as user tasks, decision tables and scripts.
properties Properties store the details of process variables.
assignments Assignments store the user and group assignations for user tasks.

Process variables

Process variables are used to store values and pass them between BPMN elements throughout a process instance. For example, values entered into a form as part of a user task can be sent to process variables in the process, which in turn can send those values to a decision table to evaluate and choose the direction the process should take.

The scope of process variables is restricted to a process definition and not to the diagram it is created in, which is important to consider when using multiple pools.

Process variable properties

The properties for a process variable are:

Property Description
name A unique name that can contain alphanumeric characters and underscores but must begin with a letter, for example var_3
type A data type selected from a dropdown. See the following table for a list of data types, for example String
required Sets whether the process variable must contain a value when a process instance is started, for example false
value An optional default value for the process variable, for example ice-cream

Note: There are four process variable names that are created automatically and should not be used as custom process variable names. nrOfInstances, nrOfActiveInstances, nrOfCompletedInstances and loopCounter are used by multi-instance elements.

The data types that a process variable can be set as are:

Type Description
String A sequence of characters, for example #Mint-Ice-Cream-4!
Integer A positive whole number, for example 642
Boolean A value of either true or false
Date A specific date in the format YYYY-MM-DD, for example 2020-04-22
Datetime A specific date and time in the format YYYY-MM-DD HH:mm:ss, for example 2020-09-10 22:30:00
File A file uploaded into a process definition or as part of a process instance or task
JSON A JSON object, for example {"flavor" : "caramel"}
Folder A folder object described as JSON, for example "name": "mint-folder"
Array A comma separated list of entries, for example mint, strawberry, vanilla that will be formatted to ["mint","strawberry","vanilla"]

Create a process variable

To create a process variable:

  1. Select the project and process to create a process variable for in the Modeling Application.

  2. Select Edit Process Variables against the correct process definition:

    • If the diagram contains only one process definition, make sure no BPMN element is selected by clicking on a blank section of the canvas and the Edit Process Variables button will be visible in the right-hand properties panel.
    • If the diagram contains more than one process definition then click on the individual pools to view the Edit Process Variables button for each definition.
  3. Use the + symbol to add new variables and enter a name, type, optional value and select whether it is required or not.

Note: The details of any process variables can be viewed in the properties section of the extensions editor, for example:

{
    "properties": {
        "17aa41f7-9a0c-49c0-805b-045243f8a7e5": {
            "id": "17aa41f7-9a0c-49c0-805b-045243f8a7e5",
            "name": "firstName",
            "type": "string",
            "required": false,
        },

Process variable mapping

Mapping is a property of BPMN elements such as user tasks, service tasks and script tasks. It describes how data should be passed between a process and models such as forms, connectors, and scripts in a process. The data can be passed to variables within those models, such as form variables and script variables or other values in the model such as form fields, connector inputs and outputs and decision table inputs and outputs. Mapping this data is split between input mappings and output mappings:

  • Input mapping sets how and which data is sent from process variables to another model within the process.

  • Output mapping sets how and which data is sent from models within the process back to process variables.

There are five options for setting the Mapping behavior:

  • Don't map variables
  • Don’t map variables is the default behavior.

    When variables are not mapped, there is no transfer of data between process variables and other models within the process.

    For example, if Don’t map variables is selected for a user task in a process then none of the form fields will be populated with values from earlier within the process instance. Similarly, when the form is completed none of the values entered by the user can be reused later in the process, such as within a decision table.

  • Map variables
  • Map variables allows each input and output to be explicitly mapped between process variables and the values or variables within another model.

    If Map variables is selected as the Mapping type, there are three ways of mapping variables that can be chosen by selecting the edit icon next to any input or output parameters:

    • Process Variables are regular process variables that must match the type of the source or target parameter. For example an input parameter of type string cannot map to a process variable of type file.

    • Expressions: Expressions can be entered using a JSON editor to create more complex mappings such as mapping JSON process variables to input and output parameters. For example, using ${temperature.celsius} will use the value for the object celsius.

      In the following example this would result in a value of 16:

        {
      	"day": "Monday",
      	"temperature": {
        	"celsius": 16,
        	"fahrenheit": 66
      		}
        }
      
    • Static Values can be entered rather than using process variables.

    An example of using the Map variables option is a decision table that contains the input Price and the output Decision and the process contains the process variables Total and customerResponse the mapping can be configured like the following:

    Map variables example image

    At runtime, the value for the process variable Total will be sent as the input to the decision table when that point in the process instance is reached. Once the decision table has evaluated the input, the value of the output Decision will be sent back to the process variable customerResponse which can then be used later in the process, such as in sending an email to a customer.

  • Map input variables
  • Map all input variables will automatically map the values of process variables to values or variables within a model if their names are identical. Outputs are not mapped at all, so there will be no transfer of data from the model, back to process variables.

    For example, if Map all input variables is selected for an instance of the email connector, process variables named to, subject and text can be used to automatically set the values for the recipient, subject and message in the connector. No output variables are required to be sent back to the process as the execution of the email connector is always treated as successful.

  • Map output variables
  • Map all output variables will automatically map values or variables from a model to process variables in the process if their names are identical. If there is no process variable with a matching name to one of the outputs of the model it will be created when the model is executed using the name of the output value or variable. Inputs are not mapped at all, so there will be no initial transfer of data from process variables to the other model.

    For example, if Map all output variables is selected for a start event that contains a form, the data entered to start the process can be used further in the process by mapping the values from fields within the form to process variables in the process. Process variables can be created during modeling time that use the same name as form fields, or alternatively they will be created automatically once the user task is completed at runtime.

  • Map all variables
  • Map all variables will automatically map the values of process variables to values or variables within a model if their names are identical. It will also map values or variables from a model to the process variables in the process if their names are idenitcal. Additionally, for output variables only, if there is no process variable with a matching name to one of the outputs of the model it will be created when the model is executed using the name of the output value or variable.

    For example, if Map all variables is selected for a user task that contains an orderStatus field on the form, a process variable with the name orderStatus can be used to set the status of an order automatically when the user task is started. Before the task is completed, a user can update the orderStatus field on the form and it will update the same process variable when the task is finished with the new status. Additionally, all the other form fields will be created as process variables when the task is completed.

Any mapping configured in a process is stored in the Extensions Editor using the ID of the BPMN element. If not sending any variables then the ID of the element will not appear in the mappings section. The following is an example of explicitly mapping variables:

"mappings": {
    "Task_1f1wpht": {
    	"inputs": {
    		"flavor": {
    			"type": "variable",
    			"value": "choice"
    			},
    		"price": {
    			"type": "value",
    			"value": "${lookUp.price}"
    			},
    		"Limit": {
    			"type": "value",
    			"value": 200
    			}
    		}
    	}
    },
}

Errors

Errors are used by error catching events and error throwing events to model business exceptions using BPMN elements. They can be created and managed at the individual error event level, or at a diagram level. Unlike process variables, errors can be shared between process definitions in the same diagram.

To manage all errors in a diagram:

  • Make sure no BPMN element is selected by clicking on a blank section of the canvas and the Edit Errors button will be visible in the right-hand properties panel.

  • If the diagram contains more than one process definition then clicking on the individual pools will also show the Edit Errors button.

Messages

Messages are used by message catching events and message throwing events to send a message and optional payload between BPMN elements. They can be created and managed at the individual message event level, or at a diagram level. Unlike process variables, messages can be shared between process definitions in the same diagram.

To manage all messages in a diagram:

  • Make sure no BPMN element is selected by clicking on a blank section of the canvas and the Edit Messages button will be visible in the right-hand properties panel.

  • If the diagram contains more than one process definition then clicking on the individual pools will also show the Edit Messages button.

Actions

The actions that can be run against a process are:

Action Description
Save process diagram as SVG Download the process diagram in svg format.
Download process Download the .bpmn20.xml for the process.
Validate Run validation against the process. Any errors can be seen in the log history at the bottom of the Modeling Application and are flagged in a pop-up box.
Save Save any changes made on the process diagram.
Delete Delete the process diagram.

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