Automating OnBase Tasks with RPA
Episode 6: Blue Prism Digital Assets – OnBase Connectors
The following is a transcription from Episode 6 of The Orange Chair Podcast. Today, we’ll discuss four programs we created to help you automate within your OnBase document management software. All of the Blue Prism OnBase digital assets discussed in today’s episode can be found here.
To listen to the full episode, or any other episode, you may do so by selecting your preferred podcast listening method on The Orange Chair Podcast page.
Alex Frazier: In today’s episode, we have Chandler Coffman and Chris Ellenburg talking about the Blue Prism Digital Exchange and the work that they’ve done for it, creating RPA assets that integrate with OnBase. So I’m your host, Alex Frazier. And let’s jump on into this podcast.
Hello everybody. Welcome back to The Orange Chair Podcast.
Today we have Chandler Coffman and Chris Ellenburg in the orange chair, or chairs, I should say. We’re gonna be talking about the Blue Prism Digital Exchange and the Blue Prism Digital Exchange assets. that KeyMark has created.
Alex Frazier (59s): So I’m gonna pitch it over to them and let them introduce themselves to you.
Chris Ellenburg (1m 4s): Hi, my name is Chris Ellenberg. I’m the RPA services manager.
Chandler Coffman (1m 8s): I’m Chandler Coffman. I’m an integrations engineer. I’ve been working at KeyMark for about three years now. And this was very interesting project to do very different from what we have done in the past.
Why Automate OnBase?
Alex Frazier (1m 21s): Yeah. How was it different than what you guys have done in the past?
Chandler Coffman (1m 24s): So normally OnBase is kind of self contained. It can do a lot of things by itself, very well, but for those instances where you need it to go that extra mile and you have to utilize the API, depending on what kind of application you’re trying to work the API into, it can present its own types of challenges. And speaking from two times through experience now, we have had quite a few challenges with getting these assets running.
Chandler Coffman (1m 57s): But now that we have, we are the third one went a lot smoother, I would say. And definitely the fourth one I imagine will come along even better.
Alex Frazier (2m 7s): Great. So, so you guys have two digital exchange assets out right now?
Chris Ellenburg (2m 12s): Actually three now three. We started out with the two release those at the same time, and then we released the OnBase File Upload.
Alex Frazier (2m 19s): And there’s a fourth one coming?
Chris Ellenburg (2m 20s): Fourth one we’re shooting for about mid February (2020).
What is the Blue Prism Digital Exchange?
Alex Frazier (2m 23s): Okay. So let’s back up a little bit. So can you guys tell us, what is the Blue Prism Digital Exchange?
Chris Ellenburg (2m 29s): Blue Prism Digital Exchange is like the [iOS] App Store. So you go out there and you download the processes, objects, assets, or skills that you’ll need for your project.
No individual piece creates the full whole of a project. They’re more like a slice of the pie to be incorporated in whatever you’re trying to build or accomplish.
First Asset: OnBase Workflow Document Handles
Alex Frazier (2m 49s): So specifically, what are the Digital Exchange assets that you guys have created?
Chandler Coffman (2m 56s): The first one we created is the Workflow Document Handles. And you can use that to pretty much get a snapshot of what’s going on in your workflow processes at any given time.
So you can give it the name of a particular OnBase life cycle, a particular queue within that life cycle. And it will pull back all the documents that are currently sitting in that state, which could be very useful for someone, especially at a high level overview of where things are in your system.
Chandler Coffman (3m 34s): To take that a step further, you can then use that skill to feed the other skills because in OnBase, everything has a unique identifier. And to work with that object in the system, you need that unique identifier in order to say, “Hey, API, do this to this document.” And in order to get those unique identifiers, it’s not the easiest, not the most human readable identifier.
Chandler Coffman (4m 5s): So that was why we chose that as kind of step one: let’s make this easy for someone to get the documents or objects that they want to see or work on. That kind of had to be step one was to pull the data that you care about before you actually can do other things with it.
Chris Ellenburg (4m 29s): Yeah, definitely. Excellent definition there while the other assets that Chandler, Hamdalla [Issa] and Rick [Stuckey] have been working on as well as myself have been built on top of that particular asset and that we need the document handled to be able to interact.
Second Asset: OnBase Get Keywords
Chris Ellenburg: So the next asset, the OnBase Get Keywords asset utilizes that information to be able to pull keywords from a document that exists in a queue, right? The other two assets that are going to be released are not so reliant on that information.
Chris Ellenburg (5m 1s): They try to interact with OnBase in a slightly different way.
Alex Frazier (5m 5s): Okay. Can you tell us about the third one?
Third Asset: OnBase Upload Files
Chris Ellenburg (5m 8s): Third one is the OnBase Upload Files. So we’re utilizing Blue Prism to be able to upload files into OnBase, using a spreadsheet with the information need, you would need to be able to push it up.
Alex Frazier (5m 21s): So what pushed you guys to make those specific assets, you know, is there a specific need that you saw? Was there something, a gap that you were trying to fill? Tell us a little bit about the, the decision making process of, “we want to make these three right now.”
Chris Ellenburg (5m 35s): Yeah, definitely. It kinda came out of a project that we were already working on that code had been supplied by Chandler to handle this information. So what we did was take that code, turn it into an asset. Then reapply that asset back to the project we were working through.
So where we’re drinking our own “Kool-Aid,” essentially that we’re using our own asset within our own project for the service billing automation project.
Chandler Coffman (6m 5s): And I would say one and two kind of went hand in hand. And in that regard, I’m going to speak to number three here.
Most people use OnBase as a document repository. So one of the essential functions you would want to build for an OnBase integration is a way to put new information into it. So that was solely the whole purpose of creating the third asset was we made one and two, which was, you could think of as a way of pulling information out to use for some other external process and so number three or asset three is the exact opposite.
Chandler Coffman (6m 48s): You now have information you want to give to OnBase for it to keep track of.
Fourth Asset: OnBase Execute Ad Hoc User Task
Chris Ellenburg (6m 53s): Right. The fourth asset is going to be executing that OnBase ad-hoc user task, which is going to play into that service billing automation project I was mentioning. This will execute and then move documents within a lifecycle, within a queue from another queue to another queue. In addition, we wanted to be able to be the first to market on the Digital Exchange when incorporating OnBase into Blue Prism, being able to utilize Blue Prism, to kick off functionality and OnBase and pull information from OnBase or push information to.
Chandler Coffman (7m 33s): It seemed like there was no market for an OnBase integration with Blue Prism at all, from what we noticed. And so we wanted to be first and we met that goal.
Alex Frazier (7m 46s): So I know Chandler, you mentioned that you guys have experienced some challenges along the way. Can you elaborate on that at all?
Chandler Coffman (7m 55s): So when you’re working with the API, there are certain rules you have to follow and Blue Prism kinda added rules on top of rules, so to speak. So I had never worked with any coding in Blue Prism before, so that was a learning curve I had to get over in order to get this project done. And one of the big things I remember is it’s the way Blue Prism executes code does make things kind of difficult.
Chandler Coffman (8m 27s): If you want to use the same code over and over again, you wouldn’t think it works the way it does, I guess, is the best way to put that. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense.
It’s just a little bit different way of thinking from how a programmer would normally have to approach it. But once you learn it, it’s very easy to master and run with it. I would say it’s one of the easier products I’ve had to integrate the OnBase API with.
Chandler Coffman (9m 5s): I’m very happy with the tools Blue Prism has given a programmer in order to build things like this and it makes perfect sense. I had no idea that the Digital Exchange was even a thing when Chris first approached me about being the OnBase code guy for his team. And once I learned how easy it was to integrate code with Blue Prism, it made perfect sense to find out they had something that was equivalent to the Apple App Store.
Flexibility for IT Departments
Chandler Coffman (9m 35s): So companies could package these little tools that could be useful individually or in tandem that another person could download and just plug it in and play essentially.
The fact that we were pretty quick on the draw, getting our assets up there and we have downloads already is, is pretty encouraging. I’m happy with our work so far.
Chris Ellenburg (10m 5s): Right. How would you say that? Not to take the asking questions away from you, but how would you say that Hamdalla [Issa] assisted with, our Blue Prism developer?
Chandler Coffman (10m 14s): Oh, couldn’t have done it without her because while I’m the code monkey, she had to be the one to guide me through the whole Blue Prism process. So I understand the coding aspects of it pretty well, but had no idea how to build a Blue Prism robot or in any way, shape or form probably could have figured it out, but we didn’t have time for that. We needed an expert.
When It All Came Together
Chris Ellenburg (10m 38s): I think it was interesting to watch all your knowledge of OnBase for knowledge of Blue Prism come together and being able to speak along the lines of code and find that middle ground and be able to accomplish it.
Chandler Coffman (10m 48s): Absolutely. And as we went through it and did it a couple of times, asset one was kind of the-we have to figure out how to walk and asset two we were finally able to run and asset three, we killed that asset if I do say so myself. We threw that asset together in about a week, I think maybe less.
Alex Frazier (11m 8s): So asset four is going to be smooth sailing?
Chris Ellenburg (11m 10s): I don’t want to jinx us, but yeah, asset four is ultimately done Rick Stuckey, our process analyst, he’s going through creating documentation now, hopefully whenever its finished and he puts it through some extensive quality assurance testing, we’ll be able to release it.
Does Using These Assets Require a Custom Solution?
Alex Frazier (11m 31s): Awesome. So just to switch gears a little bit, I know that you mentioned that the Digital Exchange is almost like an App Store, so anybody could go in there and grab one of these assets?
Are they customizable? Would they be able to fit somebody else’s needs? What if somebody does need a custom solution?
Chris Ellenburg (11m 51s): Yeah, like we were mentioning before, it’s not to be the whole pie. It’s a piece of it to be incorporated into whatever your project is.
Chandler was mentioning with the first asset, you can get document handles, which in turn, you could take those to time with other calls to the API, whoever they, they be and the customer would need to utilize those.
For the front end process, we give a very simple high level overview of a process executing within that asset.
The meat of everything is going to be within the object.
Chandler Coffman (12m 27s): I wouldn’t look at these assets as being the customized piece.
The way Chris and I have discussed this is, we are viewing this as, this is the package. This is what this is going to do. If you have suggestions for how it should work, maybe that could be asset number five or asset number six, or also to kind of pat Chris on the back here, he could do an entire custom solution for someone if that’s what they needed.
Chris Ellenburg (13m 6s): Ultimately, that’s the goal. To show that we’re a viable contender in the market and that we’re here and available to be able to help customize or build any kind of solution that customer needs.
How to Download the Free OnBase Automation Assets
Alex Frazier (13m 15s): So how does someone get this? Are there licenses involved? Does somebody need to buy a license? Or what does that look like?
Chandler Coffman (13m 22s): So the asset itself does not require a license.
Chris Ellenburg (13m 26s): It does not require a license. It’s freely available on the Digital Exchange.
Chandler Coffman (13m 30s): There are however, some OnBase licensing assumptions that go along with using the asset. And those are detailed in the documentation that Rick [Stuckey] produced for us and I believe are available for download.
Alex Frazier (13m 46s): Great. Do you guys have any final thoughts, anything that you want to mention that maybe we haven’t talked about yet?
Chandler Coffman (13m 55s): I’m curious to see where this goes. We’ve built some pretty neat things in our first three cracks at this.
As OnBase improves and its API improves, we will just be able to do more and more with things like the Blue Prism Digital Exchange. And there are some newer OnBase features that were just released on, in particular that I think would be rather useful, but that’s for a podcast on a different day.
Chris Ellenburg (14m 29s): I think in particular, when we’re talking about final thoughts, I would love to thank the accounting department, how they’ve helped the initial phases of the Digital Exchange assets, Rick Stuckey, Hamdalla Issa, and then Chandler obviously.
Accomplishing this without their help-it wouldn’t have gotten done, especially in the time constraints that we’re shooting for.
Alex Frazier (14m 52s): Chandler and Chris, thank you guys so much for being on the podcast today and for telling us, you know, a little bit about the Digital Exchange assets that you guys have been creating and the ones that are to come. We’re excited to see where this goes.
Chris Ellenburg (15m 5s): Thank you.
Chandler Coffman (15m 6s): Thank you for having us
Alex Frazier (15m 7s): Well, that’s all that we have for you guys today. Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. The Orange Chair Podcast is brought to you by KeyMark.
If you liked this podcast, please leave us a rating like and subscribe to our podcast channel, wherever you guys are listening to podcasts, and you can even follow us on Instagram and Facebook. And we would love to hear from you.
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