Companies worldwide seek to leverage their current IT solutions to streamline and speed up finance processes and reduce manual efforts. Often times, finance processes perform regularly and as part of month-end close or a weekly schedule.
With Deltek Maconomy’s Business Process Automation, background tasks allow you to automate certain actions on a schedule, defined by the user. Previously, this required technical personnel working with server-side code, but now system administrators can schedule a range of operations without the need for additional scripting support.
This is the first blog post in a series and, overviews the creation of a Background Task Generator with a basic example to introduce the key concepts. Stay tuned for the second post in which we review an automation example, and the third, which examines a more detailed background task configuration involving the execution of multiple actions (Sub Tasks) in sequence.
The Life Cycle of a Background Task
In Maconomy, background tasks generate according to a schedule, and then execute on that schedule automatically. They generate from a Background Task Generator (known as a Schedule Rule), which requires a Key Generator to create the Task. Therefore:
Active Schedule Rule + Key Generator → Background Task created & executed on schedule → Result (and/or an error report for review)
Once a Background Task executes, it remains visible as a succeeded task, until cleaned up using an action in the Background Task Workspace, in the Workspace Client interface. Automate the clean-up process using Background Tasks too; configure the ‘standard’ background task.
The Anatomy of a Background Task
The Key Generator provides the Schedule Rule with the dataset on which it should operate. For example, if the purpose of the background task is to block all your users on a Friday night for some system maintenance, and then unblock them again on Monday morning, the Key Generator will provide the list of users. A Key Generator looks at a specific ‘Container’- which for our purposes can be said to mean a Maconomy workspace tab. From within that tab, it will retrieve fields for use in the background task, based on criteria you set.
In the screenshot below, the basic Key Generator “AllEmpls” looks at the Employees container, and extracts the Employee Number where the condition is ‘true’ – which means that when this key is used, it will produce a list of all employee numbers in the system. It is possible to make the condition more complex. For example, to select only employees from a specific company, or which were not marked as blocked, and could extract more than one field from each record. When configuring a key generator, it extracts all fields required to identify each record in the set. For employees, that is simple – Employee Number. For other containers, more fields may be required to form the key.
The Schedule Rule generates the Background Task based on the Key Generator. This contains the ‘what’ which should be done to the ‘who’ defined by the keys. Background tasks are able to operate dialogs in the same manner as a user. The schedule rule:
- Executes an action within a workspace
- Updates fields
- Combines these functions (for example, to populate a value in a required field before executing the action)
- Specifies execution timing of a background task, when and how often
In the screenshot below, it shows a task to clean up completed background tasks. View the action specified, and in which container (dialog) under the Background Task heading – this will initiate the action to delete tasks, which complete before a certain number of days. At the bottom of the screen under ‘parameters’, the user input line shows that the background task is populating the field in the dialog with a value for the number of days, just as if a user was doing so themselves – in this case, with 8. Therefore, when this background task launches, it will delete tasks completed more than 8 days ago. The value in the field ‘trigger time pattern’ controls the frequency that the rule generates tasks. In this example, the pattern 0 22 * * * means that it will run every day at 10pm.
Ready to Learn More?
Contact your Account Manager or Customer Success Manager to discuss Business Process Automation, powered through Maconomy’s background task generator. Stay tuned for the second post in our Maconomy’s Hidden Helper blog post series.