An Overview of Scheduled Processes

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2019 saw the introduction of “Scheduled Processes” to finPOWER Connect. This allowed key system processes (which could be long-running) to be configured on a schedule within finPOWER Connect, and then automatically executed (via a connected Web Services installation) where manual User interaction is not required.

Up until recently the only supported Scheduled Processes were Account Processes and running of a Script. 2021 saw a major enhancement of this area of the system, and as of writing this Blog the following processes can be configured for finPOWER Connect’s Scheduled Processing (where licenced):

  • Account Processes
  • Disbursement Account Payments
  • Export Bank Transactions
  • Pending Service Requests
  • PPSR NZ Update
  • PPSR B2G AU Update
  • Process Direct Debit Payments
  • Retrieve SMS Status Updates and Replies
  • Script
  • Securitisation Allocations

Scheduled Processes do not replace the existing manual methods of running these key system processes. They merely provide an alternative for Finance Companies which require these processes to be run with generic parameters on a repetitive basis.

A connected Web Services installation is required for Scheduled Processes to run.

Overview

Scheduled Processes provide a powerful method of automating key system functions for Finance Companies who do not require them to have manual interaction. Also provided is a built-in scheduling platform, which for a number of existing Finance Companies who have been performing similar tasks using Scripts and external schedulers (such as Windows Task Scheduler) means that systems can be simplified significantly.

Keeping functionality such as this within finPOWER Connect ultimately allows for improved support and simplified configuration.

For more information about Scheduled Processes, or to begin your migration away from Windows Task Scheduler please contact your Intersoft Dealer.

Advantages of using Scheduled Processes

Previously, to achieve this level of automation, a Script would be written to achieve whatever Process is required to run, followed by configuring Windows Task Scheduler to start up finPOWER Connect, run the Script, and then close using the shortcut command line. This required knowledge of using parameters in Windows shortcuts, and generally required a dedicated PC running the scheduler. Therefore, setting up an automated process was not trivial. Developers (to write the Script), and Administrators would be required to perform all the required configuration.

Only the initial installation and configuration of Web Services when using Scheduled Processes requires administrator input. Configuring Scheduled Processes can be done by users who are familiar with the processes themselves. E.g., if a user knows how to run Account Processes, they will know how to configure it as a Scheduled Process.

This means that using finPOWER Connect’s Scheduled Processes:

  1. Significantly quicker to configure
  2. Requires significantly less testing
  3. Does not require any additional code to be written (unless using a Scheduled Process of type Script)
  4. Scheduled Processes are added and maintained by Intersoft, which allows for greater support over Windows Task Scheduler
  5. Feedback on Scheduled Progress progress and status directly from finPOWER Connect

If your database is using Windows Task Scheduler to automate key system tasks via Scripts, consider migrating to Scheduled Processes to simplify your system where possible.

Understanding the difference between “Background Processes” and “Scheduled Processes”

Throughout the system (and in this Blog) you will notice two different terms used:

  • Background Processes
  • Scheduled Processes

Whilst they are similar, they are not necessarily the same. Background Processes refers to a Process which is currently running in the background. These are either Scheduled Processes which are currently running, or they are processes triggered manually by a User. For example, Account Processes has its own HTML Widget which is run manually, and requires a User to input parameters. Once started, this is known as a Background Process.

Scheduled Processes refer to processes which are scheduled and do not require any user input to run.

Generally speaking:

Background Process refers to a manually started process
Scheduled Process starts automatically as per its schedule

Configuration

The database must be licenced for Web Services and Automation and must have a connected (and running) instance of Web Services before Scheduled Processes can be executed. The Web Services instance does not need to be accessible outside of the network hosting the database; it merely needs to be able to access the database to run any configured Processes.

Instructions for installing and configuring Web Services is not covered in this Blog, but more information can be found on the Intersoft website here:

https://www.intersoft.co.nz/Developer/Default.aspx?id=Developer.WebServices

All Scheduled Processes are set up and maintained from the Process, Scheduled page of finPOWER Connect Cloud Configuration, which can be found in the Tools, Web menu of finPOWER Connect Desktop. This page displays a grid of configured Scheduled Processes and some basic information about their schedule. Click the “Add” button at the bottom of the grid to add a new Process.

The options on this page allow the type of process to be defined, and when it should run. Users who use Windows Task Scheduler will be immediately familiar with how the scheduling works, with a few finPOWER Connect specific features; e.g., a finPOWER Connect Calendar can be configured to define the days to run on.

Link a Process to run after another Process
In the screenshot above you will note the option “Immediately after another Process has completed”. This allows you to “chain” processes together. For example, you may configure the following Scheduled Processes to run in order:

  1. Account Processes
  2. Process Direct Debit Payments
  3. Export Bank Transactions

Configured this way, Web Services will ensure that Process Direct Debit Payments will only run once Account Processes has completed, and Export Bank Transactions will only run once Process Direct Debit Payments has completed. This is particularly useful when the completion time of a process cannot be predicted.

Changing Parameters

Proceeding to the next page allows any parameters for the process to be modified. The parameters mirror those of the existing form, with an exception being date entry. You will notice in the screenshot below that numbers are entered in place of dates. This is because when running on a schedule, the process needs to run relative to the current date.

Therefore, dates are instead entered as relative dates meaning that 0 is “today”, 1 is “tomorrow” and -1 is “yesterday” (relative to the date the process is running on).

This Blog only outlines Account Processes as an example (with the exception of Export Bank Transactions, which can be found in part two here: Export Bank Transactions Scheduled Process). Parameter entry is similar to that presented on each of the process types when run from their existing forms.

Email Summary

Finally, it is possible to configure an email to be sent once the process completes. Email recipients can be specified per-process, or can be set once for all Scheduled Processes on the Processes, Options page of finPOWER Connect Cloud Configuration.

 

 

Once the new Scheduled Process has been added, and the changes saved in finPOWER Connect Cloud Configuration, the task will begin to run as per the schedule once the scheduler has restarted. This can be done from Web Services Administration and will be covered below in this Blog.

Web Services Administration

Scheduled Processes can be viewed from the “Processes” page of the Web Administrator page of Web Services. Presented here are two pages, Background and Scheduled.

Background

The Background tab shows any currently running processes. This may include Background Processes started manually via HTML Widget, or Scheduled Processes which are running. It will also show a waiting to start message for the next Scheduled Process.

Scheduled

The Scheduled tab shows all configured Scheduled Processes. If they are running, they will appear bold and current progress will be displayed. Using the “Run Process” button at the bottom of the grid, you can force a Scheduled Process to run immediately; this will not prevent the process from running as per the Next Run date as defined by the schedule.

The “Scheduled” page is also home to the Restart Scheduler button. After adding, removing or editing Scheduled Processes, the scheduler may require a restart using this button for the changes to be applied. It is good practice to check the Scheduled page after changes have been made (and restart if required) to ensure the details are correct.

The Processes page of Web Services Administration with Account Processes running. The button to restart the Scheduler can be seen above the grid.

finPOWER Connect Cloud

Scheduled Processes can also be viewed from finPOWER Connect Cloud. With the Processes page enabled, “Background” and “Scheduled” pages are available with a few differences from their Web Services counterparts:

  • Scheduled Processes cannot be manually started.
  • Background Processes are limited to processes initiated manually by the logged in User. Therefore no Scheduled Processes will ever appear in the finPOWER Connect Cloud Background tab as they are executed by the Web Server, not the finPOWER Connect User.

The User can drilldown to each process on either page to view current Events for that particular Process.

The finPOWER Connect Cloud view of Scheduled Processes. The Background and Download tabs can be seen on either side. For more information about the Download tab, refer to the finPOWER Connect Cloud File Package Downloads section below.