Introduction to Flow Designer in ServiceNow
With Jamie Blair
In this article, we're going to be taking a quick look at ServiceNow's Flow Designer. Flow Designer is a Now Platform® feature for automating processes in a single design environment. Flow Designer allows users to use natural language to automate approvals, tasks, notifications, and record operations within a low- to no-code interface. It can be expanded to communicate with external instances and third party systems, via the IntegrationHub.
Flow Designer is best used for highly-repeatable activities in ServiceNow and allows for the creation and maintenance of these activities by non-developers users. An example of this would be the creation of a workflow for a catalog request. In the past, users would need to use ServiceNow Workflow Editor and likely be required to write code depending on the workflow’s complexity. With Flow Designer, much of the same functionality can be achieved without code using a drag-and-drop interface.
How do we access the Flow Designer?
How to Access Flow Designer
Flow Designer does not require any additional subscriptions or applications, as it's installed with the base version of ServiceNow's Now Platform. In order to access Flow Designer, a user will first need one of the required roles — either Admin or something like Flow Designer, Flow Operator, or Action Designer. A complete list of Flow Designer roles and their permissions can be found in the ServiceNow Documentation. For today's demonstration, we'll be using Flow Designer from the perspective of a user with the Admin role. Flow Designer can be accessed from the navigator by searching for flow and selecting Flow Designer; this will open up Flow Designer in a new tab and bring you to the homepage.
When we first open up Flow Designer, we're going to see that it's broken down into a number of environments with different interfaces. This is going to allow us to manage each of the different components contained within Flow Designer. The primary components of Flow Designer are, flows, subflows, actions, spokes, and action steps. We can see that flows, subflows, actions, and a record of our executions are grouped into their own environments. Which environment and what records are listed within each environment is going to depend on the user's roles and their application scope.
First, we have flows. Flows are a process that consists of a trigger and then a sequence of actions. Flows are going to allow for the automation of business logic and require that the user has some familiarity with the Now platform tables and fields, which are going to be leveraged by the automation. Flows can be created from scratch or they can be copied from existing flows so that flow can be used as a template. recommended that flows be used to automate processes that are repeatable as opposed to single-use activities.
Subflows are similar to flows, the exception being that they don't have a trigger. Instead, it's a sequence of reusable actions, data inputs and outputs, and subflows run within a flow, from another Subflow, or can be called via Scripting. Like flows, building and maintaining subflows requires familiarity with the Now Platform and its tables and fields which are going to be leveraged within that subflow. Subflows are useful for general actions your organization wants to perform across many other workflows or activities.
Actions provide a further level of granularity over flows and subflows. They’re typically much smaller activities with a specific single outcome. Actions are also where integrations can be utilized, as well as allowing for a higher level of control over what occurs within ServiceNow. Flow Designer comes with several pre-built core actions, such as looking up records, creating or updating records, or generating approvals. These actions are grouped into things called spokes, which are scoped by application, and are generally grouped by their intended function or use. Users can define their own actions to meet their specific use cases, which will then become available for future flows and subflows. These actions can also be grouped into your own custom spokes. Unlike with other components of Flow Designer, it is likely that the creation of action is going to require the writing of code, as such familiarity with scripting and the Now platform is going to be required.
The execution environment is where users can view statistics of each flow that has been executed even if the flow is still in progress. Executions will provide users with several useful pieces of information, such as where the flow is triggered from, the status of the flow, and the result of each step the flow takes. We'll look at more detail when we discuss how to create flows in a future video.
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