Design a flow

Creating flows with the visual, drag-and-drop Flow Designer is so simple it might disguise how powerful flows can be. With a palette of included steps and the ability to add custom ones, you can connect rich, complex processes into a single, automated toolchain.

You could easily learn by doing, but if you want to learn first then do, this page walks you through the steps of creating a flow, using triggers, how to add and connect other steps, how to use the available tools, and how configure steps once they're connected.

Before you get started, remember that flows are tied to a form. Make sure your communication plan has a form that you want to build flows for, and that you have permission to access it. You can create multiple flows for a form, using various triggers. For those flows to run, the form needs to be enabled and you need a way to kick things off (for example, sending a message in the Messaging tab, triggering an inbound integration, or using an HTTP or Email trigger).

As we go through the steps below, we'll build out a major incident management (MIM) flow initiated by a response to an alert from a monitoring tool. Along the way, we'll figure out what steps we need, what information needs to flow through the steps, and if the flow needs to split at some point.

How to get to Flow Designer

Access to Flow Designer is controlled by the communication plan — whoever has permission to access the communication plan can access the flows for forms in that plan. For built-in integrations, access to Flow Designer is controlled by the access permissions for each configuration.

Step 1: Decide what triggers the flow

Triggers are steps that kick off each flow on the canvas. Triggers can be different event lifecycle activities (such as event status changes, escalations, or event responses) or a signal injected via an HTTP request or an email sent to xMatters.

In our example, we're using a response to an event notification as the trigger — someone gets a notification in their xMatters app that there's an issue and, after reviewing the details, selects the Create Major Incident response to start that flow. For another workflow, you might need a different trigger type; for example, if you want to trigger a different flow when xMatters receives an HTTP request, you'd use an HTTP Request trigger.

If you already know which trigger you want to start your flow, drag it onto the canvas. Then you can skip ahead, though you might want to disable the flow until you have it laid out. If not, check out our detailed information on the triggers, including examples of when you might want use each one and what information is included in their outputs.

Step 2: Decide what information needs to go where

The next step in designing a flow is to figure out what applications you want to connect, as well as what information needs to flow between xMatters and those applications and when. This determines the steps you need to add, the order you need to connect them in, and the inputs you need to configure.

In our MIM scenario, the event is initiated by Monitoring Tool X. The form includes properties for summary, details, severity, incident_id, and customer_impacting. We know we need to push incident details into ServiceNow since it's our system of record in this scenario. We also want to post the incident details to a chat channel, but we want to include the ServiceNow incident number in the channel name, so the chat steps come after the ServiceNow Create Incident step. We'll get into the steps that come next when we talk about the switch step.

Step 3: Decide if your flow needs to take a detour

Tools are steps that evaluate the information coming through the flow and use it to decide what action to take next.

Adding a tool step is the same as adding any of the other steps — locate the step in the palette, drag it onto the canvas, and connect it to the preceding step. The configuration varies depending on the type of tool you're adding.

Step 4: Test your flow

It's always a good idea test your flow before putting it into active use. This lets you check if there are any mismatched output-to-input mappings, issues in the underlying setup of any custom steps, or problems with endpoints.

  1. Make sure your flow is enabled.
  2. Perform whatever action triggers your flow. For example:
    • If using and event activity trigger, initiate an event that targets your form, either through the Messaging tab, an inbound integration or the xMatters REST API, and then perform the appropriate action for your trigger (for example, select the response for the Responses trigger or add a comment for the Event Comments trigger).
    • Send an HTTP POST request targeting an HTTP trigger or an email targeting an email trigger.
  3. Use the Activity panel to track down any issues.

What's Next?

Now that you're familiar with creating a basic flow, check out the other available triggers and tools, the growing number of ready-made apps for tools you use everyday, or try creating a custom step and sharing it with others in your team.