Understanding the Mail Connector

The Mail Connector is an internal Alloy Navigator tool that processes incoming e-mail messages and converts them into Service Desk Tickets or any other Alloy Navigator objects such as Purchase Orders or Approval Requests. The Main Connector can also update existing objects with responses from users and third-party tools.

If you want Alloy Navigator to convert incoming e-mail messages into Alloy Navigator objects, you should create and configure a Mail Connector job. If you want to process multiple e-mail accounts, you should create an individual Mail Connector job for each account.

Converting messages into objects

The Mail Connector checks for new e-mail messages on the mail server according to the schedule you specify. You can integrate the Mail Connector with a POP3, IMAP4, or Microsoft Exchange-based e-mail account; incoming messages may be sent as plain text or in HTML format.

The Mail Connector extracts pieces of information such as Sender, Subject, and Body from incoming e-mail, and then uses this information to create objects and populating object fields with the extracted data. In addition, it can invoke various workflow steps on related objects and send out E-mail Notifications. ClosedClick here to view an example of an incoming e-mail message converted into an Incident.

The process of extracting information is called "parsing," the process of creating (or updating) objects is called "processing."

Updating objects with data from incoming messages

When the Mail Connector processes e-mail messages, it checks if the message is part of a Closedthread initiated for an existing object. Threaded messages must contain a special MessageID Tag. This MessageID is a system tag that Alloy Navigator may automatically insert in outgoing notifications, typically in the subject line. All threaded replies to these notifications will also contain the identification tag.

The rule for deciding whether to update an existing object or create a new one is specified by your Mail Connector settings. ClosedClick here to view the default algorithm for Tickets.

When the Mail Connector updates objects, it can replace some field values with data from the message (for example, populate some Purchase Order fields with new data) or add new records to the object’s Activity Log, recording all replies on the communication thread. In addition, it can invoke various workflow steps on related objects and send out E-mail Notifications.

E-mail parsing, processing, and preprocessing

E-mail parsing is an automated process of analyzing text of e-mail messages in accordance with a specified parsing rule and extracting specific data from the message text when it matches the rule.

E-mail processing is an automated process of creating or updating Alloy Navigator objects using the extracted e-mail information in accordance with specified processing statements. All tasks for creating and updating objects are performed through workflow Service Actions configured for the Mail Connector.

E-mail preprocessing is an automated process of analyzing text of e-mail messages according to specified preprocessing rules and stripping unwanted text before processing.

The Mail Connector is shipped with the pre-configured (canned) parsing, processing and preprocessing rules which are sufficient for many organizations. So it may be enough to just understand how those rules work, and configure Mail Connector settings. Then you can start using the Mail Connector right away.

However, you may need to modify the default parsing and processing settings or create your own ones (see Configuring parsing rules , Configuring processing rules and Configuring preprocessing rules.

System parsing rule

Alloy Navigator has a system (built-in) parsing rule for extracting the object ID. In accordance with this rule, the Mail Connector searches e-mail messages for the string MessageID (this is the start parsing tag). When that tag is detected, it searches the text for the symbol # (this is the end parsing tag), extracts the value between the start and end tags, and saves this value in a special virtual field ObjectRef.

NOTE: When the object is inactive (closed Ticket, retired Computer, inactive Person, etc.), its ID is placed in the InactiveObjectRef virtual field. Thus, you can configure different processing rules for active and inactive objects.

The rule is case-insensitive, leading and trailing spaces are removed (i.e. MessageID:T01234# and MESSAGEID: T01234 # both result in T01234).

The start and end parsing tags correspond to the MessageID Tag, a system tag that Alloy Navigator may automatically insert in all outgoing notifications, typically in the subject line. All threaded replies to these notifications will also contain the identification tag in the Subject, and the system parsing rule will extract the object ID and identify the object they are related to.

NOTE: For details on the MessageID Tag, see Customizing the MessageID Tag.

You can create additional parsing rules, building your own tags to extract almost any kinds of information from e-mail messages. For details on configuring parsing rules, see Configuring parsing rules.

Default processing statement

By default, the Mail Connector uses the following processing logic when creating or updating objects.

  • When the e-mail message is part of an object’s communication thread, i.e. when the message contains the identification tag, the Mail Connector updates existing non-closed objects (Incidents, Change Requests, Problems, Work Orders, Service Requests, Purchase Orders, Approval Requests). Otherwise, it creates a new object.

  • When the e-mail sender cannot be matched to an existing Person record, the Mail Connector creates a new Person record.

All tasks are performed through workflow Service Actions configured for the Mail Connector. These Actions create or update objects using the information from e-mail messages. For example, when creating a new Incident, its Description, Requester, and Summary fields are populated with the e-mail Body, Sender, and Subject, respectively. When updating an existing Incident, its Activity Log gets a new entry containing the comments from the e-mail.

IMPORTANT: When the Mail Connector creates or updates objects, it extracts attachments from incoming e-mail message and adds them to created objects or object Activities. This behavior is hard-coded and does not depend on Mail Connector settings or Service Actions. If you have put a limit on the size of attachments, this limit applies also to the attachments of the Alloy Navigator objects created or updated by the Mail Connector. For details, see Attachments.

You can use the default processing statement, modify it, or create your own ones. For details, see Configuring processing rules.