Last update: Jan 2008
Thanks for the positive response to this blog. The blog is now reposted to ensure all the information is completed updated.
It seems we have a lot going on in the workflow and BPM space in SAP. I was away from the team for a few months, just returned and I am catching up on everything I missed while I was away! These updates include what I've learned since I've been back.
If this is your first time visiting this blog, this blog is all about discussing workflow capabilities in NetWeaver. This blog should include all tools, whether they are workflow, BPM, or appear BPM but maybe really aren't, but they still appear that way sometimes!
Due to my background, when I hear the word workflow, I immediately think SAP Business Workflow. However, when other people hear the word workflow, they may think of other SAP tools, or even non-SAP tools that your company uses to model, design, and implement workflow.When you hear the work workflow, do you think of design time/modeling activities, or do you think of runtime capabilities as well? Whatever you think of, we’ve got the tool that you can use to help you in the definition of your workflows. We will divide the tools into the following categories: human focused, system focused, and modeling tools.
|System to System|
- Each tool will be discussed BRIEFLY. If you are the expert in the tool, please understand I will not discuss all the awesome things about your tool. Please respond with a link on where people can get more information or how they can get with you for a deep-dive.
- For each tool I will list one to three advantages, implementation considerations, and example business scenarios. These are all according to my opinion. Feel free to disagree, but be nice about it.
- Please respond with how you have used the tools and even how you would like to see our toolset expand and change in the future.
SAP NetWeaver BPM is the newest of the workflow tools. It is used to build service-based processes that are primarily human focused. It is included in SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment, ramp up began in Dec of 2008.
- It enables you to build a process that crosses application boundaries. This is especially useful when your process needs to do several different tasks that either enhance SAP Business Suite processes, or need to create new processes not based on SAP core applications.
- Included in the ramp is is SAP NetWeaver Business Rules Management (BRM) which enables you to create rules that can be called from any application.
- BPM is currently a 'hot' topic, so from a skills perspective it gets you involved in a topic of great interest in many organizations.
- You need to join ramp-up to participate. General availability should be by mid-2009.
- The initial release is developer focused (this will change in future releases) which means in order to deploy a process you must know Web Dynpro Java or have friends who do!
- Processes where there is a white-space; a place where you want to extend or enhance the SAP process.
- Processes that include both SAP and non-SAP service calls.
- Example processes can be found in the BPM space on SDN.
- Start with the BPM on SDN.
- Go through a Building a Composite Business Process from Scratch with SAP NetWeaver Business Process Management. It includes the code you need, you can just import it to your NetWeaver Developer Studio.
- Donka also created a good SAP NetWeaver Business Process Management: End-to-End Process Implementation Sample that walks you through building a Web Dynpro as well.
- Since SAP NetWeaver BPM is so new, it will continue to get a lot of attention and have many new capabilities added. So, now is a great time to get involved in the first release!
SAP Business Workflow SAP Business Workflow
What it is:
SAP Business Workflow is a workflow tool that comes delivered with every SAP NetWeaver Application Server. The tool enables you to build repeatable business processes that follow specific business rules, including rules for routing each task to the right person.
- Many SAP applications deliver workflows as content with the SAP application. ERP, CRM, SRM are examples of SAP applications that provide ready-to-use workflows.
- You can do detailed reporting on the process itself. For example, reporting on how many times each workflow executed, what was the average execution time, how long did it take people to react to items in their inbox, etc. This reporting can be done in the application system, or the information can be extracted to SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence for analytics on the workflow execution.
- There is a great deal of existing knowledge on SAP Business Workflow. There are more than 5,000 members in the Americas' SAP User Group. I do not have statistics on how many members are in other regions' user groups.
- You need upper-management support for a business workflow project to be successful. SAP Business Workflow will change how business processes are executed; to ensure a successful project you must have appropriate management support.
- SAP Business Worflow works best with functions inside of one SAP system. It can do external calls, and Universal Worklist can be used to enhance external service call. However, most customers use SAP Business Workflow to manage specific business processes that occur frequently in one SAP application.
- Approval processes, such as purchase requisition, purchase order, and invoice approval.
- Processes that are repeated often and that must follow specific business rules. For example, for each employee new hire, a specific process must be executed for each new hire.
Another example is business partner creation. After each business partner is created you need to set up addtional information such as credit limit, contact information, and technical information for data exchange with the business parter.
Yet another example would be follow-on activities after creating a material, perhaps you need a plant views in different country. Each plant is responsible to add the relevant plant view information.
- Processes that could be audited, or areas where you want proof of execution for Sarbanes Oxley compliance, or other government or corporate policy regulations.
- At help.sap.com you cand find great information and tutorials.
- Each region offers training classes in workflow. BIT600 and BIT601 are great starting points.
- Check out the updated workflow book that will come in June. The book has been updated by 14 authors in 5 countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, UK, USA. Authors include SAP, customers, and partners. All royalties will be donated to Doctors Without Borders, and Marilyn Pratt is writing the forward for us - so it's got to be good.
- SAP Business Workflow will continue to be fully supported.
- SAP Business Workflow is a valuable asset and an important component of many productive systems.
What it is:
Guided Procedures is part of the composition tools delivered with SAP NetWeaver. This tool enables you to easily and quickly build processes that span multiple systems, including both SAP and non-SAP systems.
- The design time is done via a web browser. No client-specific installation is required for design time activities.
- It is very easy to build a process that spans mulitple application systems. A guided procedures can access an external service, SAP ERP functions, and SAP NetWeaver capabilities in a consistent manner. The design time is consistent even though the various backend systems could be very diverse.
- You can easily build processes without writing any code. For example, integrating SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe is very simple because no programming is required.
- Guided Procedures is available with SAP NetWeaver 7.0 and SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment 7.1.
- If you invest in SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment, then it is recommended that you use SAP NetWeaver BPM.
- You need to decide who should create guided procedures and you need to develop a plan for maintainenance of the processes once they are developed.
- Processes where you need pdf forms and the forms are processed offline. For example, before creating a material, you do some research and fill out forms, then the material is created.
- You want to update existing processes where you currently fill out an excel spreadsheet or pass around some emails to get information before updating your ERP system.
- Processes that span more than one system. For example, you need to access a query in SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, data from Knowledge Management, and external calls to ERP and CRM systems.
- The scenarios should be simple. Please, please refer to the usage guide if you decide to use guided procedures.
- Online help has comprehensive help for guided procedures.
- At the BPX SDN Community eLearning you will find information on how business process experts can use guided procedures.
- Usage Guided for Guided Procedures provides essential information when beginning a project with guided procedures.
- Guided Procedures is release with SAP NetWeaver 7.0 and SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment 7.1. A full 5-1-2 maintenance strategy applies; GP (runtime and designtime) will be supported on SAP NetWeaver CE 7.1 in parallel to the new BPM solution.
- SAP NetWeaver BPM is the long-term approach for business process modeling and runtime targeting human-centric, system-centric, and ad-hoc workflows.
- Guided Procedures is a fully functional product; to help developers, a design and architecture guide is available on SDN.
What it is:
The Universal Worklist enables you to get all your tasks in a single location. This includes Guided Procedures actions, SAP Business Workflow tasks, Knowledge Management Notifications, alerts from the alert framework, Collaboration Tasks, MDM workflow tasks, Galaxy tasks, and even non-SAP tasks.
A user needs to be able to work in a consistent manner regardless of the type of task or activity they need to perform. The Universal Worklist provides a central location for the user to manage SAP and non-SAP tasks.
- All tasks appear in one location, including SAP and non-SAP tasks. There is a UWL API for non-SAP tasks. For SAP tasks we support SAP Business Workflow, Guided Procedures, Alerts, Collaboration Tasks, MDM tasks, and KM Notifications.
- You can launch alternative user interfaces for tasks. For example, you have a business workflow task that displays a screen in an SAP GUI, but you want to launch a Web Dynpro, business server page, URL, or some other alternative user interface. UWL action handlers enable you to launch a variety of different UI handlers.
- Tasks can be customized. This can include user personalization of how they want to work with their tasks, and customization to provide specific data fields, columns, and behavior for tasks.
- Customers that have a strong history of SAP Business Workflow must understand that UWL is not just a replacement for the traditional SAP GUI inbox. UWL is more broad in scope and does not exactly duplicate the SAP GUI inbox.
- Depending on the type of customization you want to do, you may need to do some addtional configuration and customization settings for your users. This means you will need someone comfortable with XML.
- Your users must access tasks from mutliple SAP application systems. They require a central source for all tasks.
- In addition to a central location, your users want to process tasks by the task type, for example, process all purcahse requisitions for Plant A then find specific purchase requisitions for Plant B.
- You need to access non-SAP tasks, such as Lotus Notes or other non-SAP items in UWL.
- Online help is the best place to get information on Universal Worklist.
- There is an FAQ Wiki . We could use your help in adding and answering questions.
- You can also do a search for blogs and forum postings at SDN. Please post your UWL cusotmizations to SDN to help the community.
- Universal Worklist will continue to be the central tasklist for SAP NetWeaver.
SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer
What it is:
Normally I would not discuss Visual Composer in a discussion on workflow tools, but I have received so many questions on how Visual Composer works with Guided Procedures, SAP Business Workflow, ARIS, that I think it is important to include it. When I think of a workflow tool, I think of a tool that enables me to build processes, including looping, condition statements, parallel and sequential processing, and figuring out who each should execute each step, and hopefully include some reporting on each process instance.
SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer is a tool for model-driven content development that enable business experts to easily create applications which can be used in the SAP NetWeaver Portal and be based on service calls to back-end systems.
SAP NetWeaver Visual Composer enables you to build user interfaces that access various applications. The application that Visual Composer creates can then be used by a workflow tool as a step in the overall business process. For example, I can create a Visual Composer application, then build a Guided Procedure that uses my VC application. In fact, in most of the TechEd sessions related to Guided Procedures, Visual Composer was used to build a component of the overall process built by Guided Procedures. The Guided Procedure handled the process, while Visual Composer handled the user interface and the call to the application that was being executed.
- The user interface for Visual Composer is easy to use. You can go through a tutorial in online help and you are ready to start creating your own VC applications.
- Visual Composer is delivered with the base SAP NetWeaver Portal installation. You only need the VCRole assigned to your user ID and you can begin using Visual Composer.
- It creates Flash and Web Dynpro user interfaces and it is very easy to create fantastic user interfaces.
- When using Visual Composer with business process tools, Guided Procedures is the tool that has the closest connection to Visual Composer.
- Visual Composer is NOT a workflow or process tool, it is a UI tool.
- You want to build applications and user interfaces based on existing functions. You would like to have someone in the business community get involved in creating simple Visual Composer applications.
- You are involved in analytics and you need to build powerful user interfaces for your analytic applications.
- The SDN Visual Composer Community is a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about Visual Composer.
- Some of our best VC gurus are also BI gurus, so you might want to check out the SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence Community at SDN as well.
- Of course, the SDN BPX Community is also a great resource.
- Visual Composer continues to be an important tool for creating user interfaces.
What it is:
Collaboration Tasks enable casual users to collaborate on existing tasks and create new tasks, building individual, ad hoc processes. Collaboration Tasks initiate from the Universal Worklist, either inside or outside of a Collaboration Room. Additionally, you can initiate Collaboration Tasks from any application using an API.
- They are implemented by the user, for the user, so they are very user-centric.
- Users can easily create ad hoc processes that include feedback options, approvals, and actions that should be performed.
- You can start Collaboration Tasks from existing SAP Business Workflow tasks, this creates a relationship between the ad hoc process and the business object, including the object link in the ad hoc task.
- These processes are intended for ad hoc processing. Their purpose is not full-scale repeatable business processes with complex routing. They are perfect when you need to collaborate with a colleague on existing tasks, or you want to create a small process for your own personal tasks.
- You currently use Collaboration Rooms in the SAP NetWeaver Portal and you need to assign tasks to room members to complete by a specific date.
- You receive work in your Universal Worklist. However, at times you need to get someone to assist you with the work. You do not want them to do the work, but you want to start a process that will 'lock' your current task until you have received the feedback you need to act on the task.
Online help is a great resource to find out more on Collaboration Tasks.
What it is:
MDM workflow is a tool specific to SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management. Within MDM, it enables you to process activities parallel, sequentially, dealing with tasks, data validations, and approvals that must occur within MDM.
- Enables you to create process flows directly in MDM.
- Provides a way to deal with a group of records in a consistent manner, enforcing specific validations and approval paths.
- Users can access their MDM tasks from Universal Worklist.
- This tool is specific to SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management.
- You have a set of materials that need the same approvals for each material in MDM, the records must be dealt with in a consistent manner.
SAP Service Marketplace and the SDN MDM Community are the best places to learn more about SAP NetWeaver MDM workflow.
Integration Process (ccBPM)
What it is:
Integration Processes - sometimes referred to as ccBPM, enable you to orchestrate messages that flow between systems. These messages go between application systems and between partner systems. You may need to send a purchasing document to a supplier, wait for a response, then send a message to an external warehouse system, wait for a response, then package up 10 more purchase orders and send them to the same or another supplier.
- You can create a business process flow of XML messages between systems. This process can be modeled at different levels of detail, from a high-level view of the process to a detailed view of the process.
- Integration processes enable you to decouple the process logic from the application. Just as a guided procedure creates a human-focused process that is decoupled from the application, integration processes create a system-focused process that is decoupled from the various application systems.
- Integration processes are based on SAP NetWeaver Process Integration, so they are completely application agnostic. They deal with XML messages in a very consistent manner. It does not matter if the data is coming from an SAP system or a non-SAP system, the XML message is managed the same way.
- If you do not have previous experience with Integration Processes, you will need to invest in training.
- You have a purchasing process where you need to send data back and forth between mutliple suppliers. The data exchange needs to happen with a specific amount of time. You can design this process using integration processes. Once the deadline has occurred you can use the alert framework to start a Guided Procedure to get a person involved since a deadline has occurred.
- Your customer requests that you bundle up orders for a specific contract and send them at one time. The orders originate in various application systems within your enterprise, they need to be combined, sent to the customer, you need to get a response, and send the response to several application systems.
- SAP NetWeaver Process Integration plays a critical role as the SOA middleware layer for SAP.
- SAP NetWeaver Process Integration currently has a new release in ramp-up, SAP NetWeaver Process Integration 7.1.
- ccBPM will continue to be supported. In the future, we may also see some ccBPM capabilities available in Galaxy, however, this will not be included in the first release.
ARIS for SAP NetWeaver
What it is:
ARIS for SAP NetWeaver provides centralized administration of process information in a multilingual system tool. You can use this process information for project documentation, system implementation, end-user projects, and more.
- It works with Solution Manager and SAP NetWeaver Process Integration for the modeling of business processes that cross application and enterprise boundaries.
- It can be used as goverance and documentation for your business process design.
- ARIS for SAP NetWeaver provides modeling capabilities to cater for the process architecture model of business scenarios, business processes and process steps. A value chain diagram describes the end-to-end company process map.
- ARIS toolset is developed by IDS Scheer. In the current release of SAP NetWeaver, ARIS is a separate installation. However, the installation is very simple and does not require a professional installer.
- You currently use ARIS for process modeling and you now want to model your SAP processes.
- You are a new customer with SAP. You are a business process expert and want a central location to model your current and to-be processes.
- A subset of ARIS functions are included in the Enterprise Service Respository (ESR) that is available with SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment 7.1 and SAP NetWeaver Process Integration 7.1.
- SAP will continue our partnership with IDS Sheer for Enterprise Modeling.
What it is:
Solution Manager is the best way for a new customer to see what business processes come delivered in SAP systems. I meet with many new customers who want to immediately start creating workflows and process flows. Solution Manager answers the question: "What business processes come delivered with SAP - as part of the standard application."
- It works with ARIS in modeling what your business processes should be.
- It serves as a 'system of record' for the design of your processes, including documentation, configuration, and project work completed.
- It can be used in conjunction with Solution Composer to see solutions provided by SAP.
- Solution Manager includes both implementations and operations tools. You may want to be sure you leverage the entire capabilities available with Solution Manager, not only the implementation tools.
- You are a new SAP customer and you want to know what processes are delivered with our applications. You need a tool to help you implement SAP and model what your processses will be.
- You are a customer about to perform an upgrade or implement new SAP functionality and you need implementation assistance.