Today there was an ASUG-sponsored webcast – and we were lucky to be able to open it up to anyone who registered – whether they are ASUG members or not.  I think the registration was well over 200 people.  The subject of the webcast was ‘Worldwide Ways of Workflow’ and I had a small part in it, but Tammy Powlas and Eduardo Chiocconi had the lead parts.

Are you wondering why *I* would blog about an ASUG webcast?  Specifically one about SAP Business Workflow?  Silly you.

But here’s the thing.  This webcast is really the culmination of over a year’s worth of work plus some serendipity – and you helped!

Last March, ASUG sponsored the Worldwide Workflow Survey.  The response was pretty strong – about 180 people from around the world filled out that lenghty survey.  At the same time, Martijn Wever of Avelon (who represents the SAP Workflow folks at VNSG) and Stephane Haeltermann (who founded the LinkedIn group ‘SAP Business Workflow’) also started to gather information about the main pain points we SAP Workflow Architects (OK, developers) suffer.

Martijn (left) and Stephane (R)

There was a ton of feedback!  It was a lot of information from many sources and it was also really important.  (Note: If you are filling out a survey about something you care about, use the ‘write-in’ sections.  That’s where the most meat is.)  The survey tool was able to generate some nice pie charts and bar charts.  The key was that so many people had so many of the same pain-points.   And then the question became “Wow, now that we have this information, what the heck are we going to do with it?”

Enter serendipity.

Tammy and I (besides being ASUG volunteers) also happen to be fortunate to be called SAPMentors.  And Ginger Gatling was – up until the recent past – our main point of contact in SAP for all things Workflow.  In talking with Ginger, and in talking in various Mentor chats, it became clear that:

a) Some of the people most skilled in SAP Business Workflow were feeling left out in the cold, forced to work with the BOR editor (also known as sticks and dirt) while the bleeding edge folks could work in SE24

b) We needed to represent – not just the America’s – but the global community – since so much of the feedback came from so many geographies

c) We needed someone at SAP to listen to us

A covert group was formed, calling ourselves the Workflow Influence Team.  You may have heard whisperings about us.  We have the twitter handle @sap_wit.  We consist of: Ginger Gatling, Thorsten Franz, Matt Harding, Mike Pokraka, Tammy Powlas and myself.  We had some great material to work with, and we thought we knew what we wanted. So here we are, below, no more hiding!

 

Ginger Gatling led the charge by connecting us with people at SAP Education – one of the top ‘wishes’ was for the Workflow Certification course to be offered.  It has not been offered since 2006, and we expect it will be offered this year.

Meanwhile, Peter McNulty was forging ahead, trying to identify a point-of-contact for us.  After a couple of tries, we found Eduardo Chiocconi, SAP Product Manager for Netweaver BPM. 

And, I truly believe that somewhere in the vast SAP Mothership in Walldorf, some as-yet-unnamed person was secretly planning – planning the demise of the dreaded BOR editor.

More than that?  There was also a group of folks in the Human Capital Management area who were developing a ‘Lean’ inbox – which doesn’t require Portals.  Hmmmm.

Even better?  Performance analysts (again, back at the SAP Mothership) were also working on alleviating system loads due to the performance of key background jobs, without which no SAP Workflow system can run.

Meanwhile, Tammy Powlas was populating the newly-formed E-Learning category on SAP Community Network with answers to the most frequently asked questions.  Check our her excellent tips and tricks here.

Thorsten Franz and Jon Reed had a blast with their ‘The Utter Sexiness of Workflow’ podcast – available for your listening pleasure here.

Matt Harding was putting together a Streamwork activity called ‘The Search for Atlantis’ which has been a headliner on SAP Community Network for weeks.  You can get to his blog The specified item was not found.

And what has this all to do with you?  Today at the webcast Eduardo showed some surprising developments.   An SE24-like editor for the BOR.  A ‘Lean Inbox’.  Performance enhancements.  Tigher integration with BRFPlus.  Workflow Certification!!!

I am absolutely not claiming that the SAP Mentors who make up SAP_WIT are responsible for these long-awaited changes.  But I strongly believe that we put forward a strong business case, and SAP heard our passion.  And since we had the numbers to back it up (ASUG Survey, VNSG data, LinkedIn Group data) I think SAP realized that people are really using SAP Workflow, and Eduardo was allowed to go public with these enhancements.

Would SAP have shown us what’s coming in 7.3.1 – related to SAP Business Workflow and BRF and BPM?  Sure.  But I don’t know when, and I do think that ASUG, VNSG, and SAP Mentors helped get the message OUT.  So you can see what is coming down the pike, so we can (maybe?) hope for these to be backportable to the releases we are still on, so we can look into using BPM and BRFPlus moving forward.

Maybe this was all serendipity, and maybe it was the SAP Community (all of you) and the SAPMentors banding together to try to make something happen. 

Maybe SAP does listen and respond.

As for the back-portability of these improvements, I think SAP needs to hear from YOU, the customers and partners, about how important they are, and what release you are on.  I hereby challenge you to be bold – write a comment to this blog – let’s see where that gets us!

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  1. Gregory Misiorek
    what Susan forgot to mention is that she is the admin of the sap-wug list. she’s been quietly flowing her work behind the scenes and helping the rest of us, who have been stuck with our work items, become unstuck.
    i don’t know any better way to practice what you preach.
    workflow isn’t dead. it’s only getting better with mobile devices and twitter adding new workflow consumers every day.
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    1. Tammy Powlas
      Greg – excellent comments and so true – Sue has been behind the charge that workflow is not dead.

      I saw a tweet today from @se38 saying he’d been stuck with the same BOR editor for 15 years!  I think that really hit it home.

      For sure we would like to see things back-ported – and that is a question Chris Paine asked on Twitter – when will these changes be back-ported to 7.0x?

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      1. Susan Keohan Post author
        Of course, this is the $64,000 question – so if the people who are impacted care *enough* to comment – then we have a start.
        Otherwise, it’s just plain old me, on 7.02, saying “Please,give me the new editor!  Give me the lean inbox!”
        Oh, and please send me to Workflow Certification too!
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        1. Chris Paine
          So that ‘Lean inbox’…
          Do elaborate? There is a version of the UWL in WDA that can run within NWBC – “portal-free”. Has been around since 7.01 but I’ve not seen anyone using it. Is this the same thing or something different?
          Because I dislike the BOR editor so much I’ve converted all my workflows to use classes – but still have occasions when am forced to use BORs. Is it just the editor that’s getting a refresh, or perhaps we’re waving goodbye to all those macros too? I should really have booked into this meeting, but Aussie timezones rarely make this easy.

          While you’re pushing enhancements – could we please make class based workflow events actual use the class based eventing framework? Rather than having separate function modules that get called to do the same job? 🙂

          Love your work Sue (and the SAP_WITs)

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          1. Susan Keohan Post author
            Lean Inbox – developed by the HCM folks, I believe to run Portal-free – and had some really cool out-of-office features which are far more user-intuitive than the SAPGUI (and I am a die-hard SAPGUI person).  As I said earlier, let’s see if Eduardo can elaborate on the content of his slides…
            As for disliking the BOR so much, I hear you.  But some of us have to dance with the one that brung us.
            The macros?  Eh.  After a while they are just some weird type of command.
            But we should talk more about more classy stuff, right?
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            1. Chris Paine
              Truly a terrible pun that deserves this response.

              Would be interesting though – if the BOR gets an updated editor would there still be the move to create new WFs as class based or instead persist with a design that is growing a little less young than it was 15 years ago?

              Anyway – just couldn’t leave you with the last word especially a pun as bad as that 😉
              Will be closely watching this space for any developments. Thanks for helping make it happen!

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          2. Thorsten Franz
            Hi Chris,
            Fortunately, you don’t have to use function modules any more. The way to do it is as follows:

            • Define the event and parameters in your class with interface IF_WORKFLOW (this serves mostly as metadata for use in the workflow editor).
            • To globally raise the thus defined event and make it visible for the event manager, you can call CL_SWF_EVT_EVENT=>RAISE_IN_UPDATE_TASK( ) as described in http://help.sap.com/saphelp_nw70ehp1/helpdata/de/58/d7df3dffadd95ee10000000a114084/frameset.htm (sorry, no human-readable URL ;)).
            • Personally, I take pleasure in actually raising the event of the workflow class with RAISE EVENT and implementing an event handler that propagates the event to the event manager by calling CL_SWF_EVT_EVENT=>RAISE_IN_UPDATE_TASK( ), but I suppose this is a matter of personal programming style.
            • Any custom event handlers can also be implemented as classes.

            Thus, I have – fortunately – been able to implement entire scenarios around the event manager – workflow classes, event creation, custom event handlers, and so on – without resorting to function modules except where ABAP Dynpros were involved.
            Cheers,
            Thorsten

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            1. Chris Paine
              Thanks Thorsten!
              The FM was a slip of the fingers/mind. As I already use the classified base WF and of course, raise events using the classes/static methods mentioned.
              However, I had never thought to impliment a handler for the class events to raise the WF event. I always have raised the class event in the method that raised the WF event but never thought about doing it the other way around. But I can see how that is a bit cleaner.
              Thanks for the tip!
              Still, would be nice if the framework could provide those event handlers itself! 🙂
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            2. Chris Paine
              Thanks Thorsten!
              The FM was a slip of the fingers/mind. As I already use the classified base WF and of course, raise events using the classes/static methods mentioned.
              However, I had never thought to impliment a handler for the class events to raise the WF event. I always have raised the class event in the method that raised the WF event but never thought about doing it the other way around. But I can see how that is a bit cleaner.
              Thanks for the tip!
              Still, would be nice if the framework could provide those event handlers itself! 🙂
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            3. Chris Paine
              Thanks Thorsten!
              The FM was a slip of the fingers/mind. As I already use the classified base WF and of course, raise events using the classes/static methods mentioned.
              However, I had never thought to impliment a handler for the class events to raise the WF event. I always have raised the class event in the method that raised the WF event but never thought about doing it the other way around. But I can see how that is a bit cleaner.
              Thanks for the tip!
              Still, would be nice if the framework could provide those event handlers itself! 🙂
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            4. Chris Paine
              I’ll try again – seems my long suffering attempts to reply from my phone browser were to no avail…

              Thanks for the details – and also for the inadvertent tip that markup works in blog comments.
              It was a slip of mind/finders to write FM – as I already do use the class based static methods for raising the WF events from my own WF classes implementing the IF_WORKFLOW interface.
              However, I normally raise the class based event in the method that I raise the WF event (in case I ever want to listen for this event from some other class). Hadn’t thought about using a handler to raise the WF event – but seems to me that it would be a cleaner way to do this. Thanks for the tip!
              Would be nice if the framework did this itself thought.

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              1. Chris Paine

                – oh for the ability to go back and edit my typos – Fingers not finders, and though not thought…

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    2. Susan Keohan Post author

      <blush><br/>I just live to serve.<br/><br/>By the way, if you are wondering where the photo of Eduardo Chiocconi is, you will be disappointed.  He prefers to remain a man of mystery!<br/><br/>Seriously, thanks for the kind words, Greg.  Greatly appreciated.<br/>

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  2. Matthew Harding
    I definitely agree with pushing for back porting these features where possible.
    In regards to SAP_WIT, I had a discussion earlier this week about how if you really believe in something, then selling it is easy.  I really believe in what SAP_WIT are doing but in no way do I see the past work that SAP_WIT has done over it’s life as easy.  That said, change is happening and I do believe the awesome potential of workflow is catching on.  Now for some good ARIS style modelling functionality, two way integration into a process modelling framework and event insight integration, and we’ll be in awesome shape!
    Matt
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  3. Fred Verheul
    Hi Sue,

    I couldn’t make it yesterday (and really regretted it), but I did notice the twitter comments and reading your blog just now, I think you did a great job with this transcript (must be, with so much detail)!
    Also thank you SAP_WIT for using your combined influence power!
    Last but not least, thanks SAP for listening and responding.

    As for the backport, I strongly recommend a backport to at least 7.0, since that’s the release SAP itself wants everybody to be on. It would certainly help my own work at customer sites, most of which are on 7.0. Are you listening SAP? 🙂

    Cheers, Fred

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    1. Susan Keohan Post author
      Hi Fred,
      Thanks for the comments. I am sure Eduardo will be persuaded to share the slides to the SAP community – since they are already public via ASUG.  I’ll see what I can do 🙂
      Good to hear that I am not the only person not yet on 7.3.
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  4. Mark Finnern
    Hi Sue & WIT,

    Makes my day to see this. You pushed hard and backed it up with data and now the new editor is available and some more improvements on top.

    Thanks so much, Mark.

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    1. Susan Keohan Post author
      As I said, we’re not done yet!

      We really want to know – who is ready to ask for the newer editor, lean inbox, etc for their system (and what version is it?)

      Who is ready, willing and able to sign up for Workflow Certification when it becomes available?  Count me in!

      Thanks so much for your  support Mark.

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    1. Susan Keohan Post author
      I hope we are not ignoring that there are so many others who need to be thanked.

      Eduardo Chiocconi for being open to listening to us –  the HCM developers of the lean inbox, the performance gurus for the OSS notes, the *mysterious* people (and you know who you are RG) in Walldorf who already had these BOR editor improvements underway, the SAP Education people who reached out to us about Workflow Certification.
      All I did was come up with the twitter handle 🙂
      And its not all over either – I bet we will have some great stuff to talk about at ASUG/Sapphire too!

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  5. David Bann
    Wow – I attended the Webex and was very pleasantly surprised at the new enhancements. Thanks so much to you Sue and the rest of the SAP_WIT team!

    The majority of my clients are on 7.0, so it would be great if the new features could back-port for them. The main problem with not having these nice features back-ported is that often companies sit 5 years behind the latest release of SAP – if no back-ports are done, then by the time we get our hands on the new features, they won’t be so new, will they?

    Can;t wait for the certification to be made available again!

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    1. Susan Keohan Post author
      Hi David,
      I’m so glad you could attend the Webex.  And so glad you are expressing your interest in these improvements and certification too! 
      Thank you for your kind words, it’s really appreciated.
      Sue
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  6. Jon Reed
    Clearly there is lots of credit for these advancements to go forward on all sides but I find this an exciting story because it shows that when you have an SAP mission, information to back it up, and a thoughtful approach, change can happen. To me, this is what I aspire to as an SAP Mentor and I’m sure many others do as well – Mentors or not. Thanks!

    – Jon

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    1. Susan Keohan Post author
      Jon, we did get a leg up, if you recall?
      From a group working on SAP Certification… I think they are the Certification 5?

      Thanks 🙂

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  7. Susan Keohan Post author
    I thought at least one person would give me grief for using #winning!  I guess you are all too busy building workflows to chastise me.
    Thanks!
    Sue
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