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Picking the right UI technology for your NW BPM application

In this post, I’d like to present the different options for building task UIs with SAP NetWeaver BPM and help customers make the right choice for their project.

The incumbents

When building user interfaces for your NW BPM process, you have the choice between multiple UI technologies:

  • Web Dynpro Java
  • Visual Composer
  • Web Dynpro ABAP (CHIP)
  • Adobe Offline Forms

Edited by Moderator: Jocelyn Dart

Please note that as of 7.3 EHP1 SP5 Open Task UI is also available

For further information see Christian’s blog

http://scn.sap.com/community/bpm/blog/2012/11/05/whats-new-in-netweaver-bpm-731-sp05

In this post, we will focus on the first three options and ignore the offline forms.

Let’s look at each technology in detail:

  1. Web Dynpro Java is a mature and robust framework, which allows developing complex business applications. It has very good tool support and fully supports all SAP product standards like accessibility or globalization. The developer tools are fully integrated into the NetWeaver Developer Studio (NWDS).
  2. Visual Composer (VC in Eclipse) is a tool for rapid development UI composition. Since it doesn’t require any programming skills, it can be also used by non-developers (business experts) to create simple UIs. Although it lacks the full flexibility and power of Web Dynpro, it can be a good option for simple task forms.
  3. Web Dynpro ABAP is very similar to its Java counterpart. If most of the business logic and business data resides in an ABAP system, it could make sense to also implement the UI there. That way, existing functionality like F4 value help can be used. 

All three technologies will be supported by SAP until at least 2020.

For a general comparison and recommendation on Web Dynpro Java and Web Dynpro ABAP please also check this wiki page:

http://wiki.sdn.sap.com/wiki/display/BBA/Deciding+Which+SAP+UI+Technology+to+Use

The new kid on the block

The SAP UI Development Toolkit for HTML5 – better known as SAP UI5 – is a new framework for building web-based and mobile applications, based on HTML5 and JavaScript. While released in beta only in early 2012, it has already raised some buzz in the SAP developer community.

Can you use this new technology in NW BPM? The answer is “Yes, you can”.

With the BPM Java API, which is available since NW 7.3, you can access task instance data and perform task actions.  For more information on how to do this, you can check out this article by Harald Schubert: http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-28977.

However, using this approach currently has two caveats:

  1. You still need to assign a Web Dynpro or VC component to the task definition, in order to define the task interface.
  2. You need to build your own inbox, since the standard UWL will always open the task UI that is linked to the task definition.

We plan to address this in one of the next versions, so that there is better support not only for SAP UI5 but also for other UI technologies like GWT or JSF.

Edited by Moderator: Jocelyn Dart

Please note that as of 7.3 EHP1 SP5 the above caveats no longer apply.

For further information see Christian’s blog

http://scn.sap.com/community/bpm/blog/2012/11/05/whats-new-in-netweaver-bpm-731-sp05

Summary

The following table lists UI frameworks from SAP:


Web Dynpro Java
VC (Eclipse) Web Dynpro ABAP SAP UI5
Integration in BPM since CE 7.11 CE 7.2 NW 7.3 (standalone)
Supported data types built-in simple types VC types String, boolean, INT4 CSDL (ODATA)
Custom Input Validation yes no yes yes
Programming Language Java ABAP JavaScript
Auto-generation from BPM yes yes no no
Integration with BPM native native native via API
Can show task in UWL yes yes yes no

So which technology should you choose? As always, it depends on various factors. Besides the more technical aspects listed in the table above, you should also consider

  • The available set of skills in your organization
  • The end user requirements (occasional users, power user)
  • Supported browser versions
  • Access via mobile devices and tablets
  • Integration into existing application landscape / portals

What is your opinion? Do you have experiences in using NW BPM with alternative UI technologies?

2 Comments
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  • Hi Christian,

    This is very concise and useful summary... and it would be great if you could update it to reflect the current situation now that the HTML5 worklist has been released in 7.31 SP4 and the Open Task UI has been released in 7.31 SP5. 

    I think people would also be really interested to understand the impact of future direction for the HTML5 worklist with SUP, and the recent announcement of SAPUI5 generation from VC.... if we can give people a feel for what to choose or look at if you are implementing now or looking to implement in the coming year that would make this one of those blogs we come back to again and again and again.

    Regards,

    Jocelyn

  • Dear Christian Loos , thank you for sharing.

    We are considering the use of WDA & UI5 technologies as UI interface for BPM.

    But we have doubts about the architectural considerations & best products versions to use. Also, which DB system should we consider for each product (SAP BPM 7.3 or SAP PO) ?

    Backend System: SAP ERP 6.0 EHP7 (HANA DB)

    Frontend System: SAP Netweaver GW 7.4 (Fiori Front-End & UI5)

    Portal System: SAP Portal 7.4 (HANA DB)

    On the other hand, it is necessary to implement SAP PI for integration with other systems or it is just an RFC connection ? We already have SAP PI 7.4 (dual stack system).

    Look forward for your comments and advices.

    Thanks in advance,

    Rodolfo