Skip to Content

Complex Multi-Step Approvals in Business ByDesign

It has been possible to define approval workflows for a lot of documents since the very beginning of ByDesign. But these processes always only included one approval task for a pre-defined approver.
With Feature Pack 3.5 it’s now possible to define complex approval processes with multiple approval steps for the first business documents.

The following documents allow such a multi-step approval:

  • Shopping Carts
  • Purchase Orders
  • Supplier Invoices
  • Sales Orders

In this blog I will describe how to configure multi-level approvals in general. I will do this based on the example of shopping cart approvals.

Overall structure of approval configuration

The configuration of the multi-step approvals can be done via the fine-tuning activity list in the Business Configuration as in the past but also from the new Approval Processes view in the Application and User Management work center.

Once an approval process definition has been activated you can’t edit it anymore. Instead you will need to copy the existing definition and Edit Validity of both definitions. This way it’s ensured that you can start defining a new definition while the existing definition isn’t affected by that yet. This is especially important if you need to adjust a lot on your current approval processes e.g. because of big organizational changes in your company.

When you select during your Business Configuration scoping process that you want to use an approval process for a document such as shopping carts, there will be a default process definition visible in the Approval Processes list.

Each approval process definition consists of three major parts:

  • You can define as many approval steps as you want. You can even define parallel steps. You do that by entering a step number for each step. Parallel steps just get the same number.
  • For each step you can define starting conditions, criteria that determines whether this approval step will be needed for a particular shopping cart or not. Just click Edit Conditions.
  • For each step in the Work Distribution you define the people who shall receive an approval task if the defined conditions are met. Some of the available approver rules also require more detailed definition.

Approval Conditions

Approval conditions as well as the approvers are very document specific. Based on whether a shopping cart or a sales order needs to be approved, the conditions and approvers are very different.

Therefore only a few examples of conditions here:

For shopping cart approvals you can define an approval based on the following criteria:

  • If a price has been entered manually (yes or no)
  • If no price is available for an item (yes or no)
  • Account assignment type (everything with costs assigned to a cost center, or a project, or a free cost object)
  • Cost center (everything for a specifically defined cost center)
  • Project Task (everything for a specifically defined project task)
  • Buying company
  • Product category
  • Total net value (e.g. shopping carts with a value greater than x USD)
  • Requester (e.g. you can exclude specific requesters that don’t require an approval)

Here’s a screenshot of available criteria for purchase orders:


With these available conditions you can easily define things like the following:

Your finance department should approve every purchase order with a value greater than 5000 USD for specific product categories. You set up your product category hierarchy in a way that a group ofcategories starts with 10103 and then continues with 10, 20, 30 and so on (such as 1010310, 1010320, 1010330,…).

Let’s say there are two more subsidiaries of your company that don’t run ByDesign and therefore are set up as normal suppliers. You exclude purchase orders from the approval process that are meant for these suppliers. Because you are using a numeric number range of suppliers you will need to use “does not contain pattern” to exclude them.

Here’s a final example of such approval conditions:


If you need different approvers for different product categories for example you can do this by adding a second entry in the process steps table with the same step number and change the product category in the conditions accordingly. In that case only the responsible approver for the specific product category will receive an approval task.



Approver Definition

For each process step you now need to maintain the responsible approver. For shopping cart the following approver are available:

  • Direct approvers: select one or more specific people that will receive the approval task
  • Reporting line manager (of the requester)
  • Next level reporting line manager: This is the reporting line manager of the reporting line manager of the requester
  • Reporting line manager by value limit: The reporting line manager in the organizational hierarchy structure with the necessary authorizations to approve the shopping cart based on the shopping cart value
  • Reporting line manager up to value limit: ALL reporting line managers in the organizational hierarchy structure up to the one with the necessary authorizations to approve the shopping cart based on the shopping cart value
  • By cost assignment: Depending on the account assignment (project or cost center) the responsible manager/project lead will get an approval task.
  • By cost center manager by value limit: depending on their approval value limits the cost center manger in the hierarchy of the organizational structure with the necessary authorizations to approve the shopping cart based on its value
  • All cost center managers

Some of the mentioned approver definitions require also a definition of an approval limit.

E.g. the first level of managers are allowed to approve shopping carts and purchase orders up to 10,000 USD, the second level (e.g. Vice Presidents) are allowed to approve up to 50k and your CEO needs to approve everything above that.

You can define these approval limits in the work center view Employee Work Distribution in the work centers Application and User Management or Organizational Management. There select the Purchasing Approval Value Limit and define per manager the allowed value limit.

I also want to mention the following two features:
In case no approver can be determined (e.g. if there’s no approver with the necessary value limit defined) you can define an automatic approval to not end up with unassigned approval tasks:


In case multiple approvers are needed (e.g. if you define multiple specific people for an approval step) there’s an option to define if just one of the persons or all of them need to approve:


Activation of new approval definition

Last step is to activate a new approval process definition.
This needs to be done for a certain date/time. This way you can start a new approval configuration without affecting the current approval process. Especially when big changes are made to your organizational structure it can take some time to configure the approval processes accordingly. You don’t want to make such changes effective right away but schedule them to become active at a certain point in time in the future.

To do that select the approval process definition and click Edit Validity.

Make sure that the start date and time of the new approval definition is exactly the same than the end date and time of the current one.

In addition select the check box Unlimited Validity to make the new approval definition valid until further notice.


End-User view in document

Last but not least how does that look like for the user who’s creating a document that requires multiple steps of approvals?

Here’s a example of a 2-step approval.


As you can see Peter Greene is the first required approver. Until he approves it Arthur Major and Catherine Kennedy-Wood won’t receive an approval task.

Once Peter approves Arthur and Catherine both will get a task but only one of them needs to approve to complete step 2 of the approval step.

After that the document will be submitted for further processing.

You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
    • Hi Judson,

      I’m sorry, I forgot to mention this: of course you can still find the approval configuration activities in fine-tuning as you used to do in the past. It will just open the same screen which you can also get to from the Application and User Management work center.

      The good thing about the Application and User Management work center is that you don’t necessarily need to go through Business Configuration anymore.

      Cheers, Christian

  • Hi Christian, is it possible to run reports on approvals? Allow for metrics to be gathered and analyzed on the approval process (i.e. average time to approve, longest approvals, number of transactions at a given approval stage, etc.). Metrics must be both transactional based and aggregated.

    Thanks, Daniel

    • Hi Daniel,

      I think this was not possible last year and as far as I remember one reason were privacy concerns.

      Unfortunately I can’t tell you whether or not this is possible by now. I left the ByDesign organization end of last year.

      Maybe somebody from the team can comment on this.

      Best, Christian

  • Hi Christian, this is very useful! But I cannot find Approval Processes view in the Application and User Management work center. Is it because of scoping? Thanks. Tim

      • Thanks Christian. In BYD testing system, I have a key user role. I had assigned all the Work Center/Views to myself. I still cannot see Approval Processes view in the Application and User Management work center. 

        Now we want to use approval process for P.O. order. I reviewed our scoping and found P.O. approval process was not activated yet. I do not have the authorization to change the scoping. We may need to ask consultant to activate this function for us. Thanks. Tim

        • Hi Tim,

          you don’t need consultants to do this change.

          You can change your scoping in the Business Configuration work center by creating a new change project. In this change project you adjust your scoping. From their you could request a test tenant in case you are implementing a major change to your organization and want to test all new/changed processes before going live with it.

          In the case of adding an approval you probably don’t need a test system.

          Just activate the change project and your changes will be available.

          Best, Christian

  • good article –  question  I noticed there is no approval process for changed purchase orders (purchase Orders sent).  Is it possible to add one?  If you use dollar value to determine purchase approval thresholds you can bypass approval by creating PO and ordering then once it is “sent” you can increase dollar value to any level you like and print the change purchase order.  Trying to find ways to lock down purchase orders that are sent or add approval procedure(preferred) 

    • Hi Jordan,

      There is an approval process for “changed PO” in BYD. You need to select this in scoping via the question “Do you want to use an approval process for purchase orders at item level”. That will enable you to set up an approval process for changed POs. Only changes to quantity, price and cost assignment will cause the reapproval process to kick in.


  • Can we download the approval processes steps and conditions in any file or excel since we have more than 300 odd steps and it is difficult to trouble shoot if anything goes wrong. Download or export of the entire approval processes in a excel would be great to navigate and find any mistakes when the approval processes becomes more complex.

    Please let me know if this is possible as this would be great to have this feature in SAP Business ByDesign.

    Thanks. Karthik.