At TechEd Las Vegas Susan Keohan (and expert of SAP Business Workflow) and I (expert on BPM) presented a session about when you might use SAP NetWeaver BPM/PO for your workflow needs and when you might use SAP Business Workflow (BWF).
This blog gives a summary of the factors which may influence your decision with some examples and advice on how to create a workflow strategy.
Before we get into that, first let’s take a quick look at why you might want to use workflow in the first place :-
- Streamline – Automate activity such as approvals to free supervisor time
- Streamline – Push work to those who can act on it
- Control – Ensure Compliance and speed up audits
- Control – Validate Early (stops errors being unpicked later)
So if you have use-cases that could be helped by the above……read on
At a 10,000 feet level, SAP NetWeaver PO/BPM has been build on the Java stack and is designed for cross system workflow, SAP Business Workflow is a component of your SAP ABAP system (ERP. SRM etc) and is design to create workflow within your SAP system. BPM/PO is about 4 years old and BWF is about 15 years old.
At a more granular level these are the factors that might impact your decision :-
Do you have
SAP Business Workflow Skills
|Will drive you towards Business Workflow|
Do you have SAP Business Process Management Skills / License
|Business Workflow is included in your Business Suite user licence, BPM may be included with your PI licence (once you upgrade to PO – depending upon the licence type) – or you will need to purchase BPM/PO|
Does your work flow only include licensed SAP users
|If the “actors” in your workflow are all use SAPGUI and you have BWF skills you would favour BWF, if the actors are across or beyond your enterprise or you are starting from scratch then you would favour BPM|
Does your work flow include non-SAP systems or multiple SAP systems
|If your workflow crosses systems, BPM/PO (especially now full PI is in the package) is better suited to cross system workflow.|
Do you want to use Adobe Forms for off-line approval
|Adobe forms are tightly integrated into BPM, so if you want to use Adobe forms you would favour BPM|
Do you have lots of SAP look ups (F4 help) that you want to have in your user interface and don’t have WDA skills
|As BWF is in the ABAP stack you can create Dynpro screens with access to all the F4 help, with BPM you can use WebDynpro ABAP for this they of UI, but you would obviously need WebDynpro ABAP skills.|
Do you want to use a non-SAP technology for the user interface (neutral once you have Process Gateway)
|BPM has a pubic API so building non-SAP UIs (ASP.NET, iOS etc) is possible, with SAP NetWeaver Gateway you now get Process/Task Gateway oData service so you can do this for BWF as well.|
Do you want to build your own (perhaps mobile) work list (neutral once you have Process Gateway)
|BPM has a pubic API so building non-SAP UIs (ASP.NET, iOS etc) is possible, with SAP NetWeaver Gateway you get Process/Task Gateway oData service so you can do this for BWF as well.|
So if you take each of your use-cases and mark then against these factors it will drive you to BPM or BWF.
Below are the use case we discussed at TechEd with out generic recommendations (this doesn’t mean you can’t get the other tool to do the other use-case – you can as long as you have the right technical skills – our recommendation is based on which tool would achieve the scenario quicker or cheaper).
- I want to create Vendors – BWF
- I want to approve sales discounts with reference to orders in SalesForce – BPM
- I want to manage customer complaints internally – BWF
- I want to manage quality issues with my partners – BPM
- I want to create material centrally and distribute to multiple backend systems – BPM
- I want to approve timesheets – BWF
- I want to approve a PR and create a PO – BPM
- I want to collaborate with my suppliers to update lead times – BPM
As recommended next steps :-
- Profile your workflow requirements so you can make an informed decision
- Based on the profile create a business case for workflow (this blog might help you put this together)
- Decide on the focus of your workflow strategy (just SAP ABAP or SAP ABAP, SAP Java and non-SAP)
- If SAP and non-SAP then consider SAP Netweaver BPM/PO
- If only SAP and you don’t have any SAP Business Workflow skills then consider SAP NetWeaver BPM as this is where SAP are investing or if you don’t want to use Java use SAP Business Workflow
- If you only want to automate SAP ABAP and you have Business Workflow skills then consider SAP Business Workflow
- Finally It is OK to use both if you have the skills – however if you do use both then create a matrix for your organization that helps to guide people to the “right” answer (feel free to use the checklist above). They can work together – See Operational Process Intelligence and Process Observer.