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Author's profile photo Alan Rickayzen

Seismic changes in SAP Business Workflow for S/4

Fiori has radically transformed the Business Suite. It has confirmed that SAP can massively simplify the user interaction for a business user and by doing so paves the way to empowering the business user to achieve much more without the need for extra training or documentation.

To do so requires completely rethinking the “what can be achieved”,  “how it can be achieved”, and “what to sacrifice” in order to make something so readily consumable.

At the very onset of this revolution workflow development invested much time in brainstorming, design-thinking sessions and no end of soul-searching to come up with a plan to support the Suite with their radical new requirements.

This blog is the first in a series to show you what is available, and to help you understand the direction that development has taken to support this.

The Goal – Make workflow readily consumable by hiding the rocket science.
SAP Business Workflow as a platform for business processes has a very robust and broad foundation. Over the years it has scaled up to meet the growing Suite demands on performance, as well as its already awesome capabilities – enhanced even further by Customer Connection projects where customers and consultants collaboratively made improvement suggestions which SAP coded and backported into previous releases.

From the very nature of the Customer Connection requests it has confirmed that functionally SAP Business Workflow is unbelievably strong. But flexibility and usability could be improved. So to meet S/4 requirements, an approach that re-uses the existing capabilities and code but delivers using different user-interfaces and extending the flexibility were two paths that needed development focus.

Support for the workflow End-User

The workflow end-user is the user receiving workflow tasks, performing the approvals or completing the forms. So the best place to enhance their user-experience is the inbox. There are other blogs about My Inbox and how it radically simplifies the users daily business so there’s no need to dwell on that here.
Suffice to say:

  • The user-interaction is simple and intuitive
  • the My Inbox can be used out-of-the-box (no coding) with nearly all existing workflows,
  • a single My Inbox delivers the tasks in one place, irrespective of the originating system,
  • the features to enable  day-to-day use (substitution, attachment-handling, deadline-handling…) is provided out-of-the-box.

SAP has received terrific feedback about this Fiori App. It is becoming popular taking off faster than  even the Universal Worklist (UWL.)
A selection of related blogs:


Recommendation: Consider migrating to use My Inbox in place of the Universal Worklist or Business Workplace as soon as possible. This increases familiarity with the Fiori UI and confidence with your users well before a complete Suite migration takes place.

Support for the workflow process owner

Approvals and workflow tasks satisfy a purpose – the goal of the process. It is the process owner who knows this goal and has a vested interest in achieving this goal. The workflow is merely a tool to achieve this goal consistently, rapidly, and at low expense. The new S/4 requirement is to provide a user-experience to the process owner, so that they can configure the workflow themselves without having to offload this to the IT department, who provide expertise but at the expense of budget and time. Empowering the process owner eliminates these costs, but can only be achieved if the user-interaction is simple enough. Obviously there are some processes that will be too complicated for the process owner to automate themselves, but there are plenty that can.
S/4 Suite is enabling this, one scenario at a time, and the Fiori Manage Workflows app is what the process owner uses to achieve this. It also gives the process owner the flexibility to change the process more often than could have been achieved by handing off to the ITdepartment. So the process owner is now agile enough to adopt a process to local or seasonal requirements.

In the screenshot above you can see that the user creating this 3-step approval workflow did not need a graphical editor, or BPMN, but simply used a wizard to define the process.

A good blog, which includes a video showing how this is used in practice for Hybris Marketing campaign approval can be seen here:

Recommendation: Before migration to S/4, take a good look at the approval processes in particular and see if they have already been enabled for S/4 workflow. Even if this is not the case, in on-premise deployments you should investigate whether to customize these yourselves, to give your process owners this flexibility and empowerment.

In a future blog you’ll learn how you can do this yourself for on-premise or Cloud installations providing that the S/4 application has enabled this. And finally I’ll show you, as the IT department or consultant, how to customize the system so that your business users can configure their own workflows And following this we’ll publish a blog diving deeper into what improved workflow flexibility workflow in S/4 brings with it.

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      Author's profile photo Christopher Solomon
      Christopher Solomon

      Really interested in seeing where this will go. Having worked with (and developed) workflows through the years as well as working with the end user "inbox" solutions SAP has rolled out over the years, I want to see where SAP has focuses improvements. Your blog got me interested. Now I am along for the ride. Waiting for the next installment.....

      Author's profile photo Alan Rickayzen
      Alan Rickayzen
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Christopher,
      Yes - it's very exciting taking such a daring path. Feedback has been really encouraging. And with this hybrid approach your skillset will be just as much in demand as ever before.

      Author's profile photo Rob Dielemans
      Rob Dielemans

      So nice to see that SAP Business Workflow is now used in a lot of business processes. For me it always made sense to use workflow to streamline your processes and gain insight and control over them and also make life easier for users and managers.

      The combination of fiori and workflow is a golden one.

      Alan, will S/4 Hana also roll out new information analysis tools, like SWI5 - workload analysis, or are we expected to model them ourselves in embedded analytics?

      Cheers, Rob Dielemans

      Author's profile photo Alan Rickayzen
      Alan Rickayzen
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Rob,
      I totally agree. First stop will be the administration, and then after that information analysis,

      Author's profile photo Kiran Ganti.N
      Kiran Ganti.N

      Hi Alan

      0. With principle of 1, what is the recommended workflow engine for S/4HANA?

      1. CoPilot notifications which is under beta shipment with GA in 1705,
      how does that UX fit in with My Inbox fiori app?

      2. What is role of BRF+ rules in S/4HANA Cloud, because we seem to promote this in S/4HANA On-Premise (principle of 1)?

      3. Process route is used for adhoc workflows with in an object page.
      Will this reusable component be valid for all all objects and notifications piped in to My Inbox ?

      Thank you for clarifications.

      Author's profile photo Christian Loos
      Christian Loos

      Hi Kiran,


      1. Fiori notifications (CoPilot is something different) is just another consumption channel, like the notification center on your smartphone. Instead of always checking the app (My Inbox), you get a notification about a new work item pushed to you, and you can then either take direct action or open the task in the respective app (in this case My Inbox) to see more details.
      2. BRF+ is also used in S/4HANA Cloud. In Manage Workflow we currently only support simple expressions, but support for BRF+ is planned for the future. 
      3. We also plan to support adhoc workflows (process routes) in the future. All work items – whether they come from a workflow created with the Manage Workflow app, from a fixed (pre-built) workflow or from a process route (ad-hoc workflow) will appear in My Inbox.


      Hope this clarifies things.