Workflow is a term that describes the capability to synchronize and proactively deliver work in the right sequence at the right time to the right people, with the right information for the work to be completed with a minimum of effort and without compromising compliance.
The work packages are called tasks, one person taking responsibility of each task. And the assignment to the right people (often termed agents) is called agent-determination. The sequencing of the tasks is specified by the workflow, and this often includes specifying deadlines and escalation or mitigation routes, while the system uses events to trigger or terminate processes.
Other aspects of workflow are related to how the tasks are received by the users, how users are assigned to responsibilities and how reporting and administration is performed.
In S/4HANA workflow is mainly handled by the SAP Business Workflow software. This consists of a modeling environment to configure the route that the process takes (flow), and a run-time mechanism to generate the task instances (called work items) and control their execution. This includes deadlines, agent-determination, conditions and event-handling. SAP Business Workflow predates S/4HANA, so it is also used in environments other than S/4HANA, such as SAP Business Suite.
In SAP S/4HANA an important shift in paradigm has been pursued with respect to workflow. Whereas in SAP Business Suite the IT department models, configures and administrates the workflows, in S/4HANA it is the process expert within the line of business that takes ownership of these duties. This is a huge advantage for the business department, enabling processes to be configured or adapted directly without technical expertise and without the need for inter-departmental projects. The term flexible workflow is used to describe this aspect of the workflow tooling, whereas classical workflow describes the tooling used prior to S/4HANA. Both use the much of the same underlying framework, but to accommodate the flexibility there are differences so tread with caution when extrapolating know-how.
In practice there are very few classical workflows deployed in S/4HANA Cloud, and since the modeling is done by SAP development they are not further described here.
One final note, although developed by the same team, this is a different framework to the SAP Cloud Platform Workflow Services, which compliment the standard SAP S/4HANA processes modeled using flexible workflows. The SAP Cloud Platform Workflow Services allow customers to model free-format process definitions using a BPMN editor, whereas flexible workflows enable the easy automation of simple structured processes such as approvals.
Summary of terminology
|Task||The description and context of what needs to be performed in a workflow step.||Both||Step type, activity|
|Work item||The instance of a task.||Both||Task|
|Agent-determination||The algorithm to determine which users are assigned to a task and receive it in My Inbox.||Both||Recipient assignment|
|My Inbox||Users receive their tasks in this app in the Fiori Launchpad||Both||Fiori App ID: F0862|
|My Outbox||Users can revisit their completed tasks in this app||Both||Fiori App ID: F0862||A parameterized version of My Inbox|
|Classic Workflows||These are the classical workflows, built using the workflow builder and delivered by SAP. They are usually referred to as simply workflows, but sometimes referred to as workflow templates.||Classic Workflow||Transaction SWDD||Customers of S/4HANA On-premise can still build classic workflow templates using the workflow builder.|
|Workflow Scenario||The set of building blocks used to configure a flexible workflow. This set includes the tasks, recipient assignment rules and conditions.
Workflows themselves are configured by the customer, although one default workflow (pre-delivered content) may be delivered by SAP as part of the workflow scenario.
The resulting workflows can be configured by the process expert using Fiori Manage Workflow app.
|Flexible Workflow||Transaction SWDD_SCENARIO||These are created in the backend by SAP development, or in On-Premise also by the customer.|
|Conditional Workflows||This is a type of flexible workflow, whose triggering depends on a condition being met. This simplifies workflow configuration, enabling many small workflows to take the place of one very large and complex workflow. The conditions, and the flow of the process is determined by the Manage Workflow App.||Flexible Workflow|
|Ad Hoc Workflows||A UI component that is embedded in business objects to allow a user to define a one-off workflow.||Flexible Workflow||An example of this in S/4HANA is the Engineering Record in PLM|
|Manage Workflows App||The Fiori App that is used to define the flexible workflows. Applications will deliver their own individual apps, which appear identical, but each configures the workflow scenarios relevant to the one particular line of business.||Flexible Workflow||Fiori App ID: F2190||Most S/4HANA applications also use their own configuration of this tile preset for the application.|
|Flexible Workflow Templates||Reusable workflow segments, that can be strung together in different sequences or used to populate ad hoc workflows.||Flexible Workflow||Fiori App ID: F2787|
|Administration Tiles||Different tiles to support administration duties, such as identifying work items which have not been assigned to a user.||Both|
|Workflow Instance Component||A UI component that renders the simulation of a workflow and displays its subsequent execution within the business document||Flexible Workflow||For example, in S/4HANA purchase requisitions the progress of the workflow can be followed within the purchase requisition document.|
|Teams & Responsibility Management||Management of users in teams and hierarchies of teams assigned to business context. This is one of the algorithms that can be used for agent-determination.||Flexible Workflow||Fiori App ID: F2412|