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New to Workflow in SAP S/4HANA – Release 1905

For Those Unfamiliar with Workflow in SAP S/4HANA

The wholehearted adoption of flexible workflow by the SAP S/4HANA applications is cause for celebration and cause for a new blog to coincide with the 1905 Release of SAP S/4HANA Cloud. Crystal-balls can reasonably predict that these features will be visible in the next SAP S/4HANA On Premise Release, too.

The S/4HANA 1905 Release News will describe the new adopters, such as the process for releasing Sales Orders, so this blog will only describe the technical changes from the flexible workflow point of view.

To recap, flexible workflow is the new capability engineered specifically for SAP S/4HANA, which uses some underlying SAP Business Workflow framework (such as the workitems, which you’ll still find in SWI1), but a radically different way of designing, executing and storing the workflow definitions.  In a nutshell, the workflows are configured using the Fiori Manage Workflow Apps, and not in the Windows GUI Workflow Builder (SWDD). This allows a business process specialist to configure the workflows directly without technical assistance from basis consultants or the IT department – saving costs, and enabling full and dynamic control of the processes.

Fig 1: An SAP S/4HANA Workflow

(See images at the end of the blog for closeups or if you want to download images)

 

The screenshot shows a workflow created to release a purchase requisition item, and I’m sure you will see at a glance that this is a two-step approval, for purchase requisition items above 250€, where the second approval is only necessary for requisition items above 1000€. You may also spot that I have assigned the approvers by name, whereas in practice I’d probably use pools of users defined in the Teams and Responsibilities App, or the procurement-specific BADI.

The rest of this blog shows the enhancements that have been made to the workflow tooling. In some cases the enhancement is automatically available wherever workflow is used by the applications, in other cases the application has to enable the feature for their application in order for it be be available, and to avoid disruption. This means that not all enhancements described below are visible in all applications that already use flexible workflow.

Improvement – the Possible Workflows are Sorted by Ranking by Default

In SAP S/4HANA, rather than create one complex workflow to cover all situations, you simplify creation and also maintenance by configuring many small workflows, each to cover one situation. The precondition based on attributes provided by the application (or extensions that you have configured in your Cloud tenant) determine which of the individual workflows are triggered. Only the first matching workflow is triggered and the others ignored, so ranking plays an important role.

My pet nag was that sorting was not possible according to rank in previous releases. I’m very happy to say that this has now been corrected, and is now the default view.

 

Fig 2: The workflows sorted according to evaluation order.

Improvement – The Instance-View is Unrestricted

When a human workflow is launched, there is the inevitable suspense about what the final outcome is or how far it has progressed. SAP S/4HANA applications can embed the view of the workflow progress directly in their main application, irrespective of how the workflow has been defined in the Manage Workflow Fiori App. This allows anyone who is able to look at the original request to see how far the workflow has progressed, and what other steps are necessary before the workflow completes. Ergo – Process transparency!

Fig 3: The purchase requisition approval progress embedded in the purchase requisition itself.

This view has proved so useful that its enablement has been extended to allow it to be embedded in multiple views of the same object. So an application, such as Procurement, that provides simplified as well as professional views can embed the workflow progress in each of them.

Improvement – Final Comment Displayed in Progress View

Typical of an approval process, and nearly all the SAP S/4HANA workflows are approval or release processes, is that when the request is rejected, the approver can add a comment explaining why. Sometimes there is even a legal requirement for this. Because it is of such significance, the final comment is displayed in the workflow progress view as an active link so that it can be read.

Fig 4: The final comment is displayed – in this case the reason why the request was rejected.

Improvement – Deadline-Handling

Deadlines can now be specified when creating a workflow and the deadline is displayed in the workflow progress and also in the My Inbox app.

Fig 5a: The upcoming deadline displayed in the workflow progress indicator

 

Fig 5b: The overdue deadline displayed in the workflow progress indicator

 

Fig 5c: The overdue deadline displayed in the My Inbox

The deadline-handling is only available if the application has enabled it in their scenario, specifying what time-points are relevant. This is normally from the start of the process or the creation of each approval item in a multi-step approval, but it could also be more sophisticated and application relevant. For example, in the case of a (fictional) leave request, the timer could be specified as a week before the vacation requested is due to begin. This is then reflected in the Manage Workflow App, and the relevant timer can be selected.

Fig 6: The deadline timer can be selected when configuring the workflow in the Manage Workflows App.

The next screenshot displays the view of the developer who develops the workflow scenario. This is hidden from view to the SAP S/4HANA Cloud users, but should help explain the mechanism to those of you developing your own scenarios in SAP S/4HANA On Premise – treat it as a lab preview.

Fig 7: Behind the scenes with the workflow scenario development.

Improvement – Workflow Outcome Email Notifications

What was available in previous Releases, was that when a task (work item) is created, a notification is propagated by Fiori Notifications and also email (SMTP) to users that receive the task in their My Inbox, so that they are informed right away, even those users who only sporadically access their SAP software. In the 1905 Release an additional mechanism is available, if it has been enabled by the SAP S/4HANA application, so that emails are sent when the process completes. For example (fictional example), when a leave request is approved, the requester receives an email informing them that they can book their vacation. Alternatively, if the request is rejected, than an email with a different conciliatory text is sent to the requester.

Mail templates, one for each outcome, can be assigned to the workflow scenario, and each customer can adjust the text/layout according to their individual needs using the standard Output Management App. Once enabled, the business process specialist configuring the workflows can select who receives these messages. For example, those involved in a complex approval chain may need to be informed when the document is finally released (or not) so that they do not need to keep returning to the request to determine its status.

Miscellaneous Detailed Screenshots for Improved Viewing…

Fig 1: Detail

Fig 1: Detail

Fig 1: Detail

 

Fig 4: Detail

 

Fig 5: Detail

 

Fig 6: Detail

 

Fig 7: Detail

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19 Comments
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    • Yep Mike, I’m looking forward to this arriving in the On-Premise Release too, so experts like you can get their hands on it., too. Currently its use depends on whether or not the S/4 apps have enabled it in this release. So as I warned at the beginning, these features have to be adopted to become visible.

  • Thanks Alan for the great blog! Now the wait for the features to make their way  to on premise….And be on a project to be able to use them…

     

     

  • Hi Experts,

    How about approval scenario setup based on document chronology and their statuses e.g. I like to setup flexible Scenario like this;

    1. Automatic PO Approval : If Purchase Requisition was Approved Manually, and Sales Document was approved manually.
    2. Manual PO Approval     : If Purchase requisition was changed after previous approval

    This way it will enable us to deploy end-to-end release strategy from Sales Oder Approval until Billing Approvals.

    I know, technically it is not possible yet since there are no possible start conditions available that establishes the link between documents from Sales Order to Purchase Requisition and onward to Purchase Order until Billing Approval.

    Do I have to create my own custom flexible workflows (may be copy existing standard template) and create own custom start conditions? If yes, I would have do for all standard workflows to provide those start conditions that links one to the other. So It would not be possible to use standard workflow templates any more.

    Is there any BadI option for start condition that I may use, in run time I would check the conditions using business document data.

    Any comment would be appreciated.

    Best Regards,

    Naeem Khan

     

     

    • Hi Naeem,

      >> 2. Manual PO Approval     : If Purchase requisition was changed after previous approval

      Eventing enables this, It  could even trigger a different workflow, if the requisition is changed significantly.

      Best,

      Alan

      • Hi Alan,

        I think, it is just not enough. If I have to trigger manually one (Standard) or the other (custom) workflows by events, there won’t be any use of standard Flexible Workflow Scenario in “Manage Workflow App” for Purchase Requisition, Purchase Order etc.

        Best Regards,

        Naeem

         

        • I should have made it clear that Manage Workflow handles the whole thing, including the internal eventing. You don’t need to worry about a thing and certainly don’t need to combine standard and custom workflows.

          Maybe we need a blog about this.

           

           

  • Hi Alan

    Thank you for the Blog. This is very useful and concise information.

    Are there any KPIs for Deadline-Handling?

    Regards

    Bindu

  • Hi Alan

    Here are some examples:

    With Deadline handling, are there any measures that help to determine which Approvers usually miss the deadline for approval? Which suppliers are associated with the late approvals? Are the deadlines usually missed for Project (account assignment ‘P’) approvals instead of inventory?

    Hope this is helpful.

    Thank you

    Bindu

  • Thanks Bindu,

    That makes sense. You can create custom reports based on the CDS views associated with the workflow scenario. I.e. by combinding the generic CDS view for a workflow scenario, together with the scenario-specific view (e.g. procurement) you should be able to achieve this.

  • Dear Alan,

    Thanks for the detailed inputs on using Flexible workflows. In our case, the requirement is to setup a workflow during Vendor Creation. But i don’t see any Workflow for Vendor creation / approval post Vendor creation.

    How can we approach such scenarios when there are no Flexible workflow available?

    Appreciate your thoughts in this regard.

    Thank  you

    – Anil

    • Hi Anil,

      I believe there is currently no flexible workflow available for Vendor Creation but I’m happy to take this further. In which area of SAP S/4HANA do you see this need? Procurement for example?

      Best regards,
      Alan

  • Hi Alan ,

    Currently there is no flexible workflow for sales order approval(1809 on premise) . So can we create flexible workflow from scratch .

    Appreciate if you can provide some inputs on this

    • Hi TCS,

      It’s already available in the SAP S/4HANA Cloud version. So you could predict its availability in the On-Premise Release, or there is nothing stopping you creating your own scenario.

      Best regards,

      Alan