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Migrating from Suite to SAP S/4HANA Vis-á-vis SAP Business Workflow/Flexible Workflow

Congratulations to you for for discovering this blog! It is essential reading if you’re a workflow consultant or a customer using SAP Business Workflow for process automation but looking towards SAP S/4HANA.

Quick recap: The principle SAP human-centric workflow tools are:

  1. SAP Cloud Platform Workflow
    The tool for cross-system workflows and orchestration processes, including extending SAP/S4HANA Cloud or On-Premise processes.
  2. SAP Business Workflow, including the “flexible workflow” extension.
    The tool SAP uses for automating workflows, especially approvals, inside SAP S/4HANA Cloud or Premise editions.
  3. SAP NetWeaver BPM
    The tool for On-Premise message-based integration and orchestration processes.
  4. Embedded workflow in other SAP Cloud applications, such as Success Factors, Ariba or Concur.
    These are not relevant to SAP S/4HANA, but even if you’ve traipsed into this blog by accident, welcome, why not read to the end of the next paragraph to make your visit worthwhile?

The SCP Workflow is not scope of this blog, BUT do make sure that you enter to win one of 300 showfloor passes to SAP Teched , because it’s a doddle for anyone with even the most basic workflow experience.

Before diving into the detail you may want to revise some of the terminology that will be used in the rest of this blog from a previous blog on the subject. Alternatively, just plough on and view the videos below to get an overview. Here goes with the most common migration questions…

Which workflow is supported with SAP S/4HANA?

The transactions and framework of SAP Business Workflow continue to perform within the S/4HANA On-Premise Edition. The code is proven and robust. Indeed, much of the code is reused by the new extension – “flexible workflow”. However, there are limitations to classical SAP Business Workflow within the S/4HANA context as well as benefits provided by flexible workflow that could well tempt you to start using flexible workflow now, rather than later. This blog highlights some of these and helps you make an informed decision for your next workflow project.

The brief answer to this question is that the modeling environment of SAP Business Workflow cannot be used in the Cloud edition of SAP S/4HANA. However, classical workflows delivered by SAP will continue to work, if the application supports them.

The “flexible workflow” extension to SAP Business Workflow works in both the Cloud and the On-Premise editions of S/4HANA.

One reasons for this behavior is the different GUIs supported by the different S/4HANA editions.

1. Fiori

Moving from Business Suite to S/4HANA is a stunning improvement from the user-interface point of view because of the S/4HANA adoption of Fiori. And particularly applicable to workflow, using the Fiori My Inbox app is a welcome simplification for your users. Not just in terms of appearance but also in the simplification of interactions, such as how to maintain or adopt substitutions for vacation or unexpected iillness.

2. SAP Gui for Windows and the SAP S/4HANA Cloud Edition

SAP GUI for Windows transactions are in conflict with the Fiori focus on simplification, and do not run in SAP S/4HANA Cloud except for the few that have been whitelisted. The workflow builder (SWDD) has not been whitelisted so it cannot be used in S/4HANA Cloud Edition to edit or display a workflow. This has consequences:

  1. Workflows cannot be built using the Workflow Builder in the Cloud Edition, so a different app (Fiori Manage Workflows) is used to build your own workflows.
  2. Classic business workflows delivered by SAP will run in the Cloud Edition, because the workflows are built and transported from SAP development.
  3. The workflow runtime (the invisible engine running in the background) supports both classic business workflows (built by SAP), and also the flexible workflows configured in the Manage Workflow App.
  4. Workflows built using the workflow builder cannot be loaded into the Manage Workflow app.

[Video – How to build a workflow]

2. SAP Gui for Windows and the SAP S/4HANA On-Premise Edition

SAP GUI for Windows can be used by On-Premise customers because it is installed locally. But you should consider carefully whether to use the Fiori Manage Workflow app instead. If you want to use the Fiori app, you will use the workflow scenario builder (swdd_scenario) to create the building blocks of the workflow, but your business department will string together the workflows themselves using the Manage Workflow App. This empowers the business process experts to change processes whenever they want, independently, while the IT department develops more workflow scenarios for other lines of business.

  1. Classic workflows can be built using the Workflow Builder (SWDD), and in addition you can develop your own new workflow scenarios using the Scenario Builder (SWDD_SCENARIO) to help the lines of business (LOBs) become more independent.
  2. The workflow run-time (the invisible engine running in the background) supports both classic Business Workflows (built by SAP), and also the flexible workflows configured in the Manage Workflow App.
  3. Workflows built using the Workflow Builder cannot be loaded into the Manage Workflow app.
  4. Workflows built using the Fiori Manage Workflow app cannot be loaded into the workflow builder.

What About the Compatibility of Workflow Tasks?

The user performing the approvals does not want to be confronted with different ways of accessing and processing tasks depending on whether the tasks are legacy from Business Suite or part of a new process in SAP S/4HANA. The Fiori My Inbox app takes care of this, by camouflaging the origin of the tasks. In fact, it makes good sense to  make the My Inbox Fiori tile available to your users even before moving to SAP S/4HANA to improve continuity. Your users will love you for taking this path.

Workflow Tasks in SAP S/4HANA Cloud

The tasks are received in the Fiori My Inbox app. My Inbox can render Windows Gui transactions that have been white-listed in My Inbox. Generic decision tasks (TS00008267) are rendered directly by the My Inbox tile, so the user does not need to to distinguish between SAP-delivered classic workflows, and the tasks spawned from the newer flexible workflows.

[Video – An approval is performed in My Inbox]

Workflow Tasks in SAP S/4HANA On-Premise

The tasks are received in the Fiori My Inbox app. My Inbox can render Windows Gui transactions using GUI for HTML, if the transaction is simple. So tasks that are part of custom workflows can be launched from My Inbox and your users will be delighted when you switch to My Inbox.

  1. Generic decisions (TS00008267) are re-rendered automatically using Fiori in My Inbox
  2. Simple transaction-based tasks can be launched from My Inbox, but you might want to contemplate adapting the UI to Fiori for the comfort of your users (while leaving the Business Workflow untouched). The SWFVISU customizing allows this.
  3. Fiori Push Notifications can also be configured easily or custom workflows.

Are The Underlying Business Objects Compatible?

There is no guarantee that the underlying business objects (aka BOR) remain unchanged in SAP S/4HANA compared to Business Suite. This is of no concern to S/4HANA Cloud users, but is pertinent to On-Premise installations where custom workflows use the SAP business objects. You are recommended to test extensively, because when a task is re-issued as a Fiori App there may no longer be any reliance on what used to be a standard business object. S/4HANA has evolved, and as with any evolution the improvements mean change.

Are Agent Assignments Performed Using a Different Framework?

“Agent Assignment” is the business of how users are mapped to tasks.

There is a new app in S/4HANA to maintain the grouping and hierarchy assignments of users to logical objects such as plants or regions. This maintenance is performed using the  Fiori Teams and Responsibilities App, which is a simpler way of maintaining small organizational responsibilities in the Fiori UI. Both classic workflows and flexible workflows can consume whatever is maintained in this app. Similarly, both classic and flexible workflows can consume agent determination rules as enabled by the classic NetWeaver framework. But be aware that there are no S/4HANA workflow scenarios that consume PD-org structures, and the maintenance transactions (PP01)  are not white-listed for use in SAP S/4HANA Cloud. If in doubt, move away from the pd-org maintenance transactions and adopt Teams and Responsibilities.

One difference you’ll notice between the tasks in flexible workflows compared to classic workflows, is that the tasks used in flexible workflows are classified as general tasks, meaning anyone can perform them, if they have sufficient authorization. With the role-based authorization concept in S/4HANA, which even incorporates the access to the underlying tiles and Odata services, the maintenance and adoption is easier, particularly in the Cloud edition where everything is set up in advance for you. Tasks used in flexible workflows are automatically set as general tasks when imported into the production system so do not be surprised to find this manual step missing in S/4HANA.

 

Does The Workflow Log Still Exist?

The visibility of the progress of a process is paramount to workflow’s success. My Inbox supports this for both classical and flexible workflows, in both Cloud or On-Premise editions. The graphical log is not available in the Cloud edition, but this is not a handicap since in practice graphical logs of even the simplest of processes in classical workflow usually look like spaghetti due to all the exception handling. Since exception handling is performed more intuitively in flexible workflow, with the log showing the linear straight-through interpretation of the process, a Fiori element that is not graphical makes more sense in S/4HANA Cloud and On Premise. This is simpler for the users to interpret.

[Video – The workflow log in My Inbox]

[Video – The workflow log after the second approval]

S/4HANA applications have often integrated this directly into their display of the business object. So irrespective of how the workflow has been configured using Manage Workflow, both the expected path and the actual path of the workflow can be inspected directly in, for example, the purchase requisition. This alone is a very good incentive for adopting the Flexible Workflow instead of classic workflows when migration of a custom classic workflow proves tricky, or a new process needs to be automated.

[Video – The workflow log embedded in the business document]

How has Administration Changed?

SAP S/4HANA includes Fiori apps similar to the workflow administration GUI transactions for making sure that the processes flow fluently.

Installation Aspects?

There is none necessary in the Cloud edition. It’s all done for you.

For the On-Premise edition transaction SWU3 is used just as in Business Suite, and you are advised to run the verification workflow (transaction SWUA) to check that everything has been set up correctly.

Has the Substitution Concept Changed?

No, but it is easier to consume.

Substitution (both active and passive) is supported directly in My Inbox, and it’s ease of use is all credit to the Fiori environment. Tasks used in flexible workflows can also be classified to enable fine-granular substitutions.

[Video – Substitution in My Inbox]

Is SWI1 and Debugging, and in particular the transaction SWI1 available?

SWI1 is the Windows Gui transaction for monitoring all work items (tasks, approvals…). This is not necessary in S/4HANA Cloud, where the administration Fiori Apps cover Cloud needs, but is necessary when developing your own workflow scenarios (for flexible workflows) or your own classic workflows.

Worth noting:

  1. Both flexible workflows and classic workflow generate work items which all appear in SWI1.
  2. Both flexible workflows and classic workflows have a top-level work item (type F).
  3. There are differences between the information displayed for a flexible workflow compared to a classic workflow

.

Perhaps debugging is worth revisiting later in a separate blog, but for the time being I am sure that you’ll find this compatibility reassuring.

Similarly the test transaction SWUS can be used to trigger a flexible workflow as well as a classic workflow when developing and testing new workflow scenarios in the On Premise edition.

[Video – SWI1 flexible workflow item in S/4HANA On-Premise – Business Workflow gurus only beyond this point! ]

Summary

Feature Business Suite SAP S/4HANA On-Premise Edition SAP S/4HANA Cloud Edition
Fiori My Inbox Yes Yes Yes
Classic Workflows Yes Yes – but consider flexible workflows instead Only those delivered and maintained by SAP
Flexible Workflows Yes Yes
Workflow Builder transaction
(transaction SWDD)
Yes Yes
Workflow Scenario Editor
(transaction SWDD_SCENARIO)
Yes

Manage Workflows

(App F2190)

Yes Each application has it’s own version configured with the scenario ID as a filter.
E.g. F2705 for purchase requisitions.
PD org maintenance
(transaction PP01)
Yes Yes – but not recommended
Teams and Responsibilities
(App F0862)
Yes Yes
Substitution available Yes Yes Yes
Workflow logs Yes Yes Yes. but not the graphic view.

 

Feature Classic workflow Flexible workflow 
Work items Yes. Yes.Those spawned for flexible workflows contain extended information.
Workflow logs Yes Yes. but not the graphic view.
Substitution available
(active/passive)
Yes Yes
Teams and Responsibilities can be used
(App F0862)
Yes Yes
Size of workflow process Typically large Typically split into many smaller conditional workflows using the Manage Workflow app.
Parallel processing Yes Not at present, other than dynamic parallel aproval (par-for-each per assigned user, aka multiple-instance)
Ad hoc workflows – create single instance workflows Yes – as used by PLM where flexible workflows are strung together on-on-the-fly during Change Record creation.
Eventing (start/intermediate/end) Yes Yes
Workflows configured by IT department Business Process Experts (or LOB users, such as the engineers in PLM)
Exception handling Many handled with flow-modeling Handled by code or the exception-handling in the Manage Workflows app.

One final tip – the videos were recorded in SAP S/4HANA Cloud Edition release 1905 using the Demo Cloud. So partners and customers with access can try this out for themselves directly, and experiment with the other features that time has prevented me from showing in this blog.

Subtitled videos used in this blog in storyboard sequence for a simple overview:

  1. How to build a workflow
  2. An approval is performed in My Inbox
  3. The workflow log in My Inbox
  4. The workflow log after the second approval
  5. The workflow log embedded in the business document
  6. Substitution in My Inbox]
  7. SWI1 flexible workflow item in S/4HANA On-Premise – Business Workflow gurus only beyond this point!

 

I’ll do my best to answer the comments because I’m Always grateful for your feedback, especially to those of you who proactively spread the word in Twitter or elsewhere or simply press the like button, but please bear in mind that it is the summer lull here in Walldorf and there may be delays in answering.

 

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9 Comments
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  • Hi Alan Rickayzen ,

    Thanks for sharing such a informative blog!

    Since, most of the video links are from S4HC edition in this blog. Would it be possible for you to provide some info/documentation on how to create custom Flexible workflow and configure the same in “Manage Workflow” app in SAP S/4HANA 1809 On-Premise?

    Thanking you in advance!

    Regards,

    Tushar Sharma

     

    • Great minds think alike, Tushar 👍

      I’ve held user-group workshops in the past since the hands-on experience is useful but I am intending to create a blog for the 1909 on-premise release.

      Alan

  • Great blog, answered many of my questions, especially thinking of ERP customers who are considering to move to S/4HANA on premise.

    Looking forward for your 1909 release update!

  • Great blog Alan – thanks for sharing this!

    One question related to your statement around org. management “If in doubt, move away from the pd-org”. Are there use cases for which you’d still see a need for the classical org. management?

  • Hi Alan Rickayzen ,

    Thanks for this useful blog. I am looking forward to more step-by-step blogs on this topic to try something myself out!

    Summary Section – Feature transaction SWDD – It should be ‘Yes’ for business suite. Right? or Am i missing something?

    Regards

    GK