Last Updated: June 17 2020
There are already lots of good blogs on workflow in S/4HANA but they are targeted at workflow specialists. In this short blog, I cover what an SAP solution architect needs to know about workflow in S/4HANA. It is also relevant for application consultants. I cover what is different about workflow in S/4HANA Cloud versus On-Premise and reference some more detailed information.
Workflows in S/4HANA Only
Let’s first consider workflows that exist purely within the S/4HANA application/instance.
In the old ERP business suite, there are “classic” SAP Business Workflows. End users receive workflows in an inbox. The original SAPGUI user interface was SAP Business Workplace with transaction code SBWP. There is also the “Universal Work List” in the portal. Users accessing SAP through a web browser with NetWeaver Business Client (NWBC) may use the “Unified Inbox”. SAP delivers standard workflows and IT specialists create new customer-specific workflows using the workflow builder (transaction code SWDD).
S/4HANA on-premise and cloud provides the Fiori app called My Inbox for end users. It is neatly linked to notifications in the Fiori launchpad.
S/4HANA also provides the new “flexible workflow” capability. Workflows can now be set up by a business specialist rather a technical specialist using the new Fiori apps called Manage Workflows and Teams & Responsibility Management. Check out this YouTube link to understand how it works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MI3-oNG0Y. The demo in SAP S/4HANA starts about 6 minutes in.
In fact, S/4HANA flexible workflows are based on the same underlying SAP Business Workflow engine. Furthermore, the old classic workflows also work in My Inbox Fiori app.
Many on-premise ERP customers are moving to S/4HANA now. The most common way of doing this is a “system conversion”. Most of the existing ERP workflows continue to work in S/4HANA. Exceptions are where the underlying functionality is impacted by an S/4HANA “simplification item”. See my related blog: https://blogs.sap.com/2019/10/30/how-to-move-to-sap-s4hana/
Most of the SAP applications areas e.g. Finance and Procurement have delivered new standard S/4HANA flexible workflows that can be adjusted by a business specialist as shown in the YouTube video above.
In S/4HANA Cloud essentials edition (formerly called public or multi-tenant edition) the focus is on the new flexible workflows: there are very few classic workflows available. The project team do not have access to the classic workflow builder; the Manage Workflows app must be used instead. S/4HANA Cloud extended edition (formerly called single-tenant edition) is more like on-premise.
In S/4HANA On-Premise, the flexible and classic workflows co-exist and the classic workflow builder is still available to customer project teams. This is also true for SAP S/4HANA Cloud Extended Edition. You will find a mixture of flexible and classic workflows are delivered by the SAP applications. New customers starting with S/4HANA should go to the flexible workflows first. For example, here is the SAP help page for a flexible workflow (purchase order) and this is what a classic workflow help page looks like.
If you are doing a new implementation, SAP Help in SAP S/4HANA explains how to export and import a classic workflow to transfer it from an old ERP system to a new SAP S/4HANA system.
Also see this blog.
These blogs provide more detail about flexible workflows in S/4HANA:
Workflows that reach outside S/4HANA
What about workflows that must work with applications/instances outside S/4HANA?
In some cases, you may have business requirements that cannot be met through the Manage Workflows app. Or, in S/4HANA on-premise, the requirement may not be possible using the classic workflow builder. The most common example is creating a workflow that spans across applications e.g. S/4HANA and SuccessFactors.
If you need to extend the workflow in S/4HANA public cloud or on-premise, you can use side-by-side extensibility using the SAP Cloud Platform Workflow capability. See this YouTube video for an overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkxioZzURM8 Also see this blog: https://blogs.sap.com/2017/07/14/getting-started-with-the-workflow-service-in-the-free-trial-account-12/ and these tutorials: https://developers.sap.com/group.cp-workflow-service.html
There are other choices for building workflows and workflow extensions. For example, for on-premise, you might choose to use Business Process Management (BPM) in SAP Process Orchestration (PO). This might make sense if SAP PO is your middleware standard for integration across SAP and non-SAP systems.
I hope you found this short blog informative.
Enterprise Architect at SAP Digital Business Services UK