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Extending business processes through the Flow Extension API

Your imagination has no limits, and neither does your process Ariba Network.

The Ariba Network is a global and collaborative platform aimed at standardizing and automating purchasing processes between buyers and sellers. Although it provides many benefits, it does not address 100% of business scenarios, which are often unique to each company. SAP Ariba APIs enable you to innovate with speed, agility, and flexibility in order to fill any gaps and tailor your processes as needed.

One example of this is our Flow Extension API, which allows you to intercept a document at specific points within its normal flow, from one party to another, and take a variety of possible actions as illustrated below:

This API provides a great opportunity to add capabilities to your domain-specific requirements by connecting an external application with your flow of documents on Ariba Network. Then, you can temporarily suspend the flow of a document, in order to perform your custom task. Finally, you can resume or halt the workflow entirely, .

There are three possible configuration options for the Flow Extension API:

  1. A simple flow extension allows you to temporarily suspend the document flow, with the option to gather and analyze data from the document, or post an attachment and comment, and then instruct the flow to resume.
  2. Halt flow extension is similar to the above, except with the option to halt the approval flow rather than having it resume.
  3. Non-suspend flow extension grants access to the document data but does not suspend the document flow. Because the flow is not suspended, it does not permit uploading attachments or comments to the document.

Of course, there are several nuances to be taken into consideration:

  • transacted on Ariba Network is supported by this API, or for each use case. It only applies to:
    • purchase order (simple or non-suspend flow extension)
    • order confirmation (any flow extension)
    • advance ship notice (any)
    • good return notice (simple or non-suspend flow extension)
    • invoice (any)
  • No changes can be made directly to the document.
  • Some actions may not make sense, depending on the use case selected. Here are some examples:
    • Performing validations does not make sense for a simple or non-suspend flow extension
    • Posting attachments or comments only applies to simple or halt flow extension
  • With each use case in question, the flow extension takes place before or after the document has been transmitted to its intended recipient. This is indicated through the parameter “stage,” with values Pre-Propagation or Post-Propagation.
  • The maximum time, in hours, that can pass before your flow extension expires is configured through the SLA parameter. Once this time is reached without API intervention, the document goes to its recipient automatically.

Here are some real-world examples to clarify this:

Some other possible examples:

  • A non-suspend flow extension forwards a copy of the goods receipt to the financing company for auditing purposes or redirects the invoice to the financing company for enrichment on its way to the buyer.
  • An accounting firm might use a simple flow extension to attach taxation advice to an invoice document.

As Carl Sagan once wrote Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” SAP Ariba APIs and, specifically, Flow Extension API can be a great tool to extend and add new options to your existing business processes on Ariba Network. The possibilities are many, and limited only by your imagination.

Now, it is your turn to think about innovative applications made possible through these extensibility tools. You can find further details and guides in the Developer Portal. See where your imagination can take you.

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