Looking at the challenges we will continue to face in 2021 and beyond, automated and digitized business processes will become even more important than before. In this article, I’d like to talk about how organizations can enhance their business processes by relying on SAP Workflow Management and citizen developers to achieve the next level of productivity, flexibility and resilience.
Workflow Management is at the heart of any business application
Running a business starts and ends with processes. To add value, the flow of work within these business processes needs to be defined, managed and efficient. With digitized workflows organizations master this challenge. We see workflows as an integral part of applications to drive their behaviour. Users recognize them as configurable business logic (configurable, embedded workflows in applications).
Though there are already many business processes covered with standard workflows within ERP, HR or customer experience applications, there is still the need to customize or extend them or even create new business processes spanning multiple products. These extensions are integrated with the related applications, like SAP S/4HANA, SAP SuccessFactors, or LoB applications, running in the cloud or on-premise (extension workflows). Even independent workflow-based applications, composite applications, are possible. And also orchestrating end-to-end processes, across multiple applications, including multiple LoBs is another area that we see at our customers (Cross LoB orchestration workflows).
Workflows support these different requirements and connect the different systems. And now, more than ever before, they need to be flexible and extensible to adapt to changing customer, employee and market needs. Today, workflow management capabilities need to be accessible for non-technical users to simplify the building and the extension of applications and processes. Let’s look further into this.
Elevating user experience for all developer personas
In the past, companies focused on enabling professional developers to build processes and extend applications. Software projects and purchases were mostly driven by IT. In the last decade, this has changed, with the global pandemic only accelerating the trend. The number of employees who are involved in creating applications and processes has increased significantly. The so-called business technologists – business experts in the Line of Business with low or no developing experience but technical affinity – want to configure processes and applications themselves without heavily relying on IT. Typical examples are business application workflows, such as approval processes in procurement or finance, creating a new vendor record or Capital Expenditure approvals.
These processes can vary between countries and companies typically build many variants of the workflow to adapt to the business needs of local and global compliance policies. With tools that require no coding experience, the procurement or finance user, being the subject-matter expert, can configure these specific process variants themselves. The role of IT in this setup is to provide re-usable building blocks for configuration, support and coach the business technologist on this journey, guaranteeing IT security and data consistency whilst empowering her to be as agile as needed. Ultimately, this allows the entire organization to become more flexible, agile and efficient.
The developer personas to be enabled
Our software must empower all developer personas to build and deliver processes, offering handshakes and transitions between them. Business technologists today can develop multiple types of software such as form workflows, approval workflows, bots, mobile apps and web applications. But in the case of requiring new data models, a professional developer will need to step in and support the citizen developer before she can continue to build the process herself.
Whilst many traditional developers at first resisted Low-Code and No-Code, they have now understood citizen development as a way to work more efficiently. Today, it is mandatory for a software company to enable application and process building with a seamless development experience from a Pro-Code, to a Low-Code and No-Code experience.
Lightweight development tools have been around for more than 20 years, but the idea that someone who is not a technical person creates simple workflows is becoming much more pervasive now.
Low-Code/No-Code for higher productivity and flexibility
SAP amplifies the process automation and app development journey with a strong and simple experience that enables flexible adoption and extension by leveraging a Low-Code/No-Code use experience. SAP Workflow Management enables process building from simple forms to composite workflows. It allows both the business technologists and the professional developers to build, run and extend workflows and automate decision making. Integrated with SAP Intelligent RPA, processes can be automated end-to-end, replacing repetitive tasks with digital bots, and allowing companies to embark on the journey of Hyperautomation. Through additional integration with Signavio and Business Process Intelligence, customers will be able to connect process insights to immediate action.
Embarking on the Journey of Hyperautomation
SAP Workflow Management also bets on integrations with No-Code app development platforms (read on SAP’s recent acquisition of the no-code pioneer AppGyver). These platforms guarantee rapid app building and compelling productivity gains as compared to conventional application platforms. These capabilities will soon be omnipresent in larger enterprises.
Pre-built content to orchestrate processes across Lines of Business
Enhancing process automation for our customers is not only about offering strong tools but also about providing ready-made content, based on SAP’s process expertise across 25 industries. SAP Workflow Management offers pre-built content leveraging real-time flexibility on live business processes, such as workflow templates and pre-defined metrics for process performance, dashboards for end-to-end process visibility, and business rules to manage automated decisions. Additionally, SAP Intelligent RPA offers a variety of bot templates.
Content packages are especially relevant when it comes to building or extending cross-departmental workflows. These workflows include common business flows and standardized processes connecting different systems across departments – such as HR with Finance – and can help to create end-to-end flows. Having strong content packages coming with simple ease of use is key to having seamless connectivity across teams and departments and delivering outcomes faster, with less effort. Process content that is shipped from SAP is “upgrade safe”. A key benefit is that customers can create upgrade safe variants of these process packages and continue to benefit from new versions of the business processes without any impact on their customized variants.
On the way to the Intelligent Enterprise
Workflow management capabilities such as RPA bots and content packages leveraged with Low-Code/No-Code are imminent for a company to drive their digital transformation and to become an Intelligent Enterprise. Elevating the citizen developer experience increases the number of people that can contribute to this transformation to achieve higher productivity in each organization. This will help us to adapt to today’s complex world and now, we can ALL be part of this.