Automate Business Situations in SAP S/4 HANA
Don’t just tell me there is a problem; Help me solve it or better solve it for me.
One of the intelligent features offered by SAP Fiori is ‘Situation Handling’. It is a concept for bringing business issues to the attention of specific user groups. It helps the user to recognize, understand, and resolve the situation by gathering all relevant information and recommending solution proposals. The first implementation of the situation handling concept is the Situation Handling Framework for SAP S/4HANA.
In simple words, the system does not just tell you where the problem but helps you solve it. SAP S/4 HANA offers this functionality for a set of use cases that keeps growing with every release. Note that the use cases differ depending on the version of SAP S/4 HANA – Cloud (recent release) or On-prem (recent release).
Let us take one example of a business situation from Procurement – ‘Quantity deficit in Supplier’s delivery’ – This is a scenario which is a normal occurrence in a purchasing department. For example, the purchase has placed an order for 100 items and the supplier has confirmed only 50 out of those 100 items.
How was this situation handled in an SAP ECC system?
A custom program was developed to identify the list of Purchase orders with ‘Partial Confirmation’ status along with few other conditions on days until delivery etc and is scheduled to run at regular intervals. The program generates a list of purchase order items and displays the list to the user.
The user must go through the list, open each Purchase Order and decide the course of action, which might vary depending on the supplier and various other fields – deficit qty, delivery date, material, supplier etc. The process is tedious, time-consuming and takes multiple navigation clicks. If the generated list should satisfy a different set of conditions, it requires additional development effort. This is rather tedious and requires high maintenance.
Result: A cumbersome custom development that ends in the user navigating through multiple screens before any real action could be taken.
How Situation handling framework of SAP S/4 HANA helps with this situation?
First, there are zero lines of code to be created. The situation can be handled by configuration only. SAP has a set of situation templates (use cases) that covers various such situations. A Business Process Configuration expert copies the right template and configures it according to the requirements. Once the situation type is scheduled and enabled, it does the magic. when the scheduled run happens, the system does the following
- Gathers the list of purchase order items that satisfy the configured conditions.
- Send automatic notifications to the relevant users configured in the situation type. These notifications appear as Fiori notifications on the home page and as In-App notifications for the purchase order object.
- All such situations can be viewed in a single app – My situations – which shows all the relevant situations requiring action from the user.
- Additionally, the situations can be emailed to the users. It depends on the configuration of the situation type.
It would not be very useful if all these notifications just tell the user that such a situation has occurred. The intelligence part of the Situation handling is the additional information and solution proposals it provides.
When the user clicks on the notification, it directly navigates to the respective object – Purchase order item in our example. It gives the context of the situation along with all the required information such as a confirmation overview with the deficit quantity and supplier contact data to make an informed decision.
But the most important part of the situation handling comes in the form of solution proposals. In this situation type, the system proposes alternative suppliers with whom you can place the order for deficit qty. All the user must do is to choose the alternative supplier and click ‘Create Purchase Order’. The solution proposal differs depending on the situation type being handled.
Gain business insights and Optimise processes
So, we see that the Situation Handling framework is intelligent and proactive. But that is not all, SAP provides situation handling APIs that can be used to collect information about the situation handling scenarios. These technical APIs allows to collect and store data about situation instances, together with the business data context, outside of SAP S/4HANA. This data can be used for further data analysis, for instance, with SAP Data Intelligence.
Use Situation data for automation
We can also go one step further and use the Situation data to automate the handlers using APIs. The ‘Business Situation’ object triggers various business events – ‘Created’, ‘Changed’, ‘Completed’. These are similar to any other business event generated in SAP S/4 HANA system. We can create consumers for these business events and handle them in applications outside SAP S/4 HANA. Instead of situations notifying the users to act, this automates the handling part by letting the consumer handle the situation event automatically. Similar to other APIs, these are available in SAP API Business Hub.
Example: SAP S/4 HANA provides a situation template ‘Invoice Skipped in Payment Advice’. This can be used to set up notifications that will be sent to the responsible accounting clerk automatically when a skipped or overdue invoice is detected, and its amount exceeds 50% of the total due balance for a specific time range.
For example, if ten invoices are payable at the end of a month and only nine are mentioned on the payment advice, the situation notifies the responsible accounting clerk, indicating that he or she may need to contact the affected customer for clarifying the balance.
This situation can potentially be automated by consuming the business event generated when the situation is triggered. An email can be sent automatically to contact the affected customer for clarifications. The business event triggered sends the situation data context that provides crucial information to automate relevant actions.
System set up for such an automated situation handling scenario might look like this.
If you want to learn more about configuring SAP S/4 HANA Situation handling, there are several excellent blogs available in SAP community. You can also refer to the official documentation which is quite descriptive – Official Documentation.