SAP Build Process Automation – Business Rules fail
Those that know me well, know that I love the Business Rules service that is part of the SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP). Over the years this has morphed a few times from what was originally offered. For background, Business Rules was an individual service offering on Neo and enabled businesses to provide much needed flexibility and decision logic to applications built and hosted on SAP BTP. With this service, REST API’s were available to easily read back the rules. Overall, applications were enhanced due to this service as it enabled the ultimate flexibility and avoided hard wiring in the code base of applications and saved unnecessary data from being kept in Core systems such as S/4 or SAP ERP.
Since then I feel like it has bounced around with SAP Product Managers maybe not knowing the full extent of how this service can be utilised. The first change was that it was bundled in SAP Workflow Management. Now while, Business Rules are more than likely required when building Workflows I never understood why it was still not an individual service – especially when workflows could just as easily call the REST API’s to retrieve them? Why did it need to be bundled? Why couldn’t this be offered as it’s own outright service? Additionally, there was a time where developers had to use Business Application Studio to create the app launcher for Business Rules. This was very cumbersome and made zero sense. Talk about making it hard for customers and partners to easily activate and use it. This was a really poor UX for development teams. Luckily, this was fixed in the future by Boosters which was a great idea.
Regardless of the above changes, I have continued to use them in solution architectures I provide to customers. In some cases, the projects that I have been part of used only the Business Rules element of SAP Workflow Management – at that particular time there was actually no need for any workflow management and as such the service was only activated for Business Rules. Every single project over the last how many years has used Business Rules as part of the full solution and the applications we have built have been better for it. Customers also are happy with the fact they can maintain some of these rules and change settings when business requirements change slightly. This means there were no code changes required by a Developer – instead small changes to Business rules allowed customers to meet changing business requirements over time. The same REST API’s (v2) could be used to retrieve Business rules as well so from a solution perspective not much changed when it was part of the SAP WM service.
OK – so now SAP Workflow Management has been deprecated(!) and now we have SAP Build Process Automation (SAP BPA). Customers that already have workflow management enabled can still continue to use Business rules (as they were) so this is OK. However, I found out this week that while Business Rules is part of the entire SAP BPA suite it does not allow customers to create their own rules! What??? In fact, the + button has been deactivated. When consuming presentations on these new tools like SAP BPA there is a big push for using predefined Live content. OK – this is fine and I am ok with this however why on earth would SAP turn off the ability for customers to create their own Business Rules if in fact they want to?? Makes absolutely no sense at all.
You can see that only the Import icon is active. The + button has been deactivated.
So what this effectively means is that customers can only use this service if in fact they use predefined Live content and within an Automation scenario???? Seriously.
I have been in the SAP ecosystem for over 25 years and have loved the flexibility available across the SAP ERP, SAP CRM and of course SAP BTP so turning off this function I am really at a loss to explain. Customers are paying for this service but now they cannot even use this service outside of Automations that they need to be build? And wait – they can only import business rules packages based on predefined content.
The only possible reason for this is that the SAP Product Managers in this area have limited understanding of how customers and partners have used the Business Rules service. Even then I really cannot understand why functionality would be limited and completely removed?
I am calling out to the SAP BPA product managers to get in touch with me please so I can show them how Business Rules has been used across pretty much every application we have built. This may then bring about some change in this space. I also implore them to add the functionality back in ASAP so that SAP BTP can continue to offer solution flexibility.
As you can see I am pretty frustrated by this change and I guess as a person that has been involved in SAP BTP projects for over 7 years it makes me question the direction that this tool and possibly others are going down. In one facet, SAP are more open with technology than any other time in history (which is great!) – yet this decision says the opposite.
With new projects starting soon, we must create new business rules, but it’s unclear how we’ll do this and meet some requirements previously handled by the BR service.
Thanks for reading!
I share your frustration as we came to find out that “SAP Work Zone, advanced” comes with SAP Workflow Management, but when I asked where the entitlements for SAP Business Rules Management were, we got to hear that it was not included, not available to get standalone. It only remains available as part of BPA. Now that I read about the artificially introduced limitations, it seems that service has become a lot less useful.
At first we then had no choice but to hardcode business logic in the workflow UI’s. We eventually pulled the plug on using WF management at all since there was no user search help when forwarding tasks (also seems a case of product owner disconnection).
As we’re still utilizing Workflow Management right now I haven't even noticed this. With this being said I’d like to ask a naive question:
Building rules is still possible, just a bit more convoluted, right? Or is the creation of “standalone rules” for consumption really prohibited?
I'll let Phil confirm but my read of this blog post is that creating standalone custom rules is no longer possible when using the business rules capability that is included in SAP Build Process Automation.
No, building rules is not possible as the + button has been deactivated as detailed in the blog post. The only option is to import Live content or import previous business rules however even that has limitations.
I have been said that Business Rules as part of SAP Build Process Automation is not fully complete yet (see https://blogs.sap.com/2023/02/08/sap-build-process-automation-which-service-plans-needs-to-be-activated-and-when/#comment-659407 )
Hopefully, creation of custom project will come later this year.
But why should we wait for something that has already been in place for the last how many years? This is just poor planning tbh. So a service that has been fully operational in SAP BTP now cannot be used because they are aligning it with SAP BPA....?? Not great really.
I understand your concerns. It's the same scenario for the SAP Open Connectors service now only available via SAP Integration Suite instead of standalone as was the case previously. So if all you need is the Open Connector functionality, you must subscribe to SAP Integration Suite, which may not be cost effective depending on the use case.
I think there is also a risk that the standalone SAP Event Mesh service may be retired now that the new SAP Integration Suite Event Mesh Advanced Edition has been introduced. I certainly hope not.
I agree on the need for a standalone business rules engine. Since it is no longer available in SAP BTP, one option might be to integrate your BTP solution with a rules engine service from one of the other hyperscaler platforms such as Azure or AWS. Perhaps Martin Pankraz and Diego Lombardini can chime in with suggestions. On the other hand, if you have to integrate a rules engine service on another hyperscaler then a valid question might be why not build the entire solution on the hyperscaler if it offers all the services needed for your requirements, instead of BTP?
Hi Phil, Mustafa,
I cannot comment on why SAP has made that decision on Business Rules. I was in the middle of a CPI implementation when SAP decided to adjust the strategy and introduce Integration Suite. At the moment I had the same question as you Mustafa (regarding open connectors) although it was for API Management. With time and working at another customer I realised the rationale behind the change. It was a much simpler product offering and predictable licensing model. Unfortunately, like with every strategic business decision, some people benefit and some not.
I cannot comment on the rationale behind Business Rules, but I can see that there are some steps been taken by SAP to fill the gaps. The main one being to work with AWS on the SAP + AWS Joint Reference Architecture, where, for example, the business rules service can be implemented to compliment BTP functionality. In the case of Business Rules, Step Functions can be used to define a business rules framework, similar to SAP BR.
Happy to have a chat about it.
Thanks Mustafa Bensan - I get there are other options but don't understand why I cannot use the service that has been in place for years. Why turn it off? I want to be able to use the same Business Rules service I have architected and used in many applications. Going off to hyperscalers just complicates the architecture when there is no need to. You last question is very valid - these kind of changes will allow customers to move more and more off SAP BTP so again why do it. Definite misalignment here but I suspect the SAP product managers don't really know how this has been utilised. The main example that has always been shared by SAP has been retrieval of pricing data - there are so many more use cases here!
Let's wait for an official reply. It might be that it's just a question of timing and / or understanding.
Thank you for taking out time to share your experience with us and appreciate your feedback on our product capabilities.
I want to let you know that we are continuously working towards improving our product experience and are introducing seamless integrations across different capabilities, services and solutions with SAP and non-SAP systems.
In that effort, we are enhancing our Decision capability in SAP Build Process Automation to make it more aligned with overall process automation theme. Business Rules has not been removed or discontinued from process automation. We still have decision management capability in SAP Build Process Automation where rules are can be build independent of the process and applications.
In Q1 2022, we concentrated on Decision Orchestration and now we are working towards improved consumption of decision in SAP Build Process Automation with new features, better lifecycle etc. to cover gaps that were there in workflow management. We can have a call to explain you the available options on creating and consuming business rules in SAP Build Process Automation.
Having said that, we understand your frustation and are looking forward to provide a solution, and clarify all your queries on decision management capability.
Thanks for your time. Looks good to me ;)!
Thanks Archana Shukla
It may not have been removed but it is vastly different to what it was and I am not entirely sure whether the same functionality is available as yet.
I have created a Decision using the new tooling but how do I read back the contents using an API call (similar to the way we use Business Rules)? I see the following links from the SAP API Business Hub but have no idea whether this is the correct one to use here.
SAP BPA Invoke Rule Service
I've published and deployed the Decision and Automation but what would be good is a step by step process on how to:
I've scanned various sources in the SAP Community and other Help documentation but I am not clear how I can retrieve the BR from an API call (using Postman for instance).
Hi Phil , Archana Shukla ,
Thank you for raising this issue. It is very important issue, when you are delivering approval processes to the customer - as we do. By the end of last year - we delivered solution to customer, which was built as a custom live process (Manage packages app from WFM Launchpad), but by the time, when customer started to use that app, it was already impossible to make any changes to custom live processes (in BUILD lobby).
Same story with BR.
We develop the approval process in DEV landscape and use BR as a configuration part in Workflow. To store all the landscape (dev, test, prod) relevant data (as launchpad URL, approvers and all those parameters, treshold etc...). But when you promote (transport) BUILD process (it includes Decision as a new BR incarnation) it will import to the TEST/PROD tenant as a released process, and therefore you cannot configure that decision with landscape relevant data, already. It is completely weird, that functionality, which is meant to server as a tenant configuration (or post transport change) data are not editable after transport.
Archana Shukla is there any way how to handle that? We are, kind of, in a very weird position with customer, who got our process in BUILD, but we are not able to setup and finish the process configuration in prod tenant.
We use manual export/import as a workaround to that, but this is not enterprise ready way to do this. It`s error prone, not auditable...
Phil We share the same frustration here.
The biggest concert when switching from workflow management and BPA, is the commercial viability for the customer going forward. A lot of customer we spoke to are put off with the cost, which you only use a partial service.
Archana Shukla , what are the alternative to continue using BRM as an independent service for new customers.
Diego Lombardini , i like the JVT idea, can you share more guides on this Step Functions service capability?
I see this has been enabled now. Shall we consider all sorted out?
No we can't consider it sorted out as rule creation still appears to be disabled, as shown in this screenshot:
Can you post your complete screenshot including the side panel, Nandakumar Gnanasambandam?
Same here - no option to add new rule. And to be honest - I see several things which should be (needs to be ) polished. E.g. edit rules after promotion to prod subaccount, support for custom live packages, processor of approval task is not available in next steps etc....
Hello Nandakumar, Mustafa and Vladimir,
In SAP Build Process Automation we have Decision option to create new business rules or decisions. The tile that you are using is not to create new decisions but is only to maintain business rules modelled with old design times.
To create a new business rules or decision,
To transport the project from one system to another, you can use "promote" option which internally uses Transport Management service and the entire version gets transported from dev to prod - which can then be made editable to make changes in production.
Hope that helps.
Hello Archana Shukla
I can understand the decision that standalone BR are deprecated (not happy with that), but the last thing
How exactly this can be done - because - in my experience - when I import process in prod subaccount (through build lobby), the process is already released and I`m not able to modify decision table in BR. There is no edit button there.
Can you please guide me how to do that. We found workaround, that we export on dev and import to prod manually. This makes imported process editable, but this is not the way how we should do this - especially if we have ctms in place.
Thank you for reply