Workflow is a technology that delivers a task in the specified order, at the right time, to the right people, and with the right information. The goal is to minimize costs as well as error reduction with the help of automation. In the workflow itself, tasks are determined and the respective rules for agent determination are assigned.

A novelty for users in S/4HANA,  is the ability to configure workflows via a Fiori app. The underlying workflow technology is mainly based on the well-known SAP Business Workflow. The user’s configuration options include control parameters such as the validity periods of the work items, determining approvers via direct assignments, roles or individual BAdI logic. Furthermore, start conditions and event handling can be maintained.

The modeling of business workflows has traditionally been the responsibility of the IT department, which changes fundamentally with S/4HANA. In the meantime, these tasks can easily be taken over by process experts and users. Technical expertise is no longer required to configure and manage the workflows. The term “flexible workflow” is new, which differs in handling compared to the classic workflow. Although both technologies largely use the same framework, the flexible workflow scores highly with its simple and user-friendly application.

Flexible Workflow in S/4HANA and its Functions

The flexible workflow with its new framework in S/4HANA offers, to those responsible, the process document-oriented configuration via Fiori apps and only requires process knowledge. Programming knowledge is not absolutely necessary. Nevertheless, users have the possibility to carry out their own programming. However, the flexible workflow is offered extensively for many areas of application, so that individual additions are not necessary.

The configuration of the workflow is simple, role-based and can be carried out by users themselves via the respective Fiori tiles. After the final activation of the workflow, it is immediately ready for use and can be activated and deactivated with minimal effort.

The structure of a flexible workflow consists of a workflow definition, in which initially only the name assignment, description and validity period are important. Start conditions provided by the SAP standard can be assigned to this workflow to be able to initiate the workflow. Further advantages can also be seen in the workflow steps. Here, sequences of steps can be combined with individual start conditions. It is therefore possible to cover and customize all use cases in a workflow linked to specific field content checks. The handling of the workflow result, when exceptions occur, can also be configured. This makes it possible for users to fully define and design automated (approval) processes.

A key benefit that customers and their users appreciate is that approvers are notified of new work items in the SAP Fiori app “My Inbox”. An additional e-mail message can be set optionally. The decision can also be sent back to users by email, e.g. whether a document is approved or rejected. Various e-mail templates are provided for this purpose. If necessary, these can still be adjusted and used for notification for various work item interactions by e-mail. This is also done from a Fiori app, so that no programming knowledge is required to set up notification scenarios. The focus here is clearly on user-friendly and the visualization of important data.

Application areas of the flexible workflow in S/4HANA

With the 2021 release, additional features and areas of application have been added for the flexible workflow, so that these are now available for the following objects:

  • Tenders
  • Supplier Offers
  • Delivery schedules
  • Purchasing contracts
  • Central purchasing contracts
  • Purchase requisitions (header and item based)
  • Centrally managed purchase requisitions
  • Purchase orders
  • Centrally managed orders
  • Service entry sheets for lean services
  • Supplier invoices
  • Surcharge scenarios
  • Tender projects
  • Tender Supplier Lists

The flexible workflow can be designed individually. In addition to validity periods, any number of workflows can be created. The individual workflows can then be set in different sequences independently of one another or activated or deactivated.

Advantages of flexible workflows in S/4HANA at a glance:

  • More possibilities through new workflow technology
  • Clearer Fiori design conceived
  • Can be used as a cloud edition or on-premise
  • Individual configuration

Technical possibilities of the flexible workflow of S/4HANA

The modeling interface of the “SAP Workflow Builder”, is another innovation. With the new scenario builder “SWDD_SCENARIO”, individual steps can be processed quickly and clearly in the backend. Since ERP, the technology in the background has remained the same and is only available “on-premise”. No programming is required for implementation, although possible. As a result, a high degree of customization can be achieved. The integration of customer-specific fields is also possible. For this purpose, SAP developed the new “User-Defined Fields and Logic” app (or “Custom Fields and Logic”) to quickly and easily create Z-fields from the application without the need of development support.

Purchasing analyzes (or procurement analytics)

Finally, there are also increasing numbers of analytical apps in the context of flexible workflows. As an example, the average approval time for purchase requisitions since the creation of the document can be displayed. Further analyzes can be used with the help of SAP Core Data Services (CDS) Views. The creation and extension of CDS views with basic and individual functions as well as an own authorization concept offer a lot of analytical possibilities. All in all, the flexible workflows offer a variety of innovations and a high degree of individual control options for different approval processes in the company.

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