I came across my first SAP Workflow almost 15 years ago. They needed some adjustments to be made in a Workflow that was already working and they sent me without training or knowledge to do what I could… I tried not to panic, I read everything I could on Google, I found out about the tenth part, rolled up my sleeves and after overthought it, the matter was more or less fixed. I saved my skin and moved on to the next thing. Now with perspective, I get the impression that 80% of consultants who say they know something about Workflows have simply gone through a similar experience. I have done a lot of interviews and every time a programmer tells me that he knows a little about Workflow, it sounds me like ”average level of English”…
A few months later, while I was into BW matter, I was told to develop the Workflows for a new SAP ECC implementation “in my spare time”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Although the truth is that I was at ease with my SAP_ALL. I did what I could… but thinking about it now, I facepalm myself… The project started with the Workflows running with my user instead of the WF-BATCH user in the logical destination, as I did not know how to read the SAP tables correctly I mounted the log previously making recordings in Z tables, WorkItems were hung for not handling the modification or deletion events correctly. Come on, what I myself have been finding in several clients and I have been fixing, but this time I was the culprit..
The fact is that without pretending it, without training, and with no more baggage than my own experience, over time I became “the expert in Workflows”. I never liked that label because the reality is that there still are many things that I don’t know about it. As Antonio de Ancos would say, What I have been developing is a certain common sense. I know what things to keep in mind (tell me or not the client) and I know what kind things are going to happen over time. We will talk about this in an upcoming post: “How to define and how to build a Workflow”.
In those beginnings, a colleague asked me why did I bothered learning Workflows, if they were going to disappear. I had no idea of what SAP had or had not planned, I was just trying to digest everything they were putting on my plate. In any case, it seems that my colleague was wrong. In the middle of 2020 it can be said that the SAP Workflow stills really alive, and I mean the SAP Workflow Builder.
As an alternative, on the way I came across the Guided Procedures in Netweaver. It continue to exist, but they had the same success as the Dynpro Java Web of their generation. A complicated and isolated product.
Already in SRM and the rest of the Business Suite products (CRM, PPM, MDG, GRC, etc) I found the Workflows based on BRF, Business Rule Framework, available since version 7.1 of SAP NetWeaver. No doubt they are a very powerful and very flexible tool. But of course, everything has a price. They are very difficult to configure and then maintenance is also quite complicated. Not to mention setting up a dynamic process log. They are also encapsulated in the Netweaver layer. As a concept and technology, BRFs or their BRF + evolution continue to survive, being present in PI / PO, S / 4 or as an independent service in SCP, but its connection with the Workflows has not been very successful. Although they work and they work very well.
Already in S/4 HANA the traditional Workflows are still present with the Workflow Builder but with an additional twist: the Workflow Scenario. And I think here that SAP has found a good balance. An easy to use, easy to maintain and very powerful tool. A business process expert can easily configure the desired scenario for your business case. SAP has prepared for us a very simple and intuitive FIORI application. This resets the Workflow behind which can then be modified with the usual transactions (well, instead of SWDD we have SWDD_SCENARIO). Here a consultant with a more technical profile can enter to make the necessary adjustments. In the next post of this Workflow series we will see in some detail a practical case of implementing a Workflow with this technology in the case of the management of BAM bank accounts in S/4 HANA.
Following the timeline we find the Workflows in SAP Cloud Platform. My personal opinion is clear: I love them. Thanks to them, I got my free ticket for the SAP TECHED in Barcelona 2019. However, I don’t see if there is a future for them. To begin with, SCP is essential, and this architecture only makes real sense in companies that are really based on the platform, which are very few. In addition, it is not enough that we have the typical scenario in SCP as a portal to display content from our SAP. In order the Workflow really makes sense there will have to be several systems (SAP or non-SAP) involved. But if we are there, in a scenario with approval processes or workflows with several systems involved with SCP as the cornerstone of the architect, here the SCP Workflow is a cannon. but the way is not easy, you still have to deal with SAPUI5 development by hand, manage APIs, etc.
We will see how things evolve in the future but what is clear is that Workflows will always be there. It will vary the technology that supports them. It will also varies what is asked to the Workflow since as the automation progresses every time you will have to do more things, not only approve or reject,but will also want to access our approval elements from anywhere, with any device, to all our systems, etc. But companies will always need to manage their workflows between systems and people. I would definitely recommend learning Workflows to any SAP technician.