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The state of SAP Workflow: What does the customer want?

SAP Workflow hasn’t been updated since 2004. What do SAP customers want to see? Read more in this column.

What is SAP Workflow?

It is a capability that allows automation of business processes within the company to improve the efficiency and performance of a business process. SAP Business Workflow automates routine tasks, improves the quality of decision making, and provides a low-cost return on investment. It provides “seamless integration” into the ECC application. SAP’s Best Built Apps team also recommends that independent software vendors (ISVs) use the SAP Business Workflow tool for workflows within a pure, ABAP single-instance application. SAP’s Best Built Applications provide guidelines to SAP’s (ISV partners to help align their complementary software with SAP’s Business Suite.

SAP Workflow has been around since 1997, but its popularity hasn’t dwindled. SAP Press Workflow 2nd Edition has been a top-five SAP Press bestseller since the book was published last June. The original edition, published in 2004, was a bestseller for five years.

However, the last significant enhancements to SAP Workflow were delivered in NetWeaver 2004. In that light, users are interested in enhancements, and should “Ask/push what SAP can do for you with the maintenance dollars you pay,” as Australia Post pointed out at the SAPPHIRE/ASUG Annual Conference in Orlando. 

To get a pulse on Workflow use and help bring the product into the 21st century, a select group of SAP Mentors (the top community influencers of the SAP Ecosystem, nominated by their peers) and the Americas SAP User Group Workflow volunteers sponsored a 2010 Worldwide Workflow Survey from March to May 2010. This survey was international and open for two months with 179 respondents. The purpose of the survey was to better understand the needs of Workflow users and ensure that the user groups offer the most appropriate educational, networking and product influence opportunities.

A total of 42% of the responses came from the United States, 12% India, 9% Germany, 8% Canada and 7% Australia. Responses were also received from the Middle East, Africa, China and South America. The top responses for 2010 came from manufacturing, followed by consulting, IT software and utilities industries.

Respondents worldwide answered numerous questions on Workflow, including:

  • What topics do you want to see covered in the future, whether online or at face-to-face events?
  • How critical is SAP Workflow to your core business processes?
  • What would you like to see enhanced/changed/implemented in Workflow?

The findings point to some of the key trends in SAP Workflow.

A total of 97% of respondents said SAP Workflow is important to their core business processes. Survey respondents requested more information on how to find standard workflows, information on the Universal Worklist, workflow integration with Adobe Forms, workflow best practices and guided procedures. ASUG volunteers are responding to these requests by conducting webcasts on these very topics.

For one, Workflow developers wear many hats. Most are dedicated Workflow developers, but many are also ABAP developers. One respondent said, “I am an ABAP. SRM. Workflow developer.”

The 2010 Workflow Survey also showed that only 37% of respondents are archiving Workflow items. Most performance problems in Business Workplace (inbox of Workflow) are caused by failure to archive work items, which should be part of a company’s overall archiving strategy.

A total of 80% of the respondents indicated that they use the SAP GUI inbox to deliver Workflow items, with almost half also using the Universal Worklist.

Some 74% would like to see Workflow Certification brought back. The last Workflow Certification test was based on version 4.6c and last offered in 2006.

As a result, survey respondents have requested several key enhancement features:

•         New ABAP editor to give the developer a seamless environment.

•         A wizard to convert from the Business Objects Repository to ABAP Objects.

•         BPMN import/export feature to allow better alignment of BPM and workflow by harmonizing underlying models and to move towards a common design time, administration and monitoring infrastructure.

•         Cross-Workflow harmonization – “CRM does one thing, SRM another, HR this way one release , another way another release.”

•         Better integration of Web-based and mobile UI technologies in workflow.

•         More consistent reporting; users are not interested in having to enter the technical business object name.

•         Bring back the old technical workflow log.

SAP has been listening to our requests and is looking into these items. SAP Mentors and ASUG volunteers are also posting learning and educational materials on SAP’s Community Network in response to this survey. Join us at SAP’s TechED Event in Las Vegas to hear more updates.

Tammy Powlas is a 2010 SAP Mentor, ASUG Volunteer, CPA, PMP and works for Fairfax Water.

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