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Introduction to SAP Workflow

SAP Business Workflow enables the design and execution of business processes within SAP application systems.SAP has introduced this tool to simplify its business process if it requires approval from different departments. It has overcome the traditional paper based workflow which required minimum seven days to complete the whole workflow processes. SAP Business Workflow is particularly suitable for situations in which work processes have to be run through repeatedly, or situations in which the business process requires the involvement of a large number of agents in a specific sequence. It can also be used to respond to errors and exceptions in other, existing business processes. The workflow can be started when predefined events occur, for example an event can be triggered if particular errors are found during an automatic check.

Advantages of Workflow

SAP Workflow ensures that the right work is sent in the right sequence at the right time to the right people".

It is a tool designed to facilitate and automate business processes that require tasks to be performed by people.

SAP workflow can also be linked to Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes to send email.

Each step of a business transaction can be easily monitored and processes are completed from the beginning to the end.

Workflow allows process owners to keep an eye on deadlines, provides statistics on the length of time to complete work processes, determine the workload with regard to individual employees and save processing time.

Since Workflow delivers work items to employees automatically via email, they do not have to wait or inquire about the status of a particular transaction.

SAP workflow is particularly useful when there is a business process involving more than one person, when an automatic notification can replace a manual communication and when there is a defined set of individuals and/or documents implicated

It organizes one's work, alerts users and directs traffic by sending work items - once the user executes the work item, then another one can be sent to another user. For example, a Manager could use workflow to approve a vacation request from an employee. The workflow application would ensure that each person involved uses the correct online form and successfully completes their step before the planned leave was entered into SAP - either by an Administrator or automatically.

Definition of Workflow

Workflow as a term means flow of work from one person to another. It is sequence of steps which gets processed.

Simple scenario: In a company suppose an employee submits a request (i.e. leave application) to his manager. Manager can either approve or reject his request or it may happen that he is not heeding to it and could not take the action. Thus the request is pending with him. After following him up, he eventually approves it. This manual approval process which involves more than one person takes long lead time.

Therefore SAP has come up with SAP Workflow tool to automate this manual approval process. It can be integrated with any of the SAP modules like HCM, CRM,SD,MM etc.

Disadvantages of manual approval process.

Lack of transparency

Long lead times

Lack of deadline monitoring

How does the workflow work?

Whenever the workflow is executed, it executes the steps defined in the workflow, which execute the task, and eventually the method associated with that task gets executed. Thus at runtime one work-item is generated with unique work-item id and gets placed in the inbox of the user. The inbox provided by SAP is SAP Business Workplace( SBWP ).We can also receive notification and work-item in Microsoft Outlook, Lotus notes etc.

Once the user execute or take action on the work-item the work-item gets disappear from the inbox of the user.

Difference between Messages and Work-item?

1. The messages once read cannot gets disappear by the system automatically from the inbox of the user whereas whenever work-item is executed it gets disappeared from the inbox of the user.

2. If suppose same message is sent to no of people and if any one user read the message, the message remains in the inbox of the user. But if any of the user execute the work- item then that work-item would get disappear from other users inbox also.

Business Workplace

Work-items get displayed in inbox of the user where the user can execute/take action on the work-items. Inbox can also include notification messages ,that need not be acted upon. It’s just to inform the user.

Work-items are displayed to the user for execution in their Business Workplace. Work items are instances of a workflow at runtime. There are various types of work item. Only certain types are displayed in the Business Workplace.

Workflow Builder

A workflow must be defined before it can be executed. This workflow definition s made up of

steps that control the workflow or refer to the tasks to be executed. You can make additional specifications about agents and deadline monitoring for a step. These specifications are evaluated at runtime by the work item manager. The workflow is started either manually or by

the system at runtime. For the system to start a workflow, the workflow definition must contain

a triggering event (for example the event "material created"). When the event occurs, the relevant workflow is started automatically.

When you activate a workflow definition , you automatically generate a runtime version. When the workflow is started (manually or automatically), the relevant runtime version is used for

the execution. If the workflow definition is changed later and a new runtime version is generated, these changes do not affect workflows that are already being executed.

Workflow is defined with the help of steps in workflow builder.


Describes elementary business activities. It contains a task description and the connection to the application logic via the method of the business object. This business object can refer to ABAP class or Business Object Repository (BOR).Whenever this task gets executed , the work-item gets generated at runtime.

Tasks always refer to a method of an object type. Possible agents are defined for tasks. Tasks can refer to automatically executable methods (background tasks) or they can need a user to execute them (dialog tasks). Two categories of task.

1. Single-step task – Use method of anType

2. Multiple-step- Can be used as a sub-workflow.

Types of Task

1. Standard Task (TS) - Cross client, Unrestricted validity period

2. Customer task(T) – Client specific, With validity period

3. Workflow Template(WS) - Cross client, Unrestricted validity period

4. Workflow Task(WF) - Client specific, With validity period

Attributes of task

General task - The work-item can be executed by all the valid SAP users.

General Task forwarding allowed – The work-item can be forwarded to any users by the recipients of the work-items.

General Task forwarding not allowed - The recipients of the work-item can forward the work- item to only the possible agents of the tasks

Forwarding not allowed – Cannot be forwarded to any of the users.

Asychronous/Sychronous task

When the task is made as asynchronous, the work-item gets completed only if the terminating event occurs. Terminating event is mandatory for asynchronous task.

When the task is made as synchronous, the work-item gets completed as soon as the method gets executed completely.


The agents are the people who actually associated with the task i.e. the people who take action on the workitem.

Possible agents – The users who are eligible to take action on work-item.

Responsible agents – The users who are elected to execute the work-item.

Actual agent- The users who actually execute / take action on the work-item.

Object Type and Object

Object types are described and implemented by specifying basic data, key-fields, attributes, method with parameter, exception, events with parameter and implemented program.

BOR – It’s a directory of objects. Eg: Master data – sales order , material, invoice etc.

An object type describes the data with which you want to work in a workflow, for example the object type Material . An object is an individual data record of an object type. Attributes are defined for an object type, which make up its data record (for example, material name or material number). Each object type has methods, in which activities are defined, which can be executed with the data (for example, create material). The transactions and functions of the R/3 System can be called in a method as can your own transactions or other applications. The last important component of an object type are its events. These describe the status changes that an object can undergo (for example, material deleted or material changed). A workflow can be started by an event of this kind being triggered.

The Business Object Repository provides an overview of all object types in the R/3 System. You can use or extend the existing object types as well as create new object types.

Technical Details and underlying flow of SAP Workflow

The definition and execution of a workflow can be divided into four main areas. A user executes workflows in their Business Workplace where the work items that they can execute are displayed. A workflow must be defined to be executed. To this end, a workflow definition is created in the Workflow Builder. This definition contains steps that are executed at runtime. The step either control the workflow directly or they contain a reference to a task. The task refers to a method of an object type in the Business Object Repository (BOR) and can be executed at runtime either automatically (background task) or by a user (dialog task).

Repository (BOR) and can be executed at runtime either automatically (background task) or by a user