Enterprises which want to optimize their workflows often face the same challenges:
- <sum> Too much time and money is lost in inefficient – often paper based – process execution.
- Form based paper processes are often distributed manually to one or more IT systems.
- Current business process workflows cannot be altered during runtime by fully visualizing the ongoing workflow status using a generic Web user interface.
- Business process workflows are not enabled for ad hoc collaboration.
- Employees without specialized software skills lack a flexible tool to set up and execute business processes in their daily work.
To achieve this end, companies must provide their employees with far-reaching access to all information and processes that enable employees to take informed, timely, and appropriate actions – and ultimately to meet the goals of the organization. Original workflow systems have proved too static for these purposes. They can only be changed ad hoc at runtime with great effort and offer few transparency for users or process managers in collaborative scenarios.
User-friendly user interface
Users demand a people-centric work process rather than a transactional business scenario. Collaborative activities and their artifacts are offered within the context of the corresponding business scenario to help employees to work and collaborate efficiently in a complex people and information network. ERP functionality, such as transactions and analytics, and collaborative services are integrated as needed to support this business scenario. The result is a software product that directly addresses individual and collaborative needs and creates a synergetic value significantly beyond traditional applications.
SAP xApps is a new generation of packaged composite applications, a breed of information technology that enables continuous improvement and innovation. The SAP xApps portfolio aligns people, information, and processes to let you execute enterprisewide strategies with greater ease and efficiency. SAP Guided Procedures (former SAP xApp Employee Process Management, SAP xEPM) for example centers around an intuitive user interface that enables even technically inexperienced users to create or change scenarios. With SAP Guided Procedures (SAP GP), existing backend transactions or services can be quickly and easily combined with workflow and communication steps, in order to fully map business processes. As an integral element, these processes are also subject to business process management. In addition, the combination with interactive forms makes it possible to integrate offline and online steps within the business processes.
Suited to everyday work processes
However well a process is defined, there are often good reasons to stray from the intended methods – for example, if a colleague asks for help, a step is delegated to the team assistant, or the boss is asked to approve something. SAP GP focuses on improving employee productivity by streamlining frequently occurring tasks – with a powerful and flexible tool for defining and managing workflows. At the same time, it is as well suited to everyday work processes, such as arranging meetings and travel bookings, as it is to longer term work procedures.
It fully integrates with existing enterprise-wide employee directories , ensuring the right person is selected for each task. At each step of a particular process, the relevant team members are automatically alerted about the jobs assigned to them. Additional messages and any relevant documents can be attached and the intuitive user interface allows for modifications to be made at any time. If, for example, users do not have the time, they can simply delegate a task to an equally capable colleague. And if a process becomes too complex to manage, it can be split into a number of smaller sub-tasks.
The user interface also allows process owners to track the status of each activity, enabling them to monitor whether work is completed on time. Process managers also benefit from improved transparency. They can quickly identify any inefficient areas and initiate corrective measures. In this way, companies can accelerate day-to-day work, while encouraging the ongoing, collaborative improvement of their processes.
SAP xEPM: Designtime and Runtime
SAP GP differentiates between process templates and process instances. The process templates can be multiply instantiated, the process instances can be started with set parameters. Processes in SAP GP consist of phases and steps. A phase consists of several steps. Phases are sequential – one phase must have been completed before a new one is started. A step is defined by the action assigned to it. This action describes which application or service the application calls, for example a WebDynpro component, an iView or a form. In addition, input and output parameters are transferred and the context-dependent, ad hoc actions are determined. Actions can be reused in various process steps.
Every process has a process context. This context consists of the input parameters (resources) and output parameters (deliverables) of the individual steps. This ensures that the output parameters of preceding steps are taken into consideration as input parameters of subsequent steps. The actions can also access the process context and read data. At process designtime, the user defines how the context is mapped. The designtime, the configuration part of SAP GP, is a Web-based tool for modeling processes by editing predefined templates or by creating new templates. The part of SAP GP that supports the execution of business processes is called runtime.
For each action, context-dependent, ad hoc actions can be defined at action designtime, and are then made available at runtime. These could be generic actions such as “delegation,” “approval,” or “request for contribution,” or exceptions that relate directly to an action. It is also possible to select further ad hoc actions from a pool at runtime, in order to continue with the processes without leaving the context.