Most people today have only one car in their garage and use it for all their needs – a sturdy station wagon can handle most things, but not everything. There are other vehicles on the market that are better suited to more specialized needs. For example, 4WD for cross-country trips and vans for retailers. The same is true for software, which is why SAP will be supplying three business process tools in future. These tools complement each other and together cover users’ every requirement. The proven SAP tool WebFlow will be augmented by BPM in the SAP Exchange Infrastructure (BPM in XI) and by the Collaborative Process Engine (CPE). WebFlow will continue to be available and will remain an important element of SAP Business Process Management in future. However, SAP is also aware that process management can be more focused and versatile by using three solutions instead of simply extending WebFlow alone.
Common features – different focus
All three tools have one thing in common – they allow users to edit and monitor business processes, but in three different terrains as you shall see later in this article. All three share common services to lever on the fact that the three tools are native SAP development allowing overlapping requirements to be managed by common services and common user interfaces, for example, a shared inbox for work items and alerts and shared APIs for the SAP applications. Each of them has a different area of focus, however. CPE is intended to give process control to the individual employees within the company. WebFlow controls processes within SAP applications, while BPM in XI is targeted at companies whose business processes are distributed over several software suites or business domains.
All three BPM tools are closely interlinked. WebFlow runs within the SAP applications and is based on the same engine as BPM in XI. CPE for its part is integrated into SAP Enterprise Portal, so that all three tools together interconnect all levels of SAP NetWeaver. The fact that SAP Business Process Management is embedded within SAP NetWeaver ensures complete integration with software platforms from other software vendors as well as the SAP applications.
WebFlow: Web-enabled workflow
SAP has been supplying the WebFlow tool since the year 2000. It is available in the web browser and connects workflow processes via the Internet. WebFlow is the follow-on product for SAP Business Workflow and controls the process flow within an application. It has been very successful, since it is particularly cost-effective. This is achieved by the fact that SAP applications such as mySAP Customer Relationship Management (mySAP CRM), mySAP Supplier Relationship Management (mySAP SRM) or mySAP Product Lifecycle Management (mySAP PLM) already contain the templates for workflow processes. Enterprises can activate or adapt these templates themselves and do not need to create them in-house, although this is also possible.
The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for the solution is particularly low, because WebFlow is integrated into the SAP Web Application Server (SAP Web AS) and controls the process within the applications. This eliminates any problems involving synchronization or availability, which typically occur when external BPM tools are deployed. Upgrades can be performed easily. This is important since BPM process instances can have a long lifecycle and often undergo software upgrades during the lifespan of one process instance. WebFlow is business-object-oriented, to easily and directly integrate with SAP applications, at the same time allowing customers to adapt the business processes dynamically. WebFlow continues to be available to customers and software developers; however, it is no longer the tool for all terrains.
BPM in XI: Business Process Management in heterogeneous landscapes
System landscapes have become heterogeneous, which results in a situation where the full gamut of business processes no longer run in a single system, but rather across complex heterogeneous landscapes. As a result, these processes also need to be able to integrate non-SAP components with ease. BPM has therefore been integrated into the SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI) and is available to pilot customers with Release 2.0. BPM in XI runs outside SAP applications such as mySAP CRM or mySAP PLM and controls and monitors the processes between multiple SAP and non-SAP components.
Because BPM in the SAP Exchange Infrastructure is used for controlling processes across system boundaries, this tool is not business-object-oriented (integration too tight), but rather message-oriented (loose, flexible integration). In other words the systems are detached from each other and communicate using messages. The advantage of this is that the business processes are not dependant on the applications running in the system landscape and the business owner is given the freedom to define the processes himself. Individual components can be exchanged without necessitating major re-engineering.
Collaborative Process Engine: Designing your own personal processes
The third tool from SAP is a Collaborative Process Engine (CPE). This enables users to quickly develop their own private ad-hoc workflows. CPE runs within SAP Enterprise Portal and enables personnel to dynamically create and change their own workflow processes intuitively. Users can therefore monitor the status of processes and influence these processes at any time – unlike with e-mail or telephone communication which provide no transparency and where the control is lost the minute the e-mail is transmitted or the instant you hang up on the telephone. CPE is supplied with SAP Enterprise Portal 6.0 as part of “Collaboration for mySAP Enterprise Portal”.
CPE can also be used to add ad-hoc workflow features to the knowledge management publishing process in the SAP Enterprise Portal. This gives the user the means, for example, to obtain an additional technical or legal opinion before a document is made public. CPE enables the employee to create a process for controlling the route the document takes and the parties involved in such a workflow can expand the process, e.g. also requesting feedback from Marketing, and always maintain complete transparency over the status of things.
Control at all levels
The bottom line is that SAP will be providing three tools that interact with each other and complement each other. Each focuses on a different domain:
•CPE: Empowering individuals to create and monitor their own ad hoc processes, in a simple and intuitive manner.
•WebFlow: Empowering SAP customers to automate their business processes within their mySAP applications
•BPM in XI: Empowering Business Managers to control and improve their business processes across system landscapes
Watch this space to see an example of how SAP’s BPM strategy enables complete business control of your processes, at all levels of granularity.
SAP is organizing an information day devoted to WebFlow in St. Leon-Rot on April 10, 2003. Further Information
Effective Business Processes using SAP’s WebFlow Engine:
Practical Workflow for SAP
Rickayzen • Dart • Brennecke • Schneider
In addition to giving you in-depth knowledge of the standard features of the WebFlow Engine, this book opens up the new Internet-based possibilities.
For more information, see www.sap.com > Services> Bookstore