Short Processing Times for Approval Tasks
Workflows are used in many of the business processes in the SAP systems. The increasing complexity of these processes, as well as the increase in responsibilities for individuals in the company, lead to a constantly growing number of workflow tasks that, in addition to everyday workplace responsibilities, must be checked, evaluated and completed.
Why Offline Approval?
It can be very time consuming for the approver to log into different systems and process tasks. Often, even tools like Universal Worklist (UWL) are not very helpful, because they are, as a rule, only available in the internal company network, meaning that urgent tasks have to wait when those responsible for them are out meeting with clients.
Because on the decision-making level, most workflows are limited to only a few alternatives (approve, reject, forward), it makes sense to have certain workflow tasks sent to those responsible for them via e-mail. They can then make the desired decision in the SAP system using a (generated) response mail. This is done with a normal e-mail application (for example, Outlook), as well as on mobile telephones capable of sending and receiving e-mails. Workflow tasks can therefore, be received and processed everywhere and at all times.
The SAP standard has different options for offline approval, which however are not homogeneous (for example in SAP ERP and SAP SRM) and do not contain any security measures.
That is why Shore Consulting has developed the OAP module. With it, every workflow task in every SAP system can be sent via a unified framework as an offline approval e-mail and the decision made by the user can be processed. In addition, this module is equipped with security, decision documentation and monitoring functions.
Please note: the following process represents a basic process; in practice, iterations or a premature exit may occur if the workflow demands it.
- The workflow is started in the system, for example by the creation of an order that exceeds a certain amount and thus, must be approved by the cost center manager
- The “Approve purchase order” task is triggered in the workflow; this task states that the cost center manager can either approve or reject the order.
Sending the e-mail
- OAP has a program that is periodically run in the system and recognizes active workflow tasks with an OAP function
- The program also finds the current workflow task, determines the person (or persons) responsible for it, creates the e-mail layout and sends the e-mail, for example, the position texts and the net value of an order and two links for “Approve” and “Reject”
Responding to the e-mail
- The person responsible finds the OAP e-mail in his mailbox and can make a decision using the data in the e-mail and if available, other attachments
- The decision is made by the person responsible by clicking the respective link in the e-mail
- A response e-mail is generated. The decision is coded in the subject line.
- Comments can be sent in the body of the e-mail (depending on the workflow task), such as for example, why a specific order should be rejected
- The response e-mail is sent to an e-mail address with which the data from the entire e-mail is transferred to the SAP system
- OAP is activated by this transfer and recognizes that the e-mail is an OAP e-mail
- The content of the e-mail is validated (Sender = the person responsible, the order sum is unchanged, the decision is valid, etc.)
- After successfull validation, the decision is carried out, for example, the order is rejected
- Every workflow task can be linked to OAP, as long as the tasks require a decision between alternatives (for example: “approved” or “rejected”)
- Changes to existing workflows are usually not necessary
- The layout of the approval e-mail is customized and can be adjusted separately for each workflow task
- OAP validates the sender of a decision using a combination of the sender’s e-mail address, the SAP user and a unique key that is generated when the OAP e-mail is created
- The implmentation of the decision in the workflow takes place under the sender’s name (SAP user); this allows the system to document the person responsible for the decision
Attachments and texts
- You can send as many attachments as you wish
- The person responsible can send a comment and/or an attachment in the response e-mail that can be attached to the document or object that the workflow refers to (as long as the document or object allow this)
- The OAP can react independently in specific (error) situations and send information about the causes of the error or revised data to the person responsible
- OAP can recognize a revised release approval amount when processing a response. The result: the release by the person responsible was linked to the old data and is therefore no longer valid; in this case, OAP sends a message to the person responsible informing him of this, as well as a new release e-mail with the new data
- The OAP module can be imported into any SAP system per transport from the basis release 700 (lower versions on request)
- The module resides completely in the Shore Consulting namespace; potential conflicts from importing the module are thus prevented
- The module provides exits at all relevant points for maximum flexibility when implementing specific workflow functions
- The framework is used in the same manner for all workflow tasks, the content (layouts and workflow decision processing) are implemented independently via the exits; this makes the system very robust, changes to task A do not effect the functional capability of task B
- The module is equipped with a customizing application for customer-specific settings
- All processes are continuously logged in the application log; error situations are taken into account, as well as results from departments for example, when determining an SAP user from a response sender’s e-mail address
The module comes with a sample implementation that makes it easy to understand the way the exits work (the verification workflow that exists in every SAP system)
- Inbound processing can be executed with existing or generated inbound mails for the simulation, for example for error analysis or administrative processing after system errors.