Sourcing and Procurement as a concept in any industry has evolved with time. It is no longer being looked at as only a cost center, but it can add value to your supply chain. Vendors are business partners and part of your extended value chain. Their growth is your growth. When we deal with business partners, it generates lot of purchasing documents in system e.g., Long term contracts, Purchase Orders etc. Each of these documents are binding on both vendor & buyer. It involves an agreement to purchase a certain SKU at a certain price for a particular period for certain quantity. There are also other kind of purchasing which are not long term in nature but ad-hoc purchases to deal with overall operations which are sometime called Indirect Procurements. In those scenarios, a group of buyer raises an internal request within the organization to request the goods which may be charged to a cost center or a project.
All these kinds of procurement processes need approvals e.g., depending on a value of a purchase contract OR purchase order, it can either go for a single level or multi-level approval. For indirect procurement scenarios, internal request (sometimes called purchase requisition) need approval from owners of cost centers or projects.
In a consumer industry this approval process is prevalent like any other. Number of SKUs are quite large there. Almost all kinds of procurement occur. And for a big organization, approval matrix can be quite complex leading up to CEO or Senior VP. SAP has taken a note of this and have been trying to simplify this approval process of purchasing documents. Earlier, solution used to be “release procedures” in ECC world where an approver had to approve by using an SAP GUI transaction which were not end user friendly. They had to navigate thru config jargons to do that. Other option is to create a custom business workflow to deal with it but that has higher cost as it involves development.
In S4 HANA, SAP has come up with flexible workflow concept for purchasing document workflows. The whole idea here is to simplify the set up and make the approval process user friendly. Almost everything is configurable in this. SAP has provided step by step guidelines for configuration to set up these workflows in their help website. Following links are very useful: –
Purchase requisition Workflow: –
SAP Help Portal
Purchase Contract Workflow: –
SAP Help Portal
Purchase Order Workflow:
SAP Help Portal
- This workflow is based on a pre-defined set of workflow scenario ids and tasks e.g., Purchase contract workflow Scenario Id – WS00800304 and Purchase Order workflow task – WS00800238.
- This gives you an option to define condition-based workflows for different procurement processes. There are Manage Workflow Apps where you can configure single or multi-level approval based on conditions.
- Workflow approval tasks are made available in My Inbox Fiori App which is used for other kind of approval too in other processes e.g., leave approval etc. Hence, it establishes a single window of approval for the organization for various kind of approvals.
- Approver determination (called Agent in Workflow Parlance) is integrated with Successfactor i.e. HR Mini Master. Standard SAP supports Approver determination either based on user OR role. In case of User, we can directly specify user Log-on Id in SAP as approver. For role based approval, following agents are available to be configured:
- Manager of Last Approver
- Manager of Workflow Initiator
- Manager of Workflow Initiator’s Manager
- Person Responsible for Specific Accounting Object with Highest Debit.
- Approval statuses of purchasing documents can be seen in various Fiori reports available e.g., Manage Purchase Order, Manage Purchase contract etc.
- Standard Email notifications can be sent to approver/Buyers to their email ids with approval links. They can use those links to log-in My Inbox Fiori Apps to approve/Reject. Standard Email templates are available for this in system. A custom Email template can be configured as per organization need.
- Deadline Monitoring is supported from SAP S4 HANA 2020 Version. This helps to set up a deadline by which an approver should approve the documents. If the deadline is breached, email notifications can be sent to approver or the manager to remind him to approve.
- Substitution or delegation is supported in flexible workflow. In absence of actual approver, he/she can assign a substitute OR delegate who can approve in his/her absence.
Important Fiori Apps to set up Flexible Workflow
1. My Inbox App –
2. Manage Workflow App –
Setting up approvers in manage workflow app –
By Role –
By User –
Setting up Deadline ( Available from S4 HANA 2020 Version onwards)
Maintain Email templates –
SAP has provide Pre-delivered Email templates in various languages which can be used to send emails to approvers –
Email templates for deadline monitoring : –
Based on implementation experience of Flexible Workflow in a large CPG client, there are certain points that need to be considered before we embark on this journey.
- Although most of the steps in flexible workflow are configurable and standard, we should have a workflow consultant to oversee this. BASIS and Functional Consultants play major role in configuring these too.
- For a large organization, standard agent determination may not work which in standard is very simple. In those cases, we will have to use standard BADI (MMPUR_WORKFLOW_AGENTS_V2) to determine agents. ABAP consultant help will be required for this.
- Steps provided in SAP help are all configured in standard already. But, we should re-validate again in case something is missing e.g. Standard scenarios should be activated if already not done.
- BASIS needs to set up RFC destinations, activate SAP_WFRT users. They need to set up standard batch jobs for email notification like SWN_SELSELN.
- Workflow Admin transaction SWIA is quite useful for consultants to learn. This helps to analyze the tasks for workflow in case of exceptions. It clearly specifies where the task is lying in case of errors.
Improvement points suggested in Flexible Workflow
- Currently, an approver can delegate a task to another approver in his/her absence. But, it does not look at the approval authority of the person to whom it was delegated. Hence, there can be controls issue in such cases where the delegated person does not have authority for the approval limit.
- Email notifications are not very consistent and take time too. We have to constantly check if email is already sent for the task. Improvement in this area is going to be very helpful.
- In case approver rejects a purchasing document, he/she can add a comment in “My Inbox” App to specify reason for rejection. But, that is not passed over in the rejection email notification to the buyer. This message if passed over to buyer will help him/her to take corrective actions quickly.
- Approvers must log-in to SAP & Fiori App “My Inbox” to approve tasks. For senior approvers like CEO, they may not be very conversant with SAP. It will be good to be able to approve from an outlook email without logging in SAP with safeguards in place.
- A manager/buyer level Fiori report to showcase the number of workflow tasks generated by him/her for a specific period, how may are pending for approval & for how long, how many are rejected with rejection reasons, which tasks are substituted & how many tasks are overdue etc., will help. Current reports do not give an overview from a business user perspective. These data will help lot in optimizing workflow or business process.
Above all, this is a very good tool to approve purchasing document. This is seamlessly integrated with ‘ My Inbox’ App which is generally used for other approvals too. I hope this blog is very helpful for all the functional consultants out there who has to talk to business to gather requirements and get their head around this new piece. Why should only workflow consultant have all the fun
Please feel free to leave comments and feedback. You can follow SAP Business Workflow tag to receive updates on blog posts. Readers can find Q&A and post questions in SAP S4 HANA OR SAP Business Workflow community. I plan to write more on my implementation experience on various topics in last 17 years.
Thanks and Regards
Senior Manger/ SAP S4 HANA Supply Chain Architect
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