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The Many Faces of the Workflow Log

by Alan Rickayzen | SAPinsider

June 1, 2000

by Alan Rickayzen SAPinsider - 2000 (Volume 1), June (Issue 1)
 

The undisputed goal of workflow is to allow a process to be automated, ensuring that the company rules are followed without the users having to lift a finger to find out how. For example, when a purchase requisition is created, it is automatically dispatched to the approver's inbox. The notification of approval - or, heaven forbid, notification of rejection - is sent automatically to the requester.

     The workflow log is useful when your notification does not arrive and you start to get worried that the approver has gone on vacation without arranging for a substitute. In its simplest form, the log allows you to see how far the process has advanced and who is sitting on your requisition.

     In more complicated scenarios, you can use the log to look back at the previous steps (or forward to steps that have not yet started) so that you can contact the person involved directly. SAP Business Workflow automatically maintains a variety of logs.

This article provides an overview of the different logs available.

The Chronological Log

      The Chronological log is the primary view that satisfies most users' needs in one go. For example, in Figure 1 you can see that two steps have been executed in the workflow, and by clicking on one of the steps, you can see the detail at the bottom of the screen.

Figure 1 Chronological Log

     In this example, I (Alan) am working on the Customer Call and I have just added an ad hoc note.

The User Log

     To view the log from a user perspective, press on the "Workflow Agents" tab strip, and you can see at a glance a list of everyone involved in the process. By clicking on one of the agents in the list, you drill down to see exactly how this person contributed to the complete workflow.

     In Figure 2, you can see that I (Alan) reserved the work item at 11:02 and added an attachment. By clicking on the office document, the administrator can read the attachment that I added. Clicking on the user's name brings up the user's telephone number and mail address.

Figure 2 User Log

The Object Log

     Figure 3 shows the business object view. This is particularly useful for process chains where one business object is created from another. In this example, you can see that Jerry processed the customer inquiry.

Figure 3 Object Log

The Graphical Log

     The log is at its most sophisticated when displayed in graphical form, as shown in Figure 4. This allows you to visualize the process exactly as it was designed. Loops and parallel branches can be interpreted immediately. Most important, the log shows you what steps have not yet started and allows you to see exactly where you are within the complete process.

Figure 4 Graphical Log

The Workflow Summary

     Last, but by no means least, is the simple workflow summary, which can either be displayed in your workflow outbox or via the system menu when you are viewing the business object itself. For example, when viewing an engineering change request you can navigate directly to the summary view shown in Figure 5 to see who made what decision, and when.

Figure 5 Workflow Summary

Customized Logs

     If this is not enough, there are simple mechanisms for creating your own view of the process. For example, B2B provides its own Java applet for the visualization of the standard B2B workflows' progress.

     Although most consultants realize that the workflow log serves as an auditing tool, they often neglect how useful it is to the operational user. Used properly, it is a key factor ensuring that the company's business processes run through as smoothly and quickly as possible. (Note that the basic workflow log has been available since Release 3.0. Most of the functionality described above has been available since Release 4.0.)

     When you activate a standard SAP workflow template or implement one of your own, make sure that enough time is reserved for the operational users' training so that they can make full use of this powerful functionality!


Alan Rickayzen has been with SAP since 1992 and in data processing since 1988. In 1995 he joined the SAP Business Workflow group, performing development work as well as consulting for various major US customers, and as a result amassed a good deal of technical knowledge about the product. In 1998 he moved to the area of workflow product management.


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