Which Workflow Engine(s) for which workflow solution?

I have been asked to update a blog post published by Alan Rickayzen around two years ago about which of SAPs workflow solution is the choice for which workflow project. So, I changed a bit the structure and continued a lot the messaging from Alan. Thanks to him and Christian as well as to all colleagues reviewing my text. I will differentiate new workflows from existing ones, also monitoring requirements and migration of workflows to S/4HANA.

SAPs strategic Workflow Engine for process execution is SAP Workflow Management. Here you can get a detailed overview of all product capabilities. Explore more on the community page for SAP Workflow Management.

It is the newest child [General available since 2018] in our workflow engines portfolio and the one strategically to be considered for the Cloud to automate business processes in combination with user interaction. It is general purpose but especially suited for the SAP environment. New functionality is added on a weekly basis (such as a par-for-each modelling option for subflows).


Workflow @ SAP

The Workflow capability has been adopted by SAP customers and by SAP Solutions, such as SAP Intelligent Product Design using SAP S/4HANA. It uses standardized methodologies, such as BPMN, to avoid relying on niche know-how, and ensuring that the developers modeling workflows can reuse know-how gained modeling workflows elsewhere to adopt the Workflow capability without hurdles.

Keep your eyes open for further enhancements, including in SAP S/4 HANA, to further simplify and enhance the cloud workflow capability enablement. But also be aware of upcoming Low-Code/No-Code product announcements on SAP Process Automation to even speed up process building also for Citizen Developers.

SAP Workflow Management is the tool to consider when a central strategy demands one single tool for workflow management, especially taking into account the broader capabilities that SAP Workflow Management offers, such as process visualization and rules management.

There are some cases where certain individual requirements can be handled differently as described in the subsequent paragraphs.

New Workflow Project

Type Environment Advice
Workflow Management Solution Involving Cloud or On-Premise SAP Workflow Management (including Workflow Builder, Rules Service, Workflow Intelligence, Process Flexibility, Visibility and Administration); Look at API Business Hub for Workflow Content Packages to jumpstart your project.
Intelligent Workflows Cloud or On-Premise For recommendations and out of the box machine learning capabilities in workflows SAP Workflow Management offers Workflow Intelligence [General available since October 2021]
Single Cross-system (orchestration) processes Where on-premise deployment of the workflow is essential

If legal requirements forbid the use of the Cloud services for process automation then use SAP Business Process Management for cross-system processes, including environments where third party systems need to be integrated in the process.

This software has proven itself as a robust, flexible, and powerful tool available as part of SAP Process Orchestration.

Standard local processes such as an approval Cloud products, including SAP S/4HANA Cloud

Use the workflow tooling embedded in the Cloud solution, be it SAP Ariba, SAP SuccessFactors or SAP S/4HANA Cloud to automate simple, standard, processes. This is usually tightly coupled with the application and offers design and control of the business processes without a learning curve.

Stay alert from the beginning to detect signs of a non-standardized process or the need to break out and extract or propagate information from other software. That is a sure sign that your process requires extensibility making SAP Workflow Management the better choice.

In S/4HANA Cloud for custom objects you can use the communication scenario SAP_COM_0542 for SAP Workflow Management to implement a workflow solution on BTP.

Single customer specific local processes SAP S/4HANA On-Premise

In S/4HANA On-Premise you have the choice between developing classic SAP Business Workflows or developing new more flexible scenarios using SAP Flexible Workflow. Here we recommend using Flexible Workflow extension because of the empowerment this gives your process experts and because this is the tool selected by the embedded apps in SAP S/4HANA, such as procurement or sales. Only resort to the classic workflows if the capabilities that flexible workflow provides are not sufficient – but keep an eye on the release updates, particularly the Cloud releases, which are an indication of what will be available in the next On Premise release. Here you find the actual documentation.

Stay alert from the beginning to detect signs of a need to break out and extract or propagate information from other software or cloud services. That is a sure sign that your process requires extensibility via the Integration to SAP Workflow Management.

Also if you plan to move to cloud in general, consider to use SAP Workflow Management from start.

Extensions of existing workflow solutions

Type Environment Advice
Standard local processes such as an approval S/4HANA Cloud and On Premise

In-App Extensions via BAdIs are available for Custom conditions, custom agent rules available in the Responsibility Management framework.

Side-by-side extension with SAP Workflow Management via extension steps for Standard Scenarios are planned innovations.

Single customer specific local processes ECC / S/4HANA On Premise Beneath the APAB Platform capabilities to enhance and build custom solutions you can extend existing workflows with cloud services using Side-by-Side Extensibility for Flexible Workflows (Extension Step) or also for Business Workflows (See here the documentation) with SAP Workflow Management.
Single Cross-system (orchestration) processes SAP BPM You can extend existing workflows with cloud services using Side-by-Side Extensibility with SAP Workflow Management also in SAP BPM (See here the documentation).

The actual availability of extension steps for ERP solutions you see here:

Process Monitoring Requirements

Use the Process Visibility Capability of SAP Workflow Management to monitor and control your running process instances. This is available for Flexible Workflow and Business Workflow and is a planned innovation for SAP Business Process Management. See here the actual availability for S/4HANA and ECC.

Migration project of workflows from ECC/Suite/BPM to S/4HANA CE or OP

For Migration projects to S/4 please use the following decision tree to decide for each of your workflow solution you have in ECC/Suite/BPM in place.