Learn from the Experiences of Implementing SAP Work Zone for Procurement from SAP Partner ConvergentIS

To finalize this month’s spotlight topic on SAP Community, let’s jump into the world of digital experience services on SAP Business Technology Platform, focusing on SAP Work Zone.

With so much potential to transform the procurement landscape, our team at ConvergentIS was excited to share our first-hand experience implementing this technology. For some background, we are an SAP Gold Partner and member of the AppHaus network. Since 2002, we have completed over 130 projects and released 20 packaged app solutions to the market, 8 of which are available on the SAP store. We are now recognized as a Tier 1 Top Mobile App Company in Western Canada and an ERP Implementation partner that leads by example, running the technology in our own practice. Over the years, our team has honed our focus on the support and implementation of SAP Work Zone and Launchpad Service for various procurement and human resources (HR) use cases.

As an SAP customer and partner, our team has come across several instances in the procurement space where business teams were seeking out single sign-on experiences for their distributors, often out of “app fatigue.” With collaborative features deemed a requirement, our team found that SAP Work Zone proved to be a powerful foundation for helping many businesses achieve a cohesive user experience under a single user interface (UI).

To walk you through our experiences, I will start by introducing myself. My name is Nidhideep and I am a Partner and Vice President of Integration and Development at ConvergentIS. As a part of this role, I participate heavily in new product implementations and seeking innovative ways that these solutions can be used in our own practice. I then find myself writing this blog as a means to share the potential of SAP Work Zone and support the community in troubleshooting concerns that they have come across in their own implementation.

An Introduction to SAP Work Zone

SAP Work Zone is an offering from SAP that enables users to build digital workplace collaborative solutions with the intent to increase user productivity and engagement. At present, many businesses have found that they had purchased or developed multiple niche products, which then needed to be harmonized for internal and external consumption.

Many of the SAP Jam enterprise capabilities are supported by SAP Work Zone such as the ability to author pages, manage files, create forms and elicit team feedback. SAP Work Zone extends this functionality as a more flexible offering with the addition of business workflows, analytics and application integration, especially when considering external use cases including procurement and vendor collaboration. The tool provides additional benefits through functionality surfaced from standard applications and data sources, including SAP Ariba.

With our background in procurement, our team has discovered several use cases for this technology and come across a few recommendations for future offerings. We outline these experiences in our content below.

Potential Use Cases for SAP Work Zone

Our team worked with a packaging manufacturer to implement SAP Work Zone with the intent to streamline interaction with their distributors, enable self-serve capability, and provide real-time visibility into updates or orders, thereby reducing overhead. With the ability to integrate with a third-party CRM system and widget, a distributor could request an order through the SAP Work Zone portal. Once an order has been processed, they can see order details, such as when the order is complete, and what rebates they are getting on a particular sales order since these transactions all occur in the same system. Another requirement was the ability for users to locate relevant distributor content. This process, which often required accessing four or five locations, was simplified with manuals, pricing guides, and other related materials being found in one place. From a user experience (UX) perspective, collaborative exercises between the buyer and supplier were significantly simplified.

Previously, this level of integration would require custom development to accomplish this same level of cohesiveness. Now, we can accomplish this using inherited functionality from SAP Work Zone. Furthermore, as a single point of entry, the Work Zone interface enables users to access information in a more flexible format, from either a desktop or mobile device. The result was that with SAP Work Zone, users could manage the complete end-to-end procurement process for indirect, direct and services use cases anytime, anywhere.

With data being brought together in one place, the previously lengthy task of vendor onboarding is also greatly accelerated enabling users to easily onboard hundreds of distributors in a fraction of the time it would have previously taken. In this sense, scalability becomes another significant benefit of using SAP Work Zone.

Implementation Considerations 

Despite the ability to improve the user experience across the procurement use case, our team came across a few implementation considerations that are worth noting.

First and foremost, as a horizontal enabling technology, SAP Work Zone does not offer any inherent functionality for vertical tasks themselves, such as initiating a Purchase Requisition or managing the Sourcing process. However, it can support SAP applications that facilitate these steps. The challenge then becomes marrying the vertical task functionality held in SAP applications from the SAP Store and the cohesive user experience in SAP Work Zone.

For us, this meant that we had to consider how business workflows and analytics could be integrated to take SAP and partner-built applications and plug them into a fully functional solution to address the procurement use case as a “single pane of glass.” Additionally, with the next-generation interface that SAP Ariba and Fieldglass are releasing, we can mix and match these enterprise-level tools into the same user experience. In this manner, once our team created these workflows and analytics, we found that Work Zone accelerated the development of an end-to-end procurement process alongside tools like SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP), Business Application Studio (BAS) and SAP Process Automation (Workflow Management).

A second consideration we ran into came with the role assignments. In the procurement use case, it is common for teams to require both buyer and supplier views, which would also include data filtering based on company and user roles. Since this functionality isn’t offered natively, our team had to extend the functionality to create these kinds of views.

SAP Work Zone also provides an added benefit through its ability to authenticate employees, embedded contractors and external contractors through Active Directory. We found this capability to be extremely beneficial since many organizations are already working on Active Directory. Therefore, rather than requiring these users to shift over to a different way of accessing data, we can use Work Zone and Active Directory to fit into the ways businesses are already working. Where user roles come into play, is that there are many instances where users do not need or want each user to be a named user account on SAP due to cost concerns, such as if a vendor is only sending a single invoice per year. Since this vendor still requires a single sign on, SAP Work Zone can be employed in a way to enable indirect licensing so that users can be authenticated with access to information on a per-document basis.

What’s Next?

SAP Work Zone has already proved its extensive capability. Although still relatively new in the SAP ecosystem, we are excited about future releases of the product.

From a product perspective, some developments we hope to see are notifications from SAP Ariba and Fieldglass and the addition of a dynamic tile, where users could interact with a widget on the launchpad and complete an action, at least for simple tasks. For example, if you were an approver of a purchase order you could select “approve” from the launchpad. Currently, a user would need to click on a tile to open an application, where they would navigate to the correct screen to accept the purchase order.

That said, we are excited to see how this product evolves and what it will mean for improving the procurement user experience.

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