What is SAP Workflow?

Lets go by the very basic meaning of SAP workflow:

SAP workflow, as the name suggests, means ‘FLOW OF WORK’ from one person to another person. It is, in fact, a sequence of connected activities, resulting in exchange of information.

Let us consider a simple example, i.e “Application of Leave”.

It consists of the following activities.

Step 1: Employee submits a leave application form to his manager. He fills in details like his name, dates of absence, reason for leave etc

Step 2: Manager checks the details of the leave application


Step 3: In case, he finds that the reason for taking leave is inappropriate or not specified properly, he may reject the leave application.

Step 4: The employee corrects the leave application, specifying the leave reason properly and submits the application again.

Step 5: The manager finally approves the leave application.

Please note that there can be many variations of the business process. A simple case is discussed here to give your understanding of workflow a good start. The procedures can in fact be complex, involving many decisions and approvals.

Let us discuss few more classic workflows.

1. Credit memo request release:

  • Suppose a company sells 100 pieces of shirts to a customer for Rs.10, 000, of which 20 pieces are defective, as complained by the customer. The company decides to give refund of Rs.2000 to the customer accounting for the 20 defective pieces. Or, to discuss a different scenario, the company has forgotten a discount amount of Rs.2000 on an invoice of Rs.10,000.  In either of these cases, the company sends a credit memo worth Rs.2000 to the customer.
  • Sales process of a company usually involves the creation of a credit memo request first, before creating a credit memo. The sales clerk may have to create a credit memo request worth Rs.2000. Authorized person, may be the division manager, may have to release this credit memo request so that credit memo can be created and sent to the customer. Depending on the value of the credit memo request, the authorized persons may vary.

2. Recruitment:

  • The applicants’ information is recorded in the system.
  • Applicants are assigned to vacancies.
  • The personnel officer checks the applicants data against the vacancies and may accept/reject/put on hold.
  • If the application is approved, job interviews can be conducted.
  • On rejection of the application, rejection letters are sent to the applicants.
  • When the applicants are put on hold until a particular date, one needs to monitor and reconsider these applications against the vacancies until the date, to see if they fit the vacancies or can be rejected once for all.

3. Travel:

  • Employee enters a travel request which holds the following data. Travel request is therefore, the first step that an employee takes to initiate his travel.

  • Travel request is forwarded to his superior for approval.
  • The superior can approve the travel request or reject it, send it back to the employee for correction.


In a typical office administration, these workflows are paper-based. Meaning, an employee has to fill his leave application paper, the clerk may submit it at the manager’s desk. The manager may scribble rejection reasons on the paper and send it back to the employee. The employee may have to fill a new application paper and resubmit. There are many disadvantages with such paper based flow of work. Let s discuss a few of them.

1.  Lack of Transparency: There is no easy way to track the status of the leave application. We probably have to inquire the manager personally to see whether he has approved the application or not. There is no system recorded status that one can glance at, to know the current status of the leave application.

2.  Long lead times: Based on a customer feedback survey, it is found that a traditional paper based workflow which involves three people typically takes seven days to complete.

3.  Lack of deadline monitoring: Who knows, the manager might just be sitting on the task for too long without approving it. There is no mechanism in place to ensure that the person performs the task within the planned time period.

4.  High costs: Paper based workflows are very costly to support as a result of manual document processing and archival.

Hence there is definitely a need to automate the business processes like the ones we just discussed. SAP Workflow is a cross application tool that helps us automate the business scenarios and incorporates certain features to address the issues mentioned above.

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