Wednesday, April 15, 2015

SAP Process Observer - What is it and how does it relate to other similar tools like SAP EM?

Process Observer is a component of SAP’s Business Suite foundation layer. Broadly speaking it can be used to monitor SAP Business Suite processes like OTC (Order to cash) and PTP (Procure to pay).

The value proposition for the tool as stated by SAP is as follows:
  • Provide Process Visibility enabling:
    • Real-time monitoring with exception handling
    • Business activity monitoring
    • SLA (Service Level Agreement) tracking
    • Transparency on process quality
  • Process optimization
    • Recognizing deviations leading to strengthening of operations (continuous improvement)
  • Insight-to-action: Near real-time reaction to exceptions
  • Enhanced process automation

If we delve a little in to how Process Observer achieves this we will get more familiar with how it can be applied and where it is useful.
Process Observer
  • The execution of the process is tracked via Business Object (BO) events (Traditional Business Object Repository events typically used to trigger workflows)
  • The Process Observer “correlates” these BO events in to a Local Process Log and calculates KPIs at this level (also stored in the local process log) Aggregated KPIs (averages) are calculated and made available through BW, ODPs or HANA
  • These local logs are federated with each other providing the needed end-to-end process visibility and analytics
So how do we go about putting this all together in the system?
  • The process designer uses the Process Definition tool (see screenshot below) to put together the required business process model, drawing from the Business Object Repository meta data
    • A process model contains a list of activities that need to occur but in no specific order
      • A Start and End activity are required to be marked
      • An activity is linked to a task which relates to the BOR event
      • Process definitions can be viewed using t-code POC_VIEWER or modeled using POC_MODEL
      • New tasks can be created using t-code POC_FACADE and new BOR assignments to tasks using t-code POC_BOR
    • KPIs may be assigned to process definitions
    • These process definitions are the objects that are monitored by Process Observer
Process Definition Viewer
And how do we use it?
  • Firstly, we need the process to start… Create an application object (E.g. Sales Order)
  • This will trigger a Business Object Event (E.g. BUS2032 is the Sales Order Business Object and the Event would be CREATED)
  • This event is captured by the Process Observer and mapped against the process model
  • One or more activities in a process model are determined
  • The activity is mapped to a process instance and stored in the local process log
  • The user would then access the details in the log using the Process Monitor (t-code POC_MONITOR)
Process Monitor
Further points to note…
  • SAP Process Observer is available in the ABAP stack of Business Suite 7i2010.
  • You can use an Event API call (POC_RAISE_EVENT) from an external system to trigger a process observer event that would then update the local process log with the event execution information. Volume and performance of external API calls needs consideration…
    • See OSS note 1737693 to see how to use this Event API
    • Events are buffered and processed asynchronously using this technique
  • The process log can be accessed via the Process Observer Tool or via Enterprise Search
  • From the Process Observer Tool, when viewing activities, you can navigate to the related business objects
  • Data sources are available for extraction to Business Warehouse. In addition these datasources can be used to replicate the process logs to SAP HANA via ETL
  • Xcelsius dashboards based on BW, ODP or HANA allow for the monitoring of business processes over time (See example OTC Dashboard shown below)
    OTC Dashboard
  • A threshold exception status is maintained and displayed (exception monitoring)
    • Thresholds are used to trigger actions. The action is launched based on an “Exception” BOR event being triggered
    • Thresholds can be set for process definitions or individual processes using the BRFPlus rules engine
  • When a user views the “local” process log in one Business Suite system, they are, in fact, viewing the federated process log… Communication between the local systems is done using the Process Façade (using information from the E2E Process Registry)
  • Changes to Business Objects, right down to the field level can be captured and analyzed using the Bex Web Analyzer tool. Change documents will be made available as a generic event in the coming Process Observer version allowing the use of customizing to map change information in to your process
  • In a future release… a Process Observer side panel for SAP NWBC (NetWeaver Business Client) will be made available to display process related info like status and KPI values
  • Providing the data via a mobile device: “Process Gateway” has been built as a part of SAP NetWeaver Gateway SP04
Advantages:
  1. It’s free as part of the SAP Business Suite license!!!
  2. Over 7,000 standard Business Object events to use
  3. Many generic frameworks are BOR-enabled so can easily be configured to trigger BO events. E.g. Change documents and Message Control
  4. Thresholds can be configured to change status of a process should the threshold be uncovered. E.g. 5 deliveries already created for the sales order
  5. Can navigate directly to the process monitor from the GOS (Generic Object Services) menu
    GOS
How does it compare to Business Process Analytics in SolMan? (Courtesy of Sebastian Zick)
  • Process Observer does not require a Scenario/Solution in Solution Manager to be maintained
  • in Business Process Analytics in Solution Manager, focus is on exception reporting, not on process performance – in Process Observer, information about all process instances are logged, i.e. good for drill-down to detail level directly into single transactions
  • Process Observer can be integrated into ERP transactions via Generic Object Services (GOS)
  • in Process Observer, you can easily add “non-process” event tracking with alerting, such as tracking of single field changes
  • in Process Observer, you can connect any system with ease, e.g. external warehouse management systems, SAP NetWeaver BPM, email systems, etc.
How does it compare to SAP Event Management?
  • SAP EM provides a highly configurable web UI for generating user reports providing visibility in to business processes
  • SAP EM has a much more advanced status management concept allowing for multiple status views per object depending on the user type
  • SAP EM is robust enough to handle high volumes scenarios
  • The Application Interface (AI) used to extract data from the SAP Business Suite is pre-delivered with content to extract the relevant data.
  • SAP EM has the concept of an Event as well as the message that tells us about the event. Analytics is not only limited to the event itself but can also include analytics around the message. E.g. An EDI 856 is sent from a supplier 1 day after the goods shipped on time. The shipped event was on time but the message was sent late
  • SAP EM does not integrate with the GOS object view
  • SAP EM has very tight and easy integration with the Alert Framework for exception reporting
  • SAP EM provides web services to capture and query events in a secure fashion
  • SAP EM allows for the hierarchical display of business processes with a separate status being associated with the hierarchy as well
  • Both tools extract to BW, launch  and integrate easily with workflow
Other articles on Process Observer:
  1. Monitoring of cross system workflows with SAP Process Observer
  2. Process Observer – a new SAP approach to analyze Business Suite processes!
  3. Introducing New Component: Process Observer for Built-In Processes (POB)
  4. Business value being addressed by Process Observer for Built-In Processes (POB) for the SAP Business Suite
  5. Release Notes of Business Suite Foundation Layer
  6. Architecture of Process Observer for Built-In Process (POB)
  7. Setup of Component Process Observer for Built-In Processes (POB)
  8. Monitor Sales Order Processing with Process Observer for Built-In Processes (POB)
  9. Create Process Definition for Process Observer for Built-In (POB).
Please feel free to comment on this new tool…