Have a look at the picture above. What if, this huge jam was a result of a failing interface to or from the warehouse. Whether the root cause of the error is in communication, mapping, or anything else, you could quickly find out using the interface monitors, like the ones provided by SAP PI or SAP AIF. But on the other hand, from those monitors you would not see the implication that these errors have on the company’s business processes. Yes, in this case probably looking out the window would be enough? But, it is not always that obvious.
SAP Process Observer
So, what if, we would like to see the interface messages in the context of business processes? Can we see that anywhere? Yes, we can! Using the SAP Process Observer (POB) and SAP AIF (which is integrated with POB), we can monitor entire business processes, also distributed across systems.
After reading some other blogs by my colleagues from Int4, you probably are already familiar with SAP AIF. But what is SAP Process Observer? In short, it is business process monitoring tool, which is available as part of Netweaver Business Suite Foundation 731, 702 SP06 and 701 SP011 (and higher releases). Have a look at the link below for some more details on POB features and see how you can activate it in your system.
In general, POB works, by creating a log of events that can be raised by any standard SAP application. An event can be Sales Order creation, Goods Issue or Invoice creation. Raising such events is a standard SAP functionality that just needs to be activated for business objects (Sales Order, Delivery etc.) that we want to monitor. The SAP POB can link corresponding events together, forming a chain that reflects the business process. The picture below shows an example business process, and the events that are part of it.
To link these events together, POB needs a common key for those events. In this case, the Customer Purchase Order number could be used, as it is copied from Sales Order to Delivery and Invoice.
How to fit SAPAIF into that process?
One of the interesting, and still not very popular, functionalities of SAP AIF is the ability to raise events, that are logged by SAP POB. The events can be raised at different points, during processing of an interface message in SAP AIF. For example:
- Message arrived in SAP AIF,
- Message was cancelled in SAP AIF,
- Message failed in SAP AIF,
- Message was successfully processed in SAP AIF,
- Message was restarted in SAP AIF.
Going back to the example process, let’s assume that we receive the Sales Orders from the customers via EDI, and process them in SAP AIF, before we create them in the system. We could put the SAP AIF events in the beginning of our business process, and basically start monitoring it, already when EDI message arrives into SAP AIF. Since we use Customer Purchase Order number as a common key for the process events, we can use the same in SAP AIF. It is possible, because each message in SAP AIF also contains this number. That means, POB can link the events raised by SAP AIF with the rest of the events raised by standard SAP applications and form a business process like the one below.
This gives a good overview of the status of business processes and can clearly show an overall stage at which each process is at any moment.
There is a standard monitor provided for POB, available at transaction code POC_MONITOR. A shortened version (from AIF to Sales Order) of the above process, in POC_MONITOR would look like this:
On this screen we can see the overall status of a process (in the header section), as well as each event that was raised (in the Process Details). The Business Object ID visible for each event is an IDoc number (for the AIF related events), and a Sales Order number for the “Sales Order Created” event. There is also an overview of all process instances available, where you can see all the processes with their actual statuses:
If you want to see how to configure the example in SAP POB and SAP AIF, check out the upcoming book, I wrote with two of my colleagues: Mateusz Nowak and Wojciech Eichert, on SAP AIF monitoring features:
Benefits of using POB and AIF
What more can you get from using POB and AIF?
- The overall statuses of the processes can be custom, and can change depending on the stage, the process reached,
- POB can measure KPIs for the processes, for example the time it takes between specific events in the process (e.g. from receiving the order in AIF up to successful delivery of goods), and trigger workflows or alerts, in case some thresholds are exceeded,
- There are Dashboards available for BI that visualize POB analytics on your processes.
For more information on SAP POB, have a look at this link.