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Enhance SAP Workflow and GroupWise Communications with TOPCALL

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Posted: 13 Nov 2002
 

Enhance SAP Workflow and GroupWise Communications with TOPCALL

So, we've already discussed possibilities to streamline communications from SAP and GroupWise through TOPCALL communication solutions. Now, we will address ways to facilitate workflow processes between SAP and GroupWise using the same TOPCALL platform for business communications.

Many companies are struggling with developing a way to leverage existing systems to stretch the budget and maximize the use of information systems for workflow and communications. One of the biggest struggles for many of you is finding the best way to integrate SAP workflow with GroupWise. TOPCALL has identified a solution using XML and integration software for both SAP and GroupWise.

TOPCALL's solution utilizes XML integration software and links to GroupWise and SAP, as well as communication software links to SAP and GroupWise that make sending faxes, emails, voicemails, wireless messages and other communications possible.

TOPCALL's Integration into multiple messaging and enterprise systems, as well as wireless, EDI, XML and other forms of communication stem from TOPCALL's core architecture of being a message switch. We hold to the broadest definition of the word message in that TOPCALL provides a multitude of media formats for the exchange of communication between sender and receiver. Examples of messages in automated form are email, Faxes, Voice Mail, EDI Transactions, and XML documents.

TOPCALL provides one platform to allow for the exchange of messages between disparate messaging generating and receiving people, systems, and networks. An example of how this is applied for a total solution is the case of extending functionality provided by SAP Business Workflow into popular groupware messaging environments such as Novell GroupWise.

The growing popularity of Groupware in the workplace has driven the need to integrate applications such as Voice Mail, Fax, Document Management, as well as Wireless Messaging into a Groupware environment of an Enterprise's choosing. The same is true for Workflow Management Systems.

The following text describes a simple workflow between two systems namely an ERP System (SAP), the core enterprise system responsible for automating processes in multiple units across the company, and a groupware platform (GroupWise), the primarily messaging application for interactivity with various messaging applications.

Let's describe steps in the workflow process of an employee (referred to as the buyer) in the enterprise - authorizing payments based on goods and/or services received from a vendor, the purchasing department handling the actual orders, and the accounting department handling payments to vendors. This is a very common case in an enterprise. The organizations responsible for procurement practices (Sourcing, Invoicing, Payment) are usually separated from the actual user of the goods purchased. The Purchasing Department utilizes the ERP system for many tasks and even has direct connections to the ERP systems, where the buyer more than likely does not. However, it is very probable that the buyer will have access to a groupware system.

The procedural steps in authorizing payment to a vendor are as follows:

  1. Order is placed through Purchasing for the goods. This is usually done from the ERP system resulting in a purchase order being sent to the vendor, with the buyer in the company being cited in the "ship-to" section.
  2. The goods are sent to the buyer within the company.
  3. The vendor generates an invoice that is sent to the accounting department.
  4. The accounting department sends the invoice along with an authorization for payment to the buyer.
  5. The buyer must either:
    1. Authorize payment validating that goods were received OR,
    2. Decline payment and add comments.
  6. In the case payment is authorized, approval of authorization is sent back to Purchasing Department. If declined, disapproval is given and communication with the vendor is made to rectify the situation.
  7. Payment is made to the vendor through the Accounting department.

Figure 1. Describes the traditional method - utilizing the ERP system for all automated aspects of the workflow.

Inefficiencies in automating in this manner are:

  • Buyers only interact with the ERP in a limited manner. Additional steps such as client administration, training, and ERP connectivity are needed and not very justified.
  • The buyer must be notified in some means that an approval is needed, then log into the ERP system, then approve, etc.

Figure 2. Describes the automation of workflow across an ERP system as well as the groupware system.

The following advantages are gained in this scenario:

  • The buyer will most likely utilize Groupware and connect to it throughout the day; therefore the notification and approval process is much quicker.
  • The buyer is used to the interface that now allows for Workflow actions.

The TOPCALL Solution

TOPCALL, in providing its message switching capabilities, acts as the layer for transforming, transferring, and auditing the exchange of workflow messages between these systems.

Figure 3. Shows TOPCALL's scenario in bridging the ERP and the Groupware systems.

Components used in the solution integrating SAP and GroupWise Workflows are:

SAP Webflow - An HTTP based interface based in the SAP Internet Transaction Server utilized in the exchange of XML-based workflow documents.

TC/LINK-SC - Messaging Interface between SAPConnect and TOPCALL

TC/LINK-XML - TOPCALL's HTTP based interface utilized for receiving and sending XML Documents utilizing HTTP or SOAP as the transport mechanism.

TC/LINK-GW - TOPCALL's Link-layer for the GroupWise messaging platform capable of sending and receiving messages to and from GroupWise.

TOPCALL maintains an advantage by already having the technology and framework built into it's product architecture. Having a modular architecture gives TOPCALL the advantage to address specific business problems with soluble solutions through the use of multiple communications technologies. To learn more about TOPCALL communication solutions, visit their web site at http://www.topcall.com/.

Keep an eye out for the next article in this series - Voicemail into Novell GroupWise.

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