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SAP Business Process Management

Getting Started with Human Interaction Management

Human interaction management (HIM) is a complementary concept to business process management (BPM). HIM provides a set of management principles, patterns and techniques that address not only the routine human tasks, but rather the collaborative, innovative and adaptive aspects of human work. Thus HIM emphasizes the fundamentally human nature in communication and business instead of just extending the automated workflow with human tasks, limited only to decision making, control, exception handling or data entry at critical points to business processes. One of the major goals of HIM nowadays is the integration of organizational design with the actual work practices. Another methodology usually associated with HIM is goal-oriented organization design (GOOD).

Business process management theory and practice have been traditionally focused on the automated coordination of business processes. Most of the currently available on the market BPM solutions are capable of streamlining the routine, predetermined system-to-system and system-to-human interactions and helping companies to bring closer business and IT, but rarely support the way people actually accomplish their work. Human interaction management attempts to compensate for this area uncovered by classical BPM.

Value of Human Interaction Management

There has been wide adoption of information systems during the last decade by companies worldwide. Along with this intense development, the question whether IT is really able to provide competitive advantage has started to hold weight to bad arguments. This is not without a reason, as what gives a resource the capacity to create a sustainable competitive edge is scarcity rather than ubiquity. The way technology is used becomes standardized, as best practices come to be widely understood and emulated, and nowadays IT is better seen as an infrastructural rather than as a proprietary technology.

As it has been mentioned, the unique value that business process management creates stems from the ability to create, leverage and optimize differentiating collaborative business processes that usually make competitive advantage possible. This is true about BPM as a technology in general, but in particular about Human Interaction Management. HIM is the technology that could greatly influence the adoption of process-oriented information systems that blend technical efficiency with sensitivity to organizational and human needs and thus seamlessly align human and system tasks with the general corporate strategy.

HIM Enabled SAP Solutions

The human interaction management functionality process desk provided by SAP was first shipped with SAP enhancement package 1 for SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment 7.1.

Presently HIM represents a building block for task management, UI and forms integration, rules definition and event resolution.

Process Desk

The process desk is one of the human interaction management features and enables you to manage processes and tasks, and to display detailed information about the process.

The process desk provides:

  • Universal worklist as the central Inbox of tasks, alerts and notifications
  • Task execution provides an environment for end users to complete the task
  • Process list shows processes and tasks with the requested details which are related to you
  • Process visualization shows processes with runtime information in a graphical representation

Task management provides capabilities for end-users to access, investigate and execute on tasks assigned to them. Task management is also integrated with existing assets such as universal worklist (UWL), which is already successfully deployed in customer scenarios.

Universal Worklist

The universal worklist makes it easier for the users to access the work they need to do. They can personalize their view and prioritize their work. The universal worklist gives users a unified and centralized access to their work and relevant information. Users do not have to search for their work.

Aggregate task items from multiple and different systems into one list:

  • SAP NetWeaver BPM tasks
  • SAP Business Workflow
  • Collaboration tasks
  • Alert management systems
  • Knowledge management notifications
  • Guided Procedures actions

UWL provides links to business workflow, ad hoc workflow, and alerts. UWL can make it easy for the user to make decisions and take action on items in their worklist. The users can personalize UWL to fit their specific needs. The UWL can be customized in its appearance and location. Additionally, custom views can be added for specific tasks.

It is expected additional task engines to be integrated into the UWL in future releases.

For more information on UWL, refer to the "Introduction to Universal Worklist" guide.

UI and Forms Integration

SAP's UI technologies, such as Web Dynpro and Interactive Forms can be integrated for the end user interaction within the modeled processes. Rapid UI prototyping capabilities enhance and speed up the design and specification of process interaction components. These UIs can be generated out of the modeling artifacts of the process (process context).

Cross-Component Business Process Management (ccBPM)

Delivered with SAP NetWeaver Process Integration (SAP NetWeaver PI), it is a message based Web Services orchestration via Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), integration of SAP Business Workflow for human call-outs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is business task management (BTM) different from human interaction management?

HIM capabilities provided with SAP NetWeaver BPM since the second half of 2008 are an evolution of business task management, based on the universal worklist solution. Human interaction management, formerly related to as business task management, allows coordination, monitoring and execution of tasks arising from automated process flows. Business tasks are activities generated either by the organization's underlying business processes or by the users themselves - as personal reminders, to collaborate with or delegate work to colleagues. The sooner business users complete their tasks, the quicker the processes can run in the organization.

What is central access to tasks?

The universal worklist is an enabler of central access to tasks. Enabling knowledge workers to access their tasks centrally allows your organization's underlying processes to prioritize the tasks instead of relying on individuals. In addition, there is a common user interface that standardizes and simplifies the knowledge worker's job using standardized practices, such as substitutions, adding attachments, or decomposing a complex task into several collaborative tasks that are delegated to several colleagues - this can be applied irrespective of the source.

For further information, please visit the Central Access to Tasks page.

What are forms-based processes?

While SAP NetWeaver BPM enables configuration and automation of processes according to individual organization's requirements, a decentralized department may need control over its own procedures and the flexibility to change them at short notice. To accomplish this, the design and automation of the departmental procedure must have a model-driven definition environment that is simple enough for a member of the department to use without the support of the IT department.

The skill set is on a par with designing a spreadsheet, therefore a forms-based approach is ideal, also for the colleagues who join after the process has started or at any other stage of the process. Once the procedure has been automated, colleagues can span, execute and track all tasks that are involved in a certain procedure, even to the extent of enabling corridor warriors to perform their tasks offline while on the move.

What are the benefits for an organization to introduce forms-based processes?

Companies gain the following benefits from introducing simple forms-based processes/ procedures:

  • Decentralized control for non-core process fragments and the ability for different departments to automate their own procedures
  • Tasks transparency - users are guided through the necessary tasks and see at-a-glance completed and tasks which are still pending
  • Ability to change departmental procedures at short notice without the need to train the process participants but ensuring that the new procedure is followed
  • Offline processing of form-based tasks to make the most of a busy user's precious time. The time spent on administrative tasks processing is reduced


In order to be able to support the modeling and management of human-driven business processes according to HIM principles, the appropriate software must provide features like collaboration, participant roles, messaging, changing active processes on-the-fly, and document exchange, versioning and control.

Currently SAP NetWeaver BPM supports a few features adherent to the basic principles of HIM like connection visibility and structured messaging. For example, with the current release capabilities like versioning, basic collaboration, escalation, notifications, basic personalization and central access to tasks are provided. In regard to the collaboration features, the following comparison table holds true:

Supported with the current release
(HIM as an evolution of business task management and the universal worklist)

Planned for future releases
(Advanced process collaboration - horizontal & vertical persona collaboration)

  • Participants can post comments or messages for each active workflow instance
  • Participants can share any number of documents within a workflow instance
  • Design forms - support for management meeting, creating forms for roles, filters and navigation via Web Dynpro customization
  • Capability to create collaborative spaces associated with a process, a Wiki for example, during the various stages of the process life cycle
  • Workflow designers can check-in/check-out workflow documents and assign comments to any particular version on check-in
  • Instant messaging tool provided for users accessing the worklist; saving of instant message "talks" in the context of a specific activity
  • User interfaces can be customized in terms of design and function
  • Users can define their own priorities on their own tasks (for instance: mark a notification for posterior resolution)
  • Defining and representing organizational resources and associate them to process activities via customization
  • "Out-of-the-box" integration with corporate organizational structure
  • Users can see the current workflow status
  • Processes change processes

The situation is similar with the other of the above mentioned features. Even if SAP NetWeaver BPM does not fully cover all of the capabilities as described in human interaction management theory, in the future HIM will still be a priority area and more sophisticated collaboration features will be shipped with the next releases.


The human interaction management paradigm is considered nowadays as the next generation of BPM in general. The ultimate goal of both BPM and HIM is to optimize business process flow. The differences lay in the different types of process the two approaches address and the ways they follow to achieve this. HIM addresses dynamic human-centric process that would be hard or impossible to be clearly defined and optimized, but still need to be controlled, supported and included in the general process architecture of the company. Fields like research, design and marketing involve a lot of such processes. As opposed to BPM, HIM does not address how a process is or should be carried out, but rather what types of interaction and information exchange are required in the process and which actors participate in them, in order the human interactions within the process to be facilitated and supported, thus indirectly achieve the general goals of BPM such as higher personal productivity, lower TCO and higher value for the company.

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