FEATURES Summer 2019

Revenue Management Cloud Services (RMCS) Integration with EBS
By Mary Hammes, Marquette University
Workflow administration could easily consume a full-time employee’s workload. Many organizations simply don’t have the resources for this, and Workflow administration often becomes the responsibility of subject matter experts or application specialists in addition to their other duties. How can they keep it under control with minimal time devotion?

In Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS), Workflows are triggered by predefined business events, categorized by transaction type, and comprise all the activities needed to complete the process. Common activities include finding approvers, sending notifications and updating attributes — a set of variables specific to an occurrence of a Workflow. Activities return activity results, which dictate the flow of the Workflow if branching for different outcomes is desired. Even a small portion of a Workflow can be quite complex, involving hundreds of activities.

The topics below cover only a small part of the Workflow Administration System but are crucial for organizations that, from necessity, must be reactive rather than proactive in troubleshooting Workflow issues.

The Status Monitor
The Status Monitor, a function available in the Workflow Administrator Web Applications responsibility, provides an invaluable inside look at Workflows to track the progress of activities. The Status Diagram provides a visual display of the flow like that seen in Workflow Builder. The Workflow Details button allows viewing and updating of the attributes, but the Activity History is probably the most helpful feature, as it too provides a step-by-step flow of progress, albeit in a verbal way, but also allows retrying, rewinding or skipping of activities to correct errors and get the Workflow back on its way. (See Illustration 1).

Illustration 1. The Workflow Activity History provides a step-by-step flow of progress.
Illustration 1. The Workflow Activity History provides a step-by-step flow of progress.
Suppose, for example, the HR/Payroll Representative is missing from the Payroll description form and a notification requires that person as an approver; the Workflow will err at the notification activity. Once the field has been corrected in Payroll, the Workflow can be rewound back to an activity before the approver was retrieved and restarted at that point. An alternative approach can be to update the missing attribute directly using the Update Attributes button and retry the Notification activity. Some activities can simply be skipped if they provide no needed action.

One common error occurs when using the Approvals Management Engine (AME), itself a Workflow subprocess, if the human resources supervisor chain contains a terminated employee. Once the data is corrected, most Workflows can be rewound to the start of the AME subprocess and successfully resolved.

The Workflow Manager
Another helpful tool within the Workflow Administrator Web Applications responsibility is the Workflow Manager, which opens as a dashboard-like overview of service engines and summary metrics. Drilldowns allow start and stop control of services and edit capabilities on all configuration components.

The Workflow Manager delivers complete throughput metrics, providing graphical and tabular displays of current Workflow statuses. The Workflow administrator can monitor erred Workflows from a summary level down to specific individual Workflows needing attention.

Another helpful tool within the Workflow Administrator Web Applications responsibility is the Workflow Manager, which opens as a dashboard-like overview of service engines and summary metrics.
The Notification Mailer
One service component of particular importance is the Notification Mailer. Notifications generated from Workflows are available in the user’s Worklist and are displayed on the navigation home page. If desired, a second notification can be generated and sent via the organization’s email system. The Notification Mailer service component can be configured to include both an outbound and inbound process. The outbound process and its configuration define the technical method of delivery, structure of the email notification body and from and reply-to addresses. An inbound process is required if approvers may respond directly from within the email.

As those familiar with Workflow Builder may know, notifications are made up of messages, and email notifications are no different. The organization may design its own message templates by creating them in Workflow Builder for transaction type WFMAIL (System: Mailer). To replace the seeded templates with custom ones, edit the Templates section of the Mailer service component configuration. As they are separate entities from the original notification, emails can run the gamut from simple text messages to a complete replication of the Worklist notification.

Other Mailer configurations of interest include an Autoclose FYI flag, which if enabled, marks FYI notifications as closed as soon as the email is delivered. To remove the risk of test emails being sent out across the organization, all emails can be directed to an instance-specific Test Address.

Workflow comes with one seeded Notification Mailer service component, but custom mailers can be designed and assigned to different transaction types. It is possible, for example, to allow email responses for iExpense reports but not for Purchase Orders. The Notification Mailer is flexible enough to accommodate any organization’s preferred business processes.

Vacation Rules and Worklist Access
Vacation Rules and Worklist Access allow users to direct their notifications to others to respond in their stead. Both share access, but in conceptually different ways. They are both available via links located at the bottom of the Worklist.

A Vacation Rule automatically forwards all notifications of selected transaction types to another user for a specified (or open-ended) time period. Rules are defined to either delegate authority to another user — security permissions of the original receiver are retained — or to transfer ownership, in which case the notification becomes the property of the transferee and security permissions depend on the new owner’s access.

It is not recommended to set up rules forwarding all transaction type notifications, as this could include personal information. Limit the transaction types allowed to be shared by setting the profile option WF: Vacation Rules – Allow All to disabled, and identify approved types in the WF: Vacation Rule Item Types lookup table.

Worklist Access, in contrast, does not forward notifications, but grants view and update access by sharing of the Worklist itself. Setup is similar to that of Vacation Rules; a user, time frame and transaction types are selected. The designee can then switch back and forth between their own Worklist and that of another. Unlike the Vacation Rules, however, the original receiver also retains access to the notifications, and either user may respond.

Although users themselves establish Vacation Rules and Worklist Access, it is important for a Workflow administrator to understand the assignments. Many organizations do not allow submitters to approve their own submissions; set the profile option WF: Disable Reassign to Submitter appropriately.

Concurrent Manager Processes
There are many Concurrent Manager processes in the Workflow system, but two are of special importance in keeping Workflow running smoothly and efficiently.

Workflow Background Process
Normally, Workflows progress from one activity to another immediately upon determination of result. However, two situations can put a Workflow in a kind of holding status: deferrals and timeouts. Some Workflows are put in a deferred status by design for various reasons and require the background process to “push” them along.

If a notification is designed with timeout functionality, the expected due date is captured when the notification is generated. The background process checks for expirations and returns timeout results for those overdue.

Purge Obsolete Workflow Runtime Data
Workflow generates a tremendous amount of data; an organization can easily create hundreds of thousands of data rows per month. If this data is not purged in a timely manner, performance may suffer.

Be aware that only completed Workflows will be purged. All activities — including FYI Notifications — must be closed. The Autoclose FYI feature of the Notification Mailer, as noted above, can facilitate this requirement.

In summary, Workflow is a complicated engine with many moving parts. Hopefully, these suggestions will allow the organization to keep it all under control.

Mary Hammes has been the Lead Application Specialist for Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) at Marquette University since 2003. She and her team of three support Financials and HCM with technical proficiency in Oracle tools, PL/SQL and JDeveloper.