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Author's profile photo Jocelyn Dart

SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA – Understanding SAP Business Roles

SAP has already delivered over 460 Business Roles with SAP S/4HANA and 300 Business Roles with SAP S/4HANA Cloud. Taking a Business Role perspective is encouraged widely across SAP S/4HANA User Experience for:

  • evaluating apps and classic UIs in the SAP Fiori apps reference library;
  • activating apps in your SAP S/4HANA system;
  • designing the business catalogs that assign apps to user’s authorization roles;
  • and managing the layout of content on the SAP Fiori launchpad home page.

You can see a list of some of the most common business roles in this summary slide:

 

But what exactly are Business Roles? What do we mean by SAP Business Roles? How is the concept of Business Roles applied to SAP S/4HANA? How can you use business roles to accelerate UX implementation and adoption in your SAP S/4HANA project (new implementation, system conversion, or upgrade)?  How can you use business roles to derive your authorizations and security roles?

Perhaps most importantly of all, who should own the Business Role and have the final say on how business roles are applied in your organization and in your solution.

This is the start of a blog series to answer these and many more questions about SAP Business Roles, and to summarize the best of the related blog posts. Revisit this blog post from time to time and you will find the latest blogs linked and summarized at the end of this blog post.

In this blog post you will find:

  • A basic definition of Business Roles – with specific examples
  • SAP Business Roles – a cross solution perspective
  • SAP Business Roles in SAP S/4HANA – which roles are delivered and where to find them
  • What’s included in a SAP Business Role for SAP S/4HANA
  • SAP Business Roles and the SAP S/4HANA roadmap – how to understand the changes in User Experience between lower and higher releases of SAP S/4HANA, including how to get a quick heads up on SAP Fiori app coverage in your release
  • Creating custom Business Roles for your organization – a quick overview – you will find a deep dive in the upcoming blog posts
  • Who owns your business role
  • More blog posts on business roles

 

Business Role – a basic definition for everyone (including business stakeholders)

The simplest definition of a business role is this:

A business role is an abstract construct that represents a job that a person does.  The business role includes everything they do that is related to their workplace responsibilities.

Note: A single Business role does not necessarily equate to a person’s complete job, e.g. in lean organisations or locations some people may have responsibility for multiple business roles.

Taking “a day in the life” approach, the business role includes the person’s:

  • Tasks – both on-system and off-system
  • How they access those tasks
  • How they navigate between tasks – to complete their responsibilities within a specific business process, or to shift between tasks in different processes on demand
  • Their working context/environment – which typically impacts on which devices and equipment they use throughout their day
  • The regulations that guide what they can and cannot do – such as security and safety requirements

See how this works with 2 examples from SAP S/4HANA:

Maintenance Technician – performs and confirms planned and unplanned maintenance work on machines, equipment and facilities efficiently and safely.

You can imagine a Maintenance Technician needs to travel to different machines, equipment or facilities, and that travel is part of their off-system activities.  Because they travel a lot, their primary device is likely to be a tablet or phone, or more likely both. For example, they might need to get specifications on a tablet, and use a phone to communicate with the office or when climbing a ladder to reach the equipment to be maintained.

It’s clear that a Maintenance Technician will need to be aware of the relevant safety regulations for different equipment.  They may need to wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, which may provide some challenges to how and when he/she can use touch-enabled devices. They will need to be able to update the status of a routine maintenance repair.  They may need to navigate quickly to a more urgent request to deal with a business-critical equipment failure.

General Ledger Accountant – carries out daily activities in general ledger, for example by recording transactions and making adjustment postings, and preparing financial statements.

You can imagine an off-system task for a General Ledger Accountant might be sending the financial statements to the board of directors. Because they do detailed and complex financial work, their working environment is likely to be a desk in an office or working from home, and their primary device is therefore a desktop/laptop. They are likely to need to shift between tasks to answer incoming queries on the financial health of the organization, or the content of a specific journal entry or General Ledger account master.

Because business roles are focussed on the job a person does, business roles can represent jobs done by:

  • casual or knowledge workers
  • employees or contractors

SAP Business Roles – a cross-solution perspective

Business roles are a fundamental concept of the User Experience in SAP S/4HANA – as explained in this blog post On Building Great Experiences for Our Users by Alex Lingg, the head of SAP User Experience.

While the rise of design thinking and SAP Fiori has increased the focus on Business Roles, historically SAP has used Business Roles in a variety of solutions.  You can find historical analogies and parallels in SAP solutions such as:

  • CRM Business roles – refer to blog post Business role Vs PFCG Role : FAQ
  • SAP HCM – e.g. the concept of jobs and related positions
  • Enterprise Portal – e.g. the concept of role-based portal pages

Similarly, solutions such as SAP Identity Management, SAP Access Control, and SAP Identity Access Governance use business role constructs to facilitate user provisioning of the technical enablement of the business role.

With SAP Fiori the focus on business roles has increased dramatically. From the earliest days of SAP Fiori in 2013 the first – and arguably the most important – design principle of SAP Fiori is role-based, i.e. “designed for you, your needs and how you work”.  In other words, designed for your business role.

Naturally, since SAP solutions cover a broad range of industries, organizations, and countries, how SAP envisions the business role may not exactly match how you apply the business role in your specific industry, organization, or country.

So SAP delivers Business Roles as templates – starting points which you can copy and refine to meet your real needs.

You can see the SAP definition of a business role in the SAP Fiori apps reference library, by hovering on the role name.  For example, using filter SAP Fiori apps for SAP S/4HANA, then sub-filter by Roles and searching for roles by keyword “maint”, you can find the Maintenance Technician role and its definition.

SAP Business Roles in SAP S/4HANA

SAP has already delivered over 460 SAP Business Role templates for SAP S/4HANA, and 300 business role templates for SAP S/4HANA Cloud.

You can see this if you select the relevant product suite, then aggregate all apps and classic UIs.  For example, by selecting main filter All Apps for SAP S/4HANA, then All Apps, then press the Select All icon button at the top of the app list, and then press the Aggregate button in the footer.

The delivered business role templates include 370 leading business roles and just under 100 additional business roles.  Leading business roles are the primary owners of one or more apps or classic UIs. Additional business roles combine existing content from leading business roles in new ways to meet specific use cases.

If you would like to find out more about the difference between Leading and Additional Roles you can find that in the Help documentation for the SAP Fiori apps reference library in the section Adding Apps from Business Roles or Business Catalogs to the Current Selection.

You can expand the aggregated list to see the content, such as the expanded list of Additional Roles below.

What’s included in a SAP Business Role for SAP S/4HANA

Each SAP Business Role template includes:

  • Apps and classic UIs that match the on-system tasks of that business role
  • Networked navigation between related apps, classic UIs, and the SAP Fiori Launchpad
  • Markings for which apps, classic uis, and navigations are relevant for different device types – desktop/laptop, tablet and phone
    • Where not relevant, apps/uis are hidden by default
  • A default assignment of Launchpad content for the home page (Fiori 2.0) or pages (Fiori 3)

Each SAP Business Role is matched by a security/authorizations role in your SAP S/4HANA system that can be assigned to the users who perform that business role.

IMPORTANT:  The reverse is not true, i.e. there are many security roles in your SAP S/4HANA system that are not considered business roles.  These are provided for other purposes such as administration.

These security roles by convention start with “SAP_BR_” e.g. General Ledger Accountant has security role SAP_BR_GL_ACCOUNTANT.

You can see the security role name listed in the SAP Fiori apps reference library, e.g. select main filter SAP Fiori apps for SAP S/4HANA, then sub-filter by Roles, then search for your role name by keyword, e.g. “general” for General Ledger Accountant.  You can see the security role name listed as the technical id of the business role.

Tip: Where a business user is responsible for multiple business roles, they can be assigned to all the relevant security roles. This gives them access to all of the apps and classic UIs they need.  You should recognize it is more challenging to organize the launchpad content for people who perform multiple business roles, and these people will have the greatest need to use personalization to optimize their launchpad layout.

In SAP S/4HANA AnyPremise you can find all the SAP Business Roles using standard security transactions, such as GUI transaction PFCG.

In SAP S/4HANA Cloud you can find all the available business roles – and these Business Roles can be created and edited – in SAP Fiori app F1492 Maintain Business Roles

Find out more about maintaining SAP Business Roles in SAP S/4HANA Cloud in the SAP S/4HANA Cloud Community blog post: How to Manage Authorizations by via Business Roles for Customer and Supplier Business Partner Master Data in S/4HANA Cloud

SAP Business Roles and the SAP S/4HANA roadmap

With each new SAP S/4HANA release, more business roles are added, and existing business roles are updated with new apps and new navigation possibilities.

The current status of SAP S/4HANA 1909 FPS02 is that there are 467 SAP Business Roles for SAP S/4HANA, of which:

  • 295 roles have SAP Fiori apps and classic UIs assigned, and
  • the remaining 172 roles have only classic UIs assigned.

The coverage varies greatly depending on your SAP S/4HANA release. Each SAP S/4HANA release has introduced an additional 300 to 400 SAP Fiori apps as part of the SAP S/4HANA roadmap.  This aligns to the new capabilities of SAP S/4HANA releases as Lines of Business, business processes, and related business roles are simplified, refined, and expanded over time to include more intelligent technologies and other new business value innovations.

For each SAP Business Role, the SAP Fiori apps reference library lists the total number of SAP Fiori apps available.  You can see this for SAP S/4HANA AnyPremise by selecting the filter SAP Fiori apps for SAP S/4HANA, then sub-filter by Roles, and then search for the role by keyword, e.g. “general” to find General Ledger Accountant. A count of the number of apps is shown next to the role name.

This gives you a quick heads-up of the current SAP Fiori app coverage for that role.  At the upper end, there are over 70 SAP Fiori apps (i.e. based on SAPUI5 technology) each for Purchaser and General Ledger Accountant, down to 1 app for Employee – First Aid. You can use this to set expectations with business stakeholders and others.

You can see the journey for different roles by looking at what is available for different releases. You can do this by simply selecting all apps for the business role, aggregating and adjusting the target release.

In this example you can see General Ledger Accountant in SAP S/4HANA 1511:

You can compare this to General Ledger Accountant in SAP S/4HANA 1909 FPS02:

For example, for General Ledger Accountant there were:

  • 20 SAP Fiori apps delivered with SAP S/4HANA 1511
  • 35 SAP Fiori apps delivered with SAP S/4HANA 1610
  • 42 SAP Fiori apps delivered with SAP S/4HANA 1709
  • 48 SAP Fiori apps delivered with SAP S/4HANA 1809
  • 62 SAP Fiori apps delivered with SAP S/4HANA 1909

Of the total 70 apps in the SAP Fiori apps reference library, 8 apps have been replaced with successor apps.  The “Successor also chosen” link will show you the relevant successor app, or use the alternative app id to find the app.

This means that when you upgrade your SAP S/4HANA release it is important to check for deprecated and successor apps, and to move to the successor app as part of your upgrade.

Be aware that in some cases, there may be decomposition of a task to more than one successor app.  For example where feedback from customers has indicated that this task is performed differently by different roles.

Creating custom Business Roles for your organization

Custom business roles reflects how a real business role is applied within a specific organization.

Once most customers hear of SAP Business Roles, their first question is:

Can we create our own custom business roles?

Yes you can! In fact, that’s the purpose of providing SAP Business Role templates. They are a starting point – often a very good starting point – that can be refined to meet your specific needs:

  • To recombine SAP Fiori apps in new ways
  • To add custom-built Fiori apps and URLs
  • To remove apps or classic UIs not relevant to your organization
  • To adjust the home page(s) to help your business users focus on what is most important to their role in your organization

There are two broad approaches:

  • Copy the closest SAP Business Role and refine it
  • Create your own custom Business Role from scratch

Both can be done using the SAP Fiori launchpad content manager.

Because one SAP Business Role can cover tasks in multiple business processes, and to make the related entities easier to manager, a single business role is usually distributed into several business catalogs.

You can see these business catalogs in the tools provided as part of your SAP S/4HANA AnyPremise solution, such as SAP Fiori launchpad content manager and SAP Fiori launchpad designer.  Business catalogs typically have the prefix SAP_BC_.  Each business catalog represents a sub-section of the role, e.g. all the related tasks of a specific business process.

The Business Role and Business Catalog design gives you a number of possibilities in how you can apply SAP Business Roles to your specific needs.  For example, you can:

  • use the SAP Business Role as-is
  • combine selected SAP business catalogs to create a custom business role
  • copy a specific SAP business catalog and refine that, then combine selected custom business catalogs and SAP business catalogs to a new custom business role

Once the app assignment to the custom business role is finalized, you can adjust the home page(s) to help the business users focus on the entry points to their most important daily tasks.

The second question customers ask is:

Can I use the delivered SAP Business roles as-is?

Yes absolutely – provided it meets the needs of your real business role.  You would make some of our SAP role owners and product owners very happy to know that they have matched your needs so precisely.

That brings us to a last and very important question…one that in our experience many customers overlook…

Who owns your business roles?

Who owns your Business Role

Ownership matters. Ownership drives the quality of your User Experience.

You need someone to be the final arbiter – the key decision maker – on what is or is not a part of your real-world business role in your organization.

You will need someone to agree which are the most appropriate device types for business users who are in that business role. That person will need to make sure there is provision for funding and distribution; and that appropriate cyber security arrangements are in place.

You will need someone to decide what is the most appropriate on-system User Experience for your custom Business Roles. For example, you will need someone to be the final arbiter on:

  • What should and should not be part of your custom Business Role for your organization
  • Whether the SAP Business Role template is a good enough fit for your custom Business Role
  • If not, whether the SAP Business Role a sufficient starting point that can be refined to your custom Business Role, and if so, what needs to be added/removed
  • If not, whether you can use at least some of the SAP business catalogs as a starting point for your custom role,
  • Or whether you need to build a new custom business role from scratch

You will need someone to decide what are the most important tasks/activities that are needed every day. These should be on the home page (SAP Fiori 2.0) or pages (SAP Fiori 3) of the SAP Fiori launchpad when any business user assigned to the business role logs in.

You will need someone to make all of these decisions when:

So here’s a critical question: who do you want to be your Role Owner?

You may find it helpful to start by considering who should NOT be the Role Owner:

  • Your security administrator – because they are primarily concerned with authorizations, not user experience
  • Your functional consultant – because they are primarily concerned with the end to end business process, not user experience
  • Your basis/technical consultant – because they are primarily concerned with the end to end system landscape, not user experience
  • Your UI designer and/or developer – because they are primarily concerned with the design and development of individual apps, not with the end to end user experience
  • Your project manager – because they, like most of your project team, will most likely move onto other sites or other projects

Based on project experiences, our recommendation to you would be:

  • The role is owned by the Enterprise
  • There should be a clear description of that role – e.g. so you can hire someone to do that role. This description is usually held by HR or perhaps your Organization Change Management team.
  • Major decisions on the role should be owned by:
    • The responsible role owner (Responsible, Accountable)
    • The business users who do that role (Consulted, Informed)

Should your UX architect be the role owner? They may take on this responsibility during your project – at least they are primarily concerned with the end to end user experience. However, like most of your project team they will probably move on at the end of the project.

So, the real responsibility of the UX architect is to identify the responsible role owner. They need to ensure all role owners are:

  • Involved in key decisions during your project
  • Enabled to continue making these decisions before and after go-live in consultation with the business users in those business roles – who are the people will be directly affected by any changes.

More blog posts on Business Roles

Business roles leads into the topic of SAP Fiori catalog design. These are some of the topics we plan to cover.  We are open to other ideas – make your suggestions in the comments.

  • How business roles simplify deploying UX for SAP S/4HANA
  • Creating custom business roles and business catalogs
  • Business roles – the security authorization administrator’s view

Becoming a SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA guru

In the comments please let us know your thoughts on Business Roles.

Who owns your Business Role(s)?

You’ll find much more on our SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA wiki

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