Improve Background Process Design with Process Chain Scheduling

  • by Abhilasha Jain, Infosys Technologies Ltd.
  • July 30, 2012
The true value of any new algorithm or process implementation can be derived only when the batch process in which these functionalities are executed has been optimally designed. Learn the fundamentals of process chain scheduling and then walk through eight scenarios in which you can implement such scheduling using sample utilities to improve your process implementations.
Key Concept
Process chains make batch processing easy. You can make the optimal decision by scheduling process chains. These chains should be based on simplicity, modularity, flexibility, minimal human intervention, and ease of maintenance.

Designing background processes often takes lesser precedence during large project implementations and generally ends up being done at the last minute before cutover, without much thought given to the various dependencies to be considered and the schedules to be followed. This lack of proper planning, as well as time and bandwidth to develop utilities that manage the various dependencies and rules, leads to suboptimal designs. This issue is manifested in redundant batch processing elements and manual interventions required at different stages of the batch processing, both of which increase the complexity of the solution and result in higher total cost of ownership (TCO) for the solution.

I share best practices based on past experience to address this issue by describing an approach that not only provides a suite of functionalities, both standard and custom, but also explains the advantages of one approach over the other. While there are dedicated third-party products available in the market to meet complex scheduling requirements across systems, the ideas and custom functionalities I explain meet most of the scheduling requirements, thus saving on the additional investments that would be required for such products.

Process chain technology available in SAP Advanced Planning & Optimization (SAP APO) in SAP Supply Chain Management (SAP SCM) 4.1 and later, as well as SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW), has enhanced existing batch jobs that were defined using transaction code SM36. It has automated the complex schedules with the help of the event-controlled and outcome-based processing, but the challenge still persists for scheduling these process chains in line with the planning schedules for different companies.

Each day you have to run a certain set of processes or jobs. The frequency of the jobs could be daily or weekly. The frequency of running jobs might also depend on other processes. The start process of the process chain can handle one dependency, but think of a scenario in which a process chain should start when data loading from SAP NetWeaver BW is finished, another process is finished in SAP ERP, and if it’s a second week of the month plus a Saturday. Along with the standard process chain functionalities, you can develop some simple utilities to reduce the manual intervention and manage these types of dependencies successfully without any disruption.

I walk you through the basics of process chain scheduling and show you two useful utilities that I refer to in this example. Then I look at the advanced process chain functionalities, such as interrupts, conditions, and meta chains, all of which help control scheduling according to time, day, and date, and in combination with business events. Finally, some example scenarios show you how to use these utilities and the various process chain functionalities to your benefit.

IT teams that are implementing a new solution or upgrading or maintaining an existing solution will benefit from this information, which helps optimize the monitoring effort and any manual interventions. Any team that is in the design phase of an implementation or functional upgrade will gain valuable tips for mapping the Business Planning Calendar into different scenarios and then employing the approaches suggested. It is also valuable to a maintenance or production support team looking for avenues to optimize batch processes.

Abhilasha Jain

Abhilasha Jain is an SAP SCM consultant at Infosys Technologies Ltd. She has more than six years of experience in supply chain consulting working for life cycle implementation and enhancement projects. She has served multinational corporation (MNC) clients in industries such as high tech, consumer electronics, communications, and oil and gas, particularly in the areas of demand planning, supply network planning, and global available-to-promise. She holds a post-graduate diploma in SCM from NITIE and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Rajiv Gandhi University.

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