Having worked on a few implementations of SAP FSCM Dispute Management it is clear that there is no simple standard solution when deciding what decisions in the dispute cycle should use workflow. The benefits of workflow are clear – "you are pro-active rather than re-active to a dispute”.
However as the saying goes “you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”; you can send e-mails to processors or approvers but you cannot make them open the dispute and action it. Further to this, the reporting within ECC is non existent, so if you want to report on disputes, you will need to activate some BI reports.
Workflow or BI reports?
Now BI reports can be sent to business users to notify them of disputes they need view and action, and in a way this is doing the same type of job as the workflow – notifying the business user they need to action the dispute. With a typical SAP FSCM implementation, the reporting requirements will come right at the end of the project, they maybe defined in the scoping and Blueprint, but the true look at feel to them will only come late in realisation. Where clients want formal control around their processes workflow is usually recommended as an option, and with mature SAP ERP clients, they will have some experience of this is other business processes. Within scoping and blueprinting, the formal dispute cycle is debated and agreed, and the process will normally include workflow where formal controls are required within the process. Sometimes the business decisions that are made early on within the implementation will be done without the knowledge of what could be achieved via BI reporting and so workflows get designed and agreed to mitigate the risk of lack of control around the approval and sign off processes of a dispute.
Dispute phases within the cycle
The dispute cycle, can be made very complicated, with many new system statuses added, new fields included to record information that is deemed critical. However all dispute cycles can be broken down into a number of basic phases.
Creation and logging
Approval or rejection of dispute
Resolution of dispute - credit note creation
Closure of dispute
When should workflow be used?
Workflow is not normally used to create and log a dispute. There are a number of different ways to create disputes within SAP FSCM, some are automated from receipt of payment, and others could be as a result of customer contact made within SAP Collections Management. The key area for workflow is the approval phase. A normal process would have a dispute being sent to an “approver”. This could be derived from the customer number or the reason code or manually entered. The approvers “task” is to review the details in the dispute and approve or reject. If they have sufficient authority the resolution phase could start, or if they don’t a new approver maybe required to authorise a high value credit note. The resolution phase, is normally either raising a credit note and attaching that to the dispute, or contacting the customer to inform them that the dispute has been resolved and no credit is due, (this could be the case where a Purchase Order Number is missing on a customer invoice). The business users required in the resolution phase will normally be frequent users such as credit collections clerks. Finally the closure of the dispute, is normally an automated process when the dispute has a value of zero, this normally occurs when a credit is raised and assigned to the dispute, or the customer pays in full the invoice that was in dispute.
The key area to focus on utilising workflow is the approval phase of the dispute. By creating good reporting and sensible dispute statuses the other phases should be achievable by either automated processes or frequent business users reviewing reports to identify the disputes that need further processing. Further to this, some clients like to provide the frequent dispute users a worklist similar to the Collections Worklist, to identify the disputes that they need to process.