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Following the recent webinar on the soon to be released My Inbox which is intended to be a replacement for the Unified Inbox and Fiori Approve Requests, I thought it would be an opportune time to demonstrate the lost potential of what the Unified Inbox could have become if it were developed further or at least what is possible by enhancing it yourself.

The truth is we have all been longing for the long overdue “perfect inbox” and the reality is that as much as we would like to have a one size fits all inbox, it just doesn't work that way, all users have different needs and all customers have different requirements. That's not to say we expect 10 different versions of an inbox, but 1 just won’t cater for every one. 

Imagine a sock manufacturer made 1 size of socks for all their Customers. It may fit some perfectly and others a bit, but not quite comfortably. Then some customers it would simply not fit at all. But just like some sock manufacturers may make 2 sizes, 5-8 and 9-12. So should we  have 2 versions of the inbox. One which is “mobile first” and the other which is “desktop first”. Sure you can probably run the desktop one on a tablet and the tablet one on a desktop. But neither will feel optimised in the others' environment.

That brings on my debate, is the “mobile first” approach sufficient for all users and scenarios as the only option?

I have recently been spending  a significant amount of time analysing the SAP Standard inbox options as per my document here: Workflow Inbox Feature Comparison Matrix. Followed by the decision to go with SAP’s new and widely unadopted Unified Inbox, as explained in my blog here: Journey into the Unified Inbox.

One of the biggest attractions of the Unified Inbox was it’s extensibility due to the way it has been designed as a UI5 component and the extensibility of the Process Gateway Task Processing service by redefining the Netweaver Gateway service. This was all made possible by new functionality as of SAP Netweaver Gateway SP08 which allows you to redefine a SAP standard service and overwrite the base service, as shown in this blog: Extending a service using the Gateway Service Builder. What this does is it allows you to redefine the service and access the redefined service via the original SAP standard URL. This is particularly useful in Enhancing the Unified Inbox as the standard Unified Inbox Component refers to the SAP standard TASKPROCESSING service.

The reality was that no inbox met 100% of our needs on the project. However the Unified Inbox was most certainly the closest and given the way in which it can be extended without ugly Z copies of the SAP standard application and Gateway service, this was a big advantage. It means we inherit all SAP bug fixes and improvements automatically. Although improvements no longer seem likely with the recent news that the Unified Inbox won’t be developed further. Sad news I believe as I really thought SAP were going in the right direction with the Unified Inbox.

Here is a summary the enhancements we made to make it fit our needs:

  • Preview pane – a feature which is available in the UWL, POWL Inbox and SBWP, seemed to have just been missed out in the Unified Inbox. I believe the explanation for this is that the stream view is supposed to replace the need for this, as well as the ability to open the Task details either in a new tab or in a pop-up view which covers the inbox.
  • Attachments in the main view, not through Stream View
  • Comments in the main view, not through the Stream View
  • Linked Objects - with the ability to launch the transaction linked to the linked object via OBN (Object Based Navigation)
  • Workflow Log / Processing Log
  • Custom Forwarding - restricted forwarding list of agents
  • Outbox - My Forwarded Tasks list and My Requests / Workflows Started by me.

The Standard Unified Inbox Component embedded in a custom UI5 Application

Custom Task Details UI5 Component (Preview pane) embedded in custom UI5 Application

By using the attachTaskSelectionChange function in the Inbox Control API you can register an event handler to know which task to load in the work item preview pane below.

Created By Agent Details

Attachments Upload and Display

Uses standard functionality in the TASKPROCESSING Gateway service.

Comments Create and Display

Uses standard functionality in the TASKPROCESSING Gateway service.

Linked Objects

Displays the linked objects for the task and allows the user to navigate to the linked Object using OBN (Object Based Navigation). In NWBC client this will open up the SAP GUI and in NWBC for HTML this will open up the webgui.

This required a new custom Entity set in the redefined version of the TASKPROCESSING Gateway service.

Workflow Log / Processing Log

This required new custom Entity sets in the redefined version of the TASKPROCESSING Gateway service.

Forward Task

Custom forwarding which returns a restricted list of agents to forward to:

Outbox - Tasks Forwarded by Me and Started by me (My Requests)

This adds in outbox functionality and allows the user to view tasks they have forwarded and their current status and Workflows they created (My Requests)

Outbox view at workflow header level with only workflow log shown

This is not meant to be a tutorial on how to enhance the Unified Inbox, but rather a demonstration to show that it is possible, and that you are only limited by your imagination and ability to code :smile:

Edit on 16/12/2014: Added screenshot of outbox view

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