SAP Integration Best Practices – Tools, Methods & Use Cases

June 29, 2022 by Akash Apurva Singh from Appseconnect

Unlock SAP Integration and Transform Your Business

Businesses around the world are using SAP ERP to manage and maintain their organizational data and processes. SAP is a powerful and highly configurable platform that can transform the way businesses work. It is one of the most crucial and coveted applications that a business owner employs, however, even SAP alone cannot do everything for a business – with the advent of the multi-application structure of organizations, enabling SAP integration with all the other applications of the business is necessary for efficient operations. Even when multiple applications are being used alongside SAP, they need to access the data within the ERP platform and work with it. This makes SAP the central core of the IT landscape for any user. So, an efficient and seamless SAP integration solution needs to be in place in order to make SAP communicate with other non-SAP applications and streamline the flow of data within the organization.

Explore APPSeCONNECT iPaaS, a smart and intelligent Business Process Automation and Integration Platform that can easily and efficiently connect your SAP to other LoB applications, and enable you to drive innovation and improve the clock speed of your business.

Download our free eBook on SAP Integration Best Practices and explore APPSeCONNECT features for SAP integration, the best practices to go by, and industry-tested use cases to help you relate. In this eBook, readers will get deep insights into the true workings of SAP and the best methodology to adopt during implementation and integration.

If you have multiple systems running in your business and want to seamlessly connect all of them with your SAP application under one single platform to automate the business processes, employ the APPSeCONNECT Integration Platform and achieve a noticeable improvement in your business metrics.

Introduction to SAP Integration

SAP is a powerful application that can transform the way an organization does business. It is highly configurable and can support many processes and their variations out of the box. However, it still cannot do everything. SAP integration with non-SAP systems is often needed for efficient business operations.

This is so because SAP forms the core of the enterprise and has data that other applications would need to work with. Hence, even though other applications are deployed, SAP remains the central core of the IT landscape for any customer.

“77% of world’s transaction revenue touches an SAP system. 98 of the top 100 valued brands are SAP customers.” – www.sap.com

Empowering non-SAP applications with SAP Integration

Almost all big enterprises run on SAP.

In the current era of the digital economy, it becomes essential to have other applications talk to SAP.

Usually, SAP has centralized information which is used for planning, operations, supply chain and financials. Integrating other applications with SAP leads to information exchange which then helps the applications execute their functionality.

Also, apart from the organization’s core master and transaction data, SAP has various checks and business rules defined. There is no point rebuilding the same in the other application.

What is SAP Integration?

In this section, we will focus on how to achieve SAP Integration and have information that can flow between the various applications within the IT landscape of the company. We will also look at SAP integration methods and associated best practices.

Understanding the SAP versions you need SAP Integration with

Many times, people get confused due to so many SAP terminologies and versions. So, before we start, it may be good to know which SAP version we are talking about. Though the given list is not complete, usually, you would end up with either of the mentioned versions.

SAP Business One

sap-business-one

This is SAP’s ERP offering for the small and mid-segment market. It is a .NET-based application that caters to the Operation and Financial needs of the company. It has built-in functionalities for reporting and compliance, analytics and much more. Usually, SAP Business One runs either on MS-SQL database or HANA.

We MTCSYS is SAP’s partner in APJ

SAP S/4 HANA

sap s4 hana

This is the latest release of SAP ERP and it can run only on the HANA database. With this release, SAP has simplified its core database architecture. This together with in-memory processing enables businesses to do complex business computations within minutes.

SAP ECC

sap ecc

Most of the companies running on SAP are running on SAP ECC. It is the offering for a large enterprise. Companies with large volumes, complex business processes and operating in multiple geographies go for SAP ECC. It is built on the ABAP stack.

SAP ECC on HANA

sap ecc on hana

Similar to SAP Business One on HANA, ECC on HANA simply means an ECC installation that is running on the HANA database.

SAP All-in-One

sap business all in one

These are the same as SAP ECC but are configured to work for a specific industry vertical (for example a manufacturing or a pharma company). Since they are pre-configured, it helps the company save implementation costs.

SAP Business ByDesign

sap business bydesign

This is an on-demand version of SAP that can be deployed either on a public or private cloud. The platform is suited for small to mid-size companies with low to medium customization needs.

Apart from the versions listed above, SAP also has industry solutions for various industry verticals. For example, industry solution retail (IS-Retail) caters to various needs of a typical retail company including merchandising, assortment and listing.

Technologies SAP runs on – Knowing What Technology Layers Are Needed for SAP Integration

  • ABAP – SAP ECC and S/4 instances run on the ABAP stack
  • Database – S/4 Runs on HANA. ECC can run on Oracle, MS-SQL and DB2. However many customers are moving to HANA.
  • NetWeaver – SAP has a NetWeaver stack that helps serve as a Web application server and also with SAP integration.
  • .NET – SAP Business One runs on a .NET stack. It can run on MS-SQL or HANA databases.
  • ABSL/BODL – SAP Business ByDesign has a C-like programming language that compiles into ABAP.

SAP Integration: Typical Information Exchange

Customer Master

Customer basic details, Shipping locations, Tax information.

Transaction Information

Transactions like Sales Orders, Purchase Orders, Quotations, and Invoices.

Material Master

Material basic details, Prices, Tax information. etc.

Business Checks

Few of the checks are credit availability, Available to promise inventory levels

For example, if you have a customer order portal, you might want to check whether the inventory exists in the warehouse or not. Instead of building these check-in non-SAP applications, it is of tremendous value to integrate third-party applications with SAP and leverage these checks from a central application.

Some SAP Integration Use Cases

Popular Integration methods used for connecting SAP with third-party applications.

sap-integration-use-case

File Exchange

If you are dealing with older applications (for example mainframes) in the landscape, it is most likely that you would be limited in the integration options. File exchange and processing become the only possible way to integration. In this method, a file is generated within the source system and is kept in a specific directory. A middleware (for example SAP Process Integration or SAP PI) then picks up the file and processes it, if required, and posts it to the destination folder where the destination application can pick it up and process the same. SAP can support the generation of files as well as the processing of an inbound file.

DI / HANA Service Layer

For integrating SAP Business One, DI services are required which exposes the SAP Business One objects. In case the SAP Business One installation is on HANA, then the HANA Service Layer is needed. Having this layer makes the underlying objects in SAP Business One accessible for integration.

SAP Integration via IDOCs

IDOCs or intermediary documents are another way to exchange information to and from SAP. If you are more aware of web technologies, consider IDOCs as XML. IDOCs consist of neatly defined data segments with parent and child nodes. There are specific steps to configure inbound and outbound IDOCs and we will cover them in the subsequent article.

SAP Integration using RFCs

If you are looking at a real-time SAP Integration scenario, RFC (Remote Function Call) is probably the best way to go. In this case, certain functions are enabled for a remote call. One such function could be for example sales order creation. Third-party applications can integrate with SAP using these RFCs for real-time communication and business process validation (for example price computation, minimum order check, etc.).

ByD Web Services

Business ByDesign has rich Web Service APIs which can help integrate SAP ByDesign with a third-party application. The process involves two steps – authentication followed by the required operation. The application also supports ODATA integration for business objects and reports.

SAP Integration Best Practices

Great! So, now that we are much more informed about our SAP integration, let us look at things to keep in mind while connecting SAP with your desired platforms. If you keep the following points in mind, you will end up having a robust solution at hand.

Understanding Connection Protocols to use

Each integration approach has some benefits and limitations. File exchange works best where the other application doesn’t support any other sophisticated communication protocols. With additional security measures, it is also useful for exchanges with the government and banking systems. Usually, file exchanges can be done as a background job during non-business hours so that it doesn’t affect the end users’ live work on the application.

IDOCs are useful when we need to communicate with a business partner who accepts/sends information as per industry standards (for example EDIFACT / ANSI). They could be used for transaction processing (for example Orders, Invoices and more) as well as the exchange of Master Data.

RFCs are useful when an immediate response from SAP is required. This could be related to validations or the creation of transactions within the application. Through real-time, this can add up to system load if many parallel RFC calls are lined up in the application.

Reviewing Documentation of specific Method-to-Call

SAP has many predefined IDOCs and RFCs which can be used out of the box. If you are not aware of them, it is best to engage an SAP Integration expert to help you out. It is usually not recommended to create custom objects without understanding SAP’s default solution and making sure that the custom development actually adds to the value.

However, if the decision to create custom objects is taken, the framework must have complete modularization so that specific functions can be executed independently without having to code them every time.

Reviewing in-direct User Policy

If you are connecting SAP with a third-party application, your end customer may be liable to pay SAP for in-direct use. It would be good to advise the customer to check their commercial agreements and check with their SAP partner to validate how they are going to be charged.

Some SAP RFCs need explicit Commit

If your architecture required using RFCs for connecting the applications, you may want to check whether an additional database commit function is required. This is required since many standard BAPIs need to be explicitly committed to the database before you can see the actual transaction.

SAP Integration Tools

SAP provides a Java-based interaction layer called SAP PI. However, many organizations prefer to use pre-configured / packaged integration solutions as they make their integration process easier and faster. These platforms are scalable and robust integration solutions that can handle the growing data and complexity of organizations.

Powerful SAP Integration Platform : APPSeCONNECT

APPSeCONNECT, a modern and intelligent integration platform makes it easier to launch defined integrations of SAP with Shopify, Magento, Amazon marketplace and more.

With pre-configured integration packages, APPSeCONNECT helps users launch their integration faster. It automates and streamlines all processes and data around SAP and offers a high level of customization and scalability to suit all business needs.

If you have multiple systems running in your business and want to seamlessly connect all of them with your SAP application under one single platform to automate the business processes, employ the APPSeCONNECT Integration Platform and achieve a noticeable improvement in your business metrics.

Why Indulge in SAP Integration? Business Cases

There are many business cases when SAP needs to be integrated with other applications. Let us look at some of the popular ones:

SAP and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Integration

SAP integration with a CRM is needed by salespeople on the ground to access inventory, pricing and customer information from the ERP to help them draft accurate quotes. SAP Salesforce Integration by APPSeCONNECT ensures this works seamlessly. The SAP Salesforce connector provides best-in-class, API-led integration and dives deep into automating the business processes it encompasses. Explore how SAP Salesforce integration can streamline your business processes and enhance productivity.

SAP and Digital Commerce Integration

The Digital Commerce / eCommerce market is gaining high momentum. Companies are transforming the methods in which they used to acquire orders earlier. Even B2B customers are expecting a B2C experience while executing procurements.

With APPSeCONNECT’s SAP eCommerce connector users can integrate their systems seamlessly with platforms like Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, etc. to achieve automated sync of data and processes between the applications.

SAP and Payment Gateway Integration

Often, companies take credit card information to eliminate the risk of non-payment.

Integrating payment gateways within SAP via APPSeCONNECT can reduce outstanding receivables and improve cash application. This is especially useful while dealing with new or one-time customers. Explore SAP Payment Gateway integration now at APPSeCONNECT.

SAP and Mobility Solution Integration

Mobile applications make data accessible on the go. Though SAP Fiori is a great solution for SAP users, hybrid applications which can talk to SAP and non-SAP applications are in great demand and give a better user experience.

By leveraging APPSeCONNECT’s real-time integration for SAP, this flow of information can be seamlessly automated between the applications.

These non-SAP applications extend SAP’s reach with rich functionality. These are so essential for enterprise digital transformation. On the other hand, such third-party applications need data from SAP since it has critical information required for them to function properly.

  • How much time and effort can SAP integration take?

    Integration with SAP can take a varied range of time. A simple integration could take 2 weeks and more complex ones can take up to a year to achieve.

  • How much does it cost to write an SAP integration?

    Usually, SAP integration consultants can charge locally from $150 – $300 per hour. Depending on the complexity the total time can vary from a few days to months.

  • How to integrate eCommerce application with SAP?

    Digital Commerce is the new reality. Making SAP talk to eCommerce applications such as Shopify, Magento and BigCommerce can be very fruitful for business growth. With integration platforms like APPSeCONNECT, you can connect the systems seamlessly and online orders can be synced with SAP for fulfilment. Also, any logistics information like tracking number, carrier, etc. can be shared with customer by sending it from SAP.
    Integrating SAP with eCommerce applications also ensure that right products, inventory levels and promotions are present on the Web Shop.

  • Shall I contact APPSeCONNECT or you MTCSYS NZ

    We MTCSYS are APPSeCONNECT local partner to provide localized service together with APPSeCONNECT’s sales and engineers. By contacting us you enjoy the service from both of us.

Akash Apurva Singh
About the Author

A creator, writer and practical dreamer crafting stories, experiences and information with the world! Currently working in a Content Leadership role and takes interest in topics like digital transformation, business automation and productivity apps. A tech-enthusiast keen on sharing his knowledge through articles, public speaking and storytelling. Loves to read, communicate and travel. P.S. – A big comic book nerd!

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