10 minute read

Exchange of Electronic Invoices with the SAP eDocument Framework

The development of the e-invoice

Before exploring the complexities of the SAP eDocument framework, let’s first consider the development of the e-invoice over recent years. In the past it was common practice to send paper invoices by post or fax. But since then, invoices have usually been created and transmitted digitally, for example as PDF documents that are sent by email. In the course of digitisation, the need for automation of existing processes is increasing. For this reason, and due to legal regulations, more companies are switching to e-Invoices, which can be created, sent and processed automatically. Invoicing is carried out fully automatically using a structured exchange format (e.g. XML) between the IT systems of the participating companies – without any human interaction. This process not only saves time and money, but also reduces the susceptibility to errors.

Governing institutions are increasingly focusing on e-Invoices, which must be created in a certain processable format. This started primarily in Latin America to combat tax fraud. Since the use of the regulations has proven itself successful and authorities can thus act more effectively, European countries now also use similar guidelines.

The EU Directive 2014/55 / ​​EU requires public authorities in Europe to receive and process electronic invoices. This resulted, for example, in the German CIUS (Core Invoice Usage Specification) XRechnung. The Italian Government went one step further on January 1st 2019 by obliging all companies in Italy to invoicing through the SDI system (Sistema di Interscambio). Likewise, there are already signs in Spain that the B2G e-Invoicing guidelines will be extended to the B2B sector.

White Paper - E-invoicing in Europe

E-Invoices in Use

Companies are therefore faced with the challenge of implementing various laws for sending and receiving invoices in IT systems. Depending on the country, different invoice formats are used and different transmission channels for e-Invoices are required. In particular, government institutions often rely on Web service-based approaches to transmit invoices – see, for example, the submission of ebInterface invoices in Austria or FatturaPA invoices in Italy.

Another challenge is the ongoing monitoring of e-Invoice processes: were invoices created and converted correctly? Has the client received the invoice? Faulty invoices are a cause for complaint by the issuer and a well-used reason for not prompting the payment of the invoice immediately.

When settling invoices through central governmental regulators (such as FatturaPA), the integrity check of invoices is already done by the authority. Invalid invoices will not be accepted and will not reach the recipient.

However, companies should focus primarily on their core business and therefore need a strategy that will allow them to work safely and efficiently for a long time, at the most up-to-date invoicing standards.

If an SAP system is used in the company as an ERP system, a component of this strategy can be the use of the SAP eDocument Framework in conjunction with the SAP Application Interface Framework (AIF). This framework is further discussed below.

SAP and e-Invoicing: Overview of the eDocument Framework

In order for SAP to better serve e-Invoicing customers, the eDocument Framework (also known as SAP Document Compliance) was developed for SAP ECC and SAP S / 4HANA. This solution makes it easier for companies to meet e-Invoicing requirements in different countries.

Documents from logistics, sales and accounting can be converted into common e-Invoice formats (e.g. XML files) with the eDocument Framework. In order to be able to respond to specific requirements of individual countries, the SAP Application Interface Framework (SAP AIF) can be used, which converts generated eDocuments into the required target format, such as the XRechnung for Germany or FatturaPA for Italy. In order to be able to map country-specific requirements in the AIF, “Packaged Solutions” must be imported. These build on the AIF and realize different requirements – e.g. for FatturaPA in Italy. In the case of FatturaPA, for example, these notes are to be entered separately in “Global AIF Settings & BC Sets” and “Italy-specific AIF Settings and BC Sets”.

To give the accounting system an overview of all eDocuments, SAP offers the eDocument Cockpit (EDOC_COCKPIT).

Converting electronic invoices with SAP into popular formats is a great relief for companies and the first step in minimizing the burden of issuing e-Invoices. However, creating or processing a correct invoice is only one challenge.

The second challenge is the correct transmission of invoicing data from the sender to the recipient. In the case of government prescribed e-Invoicing procedures such as FatturaPA in Italy, the exchange must also be carried out via a central service.

Electronic Data Exchange with SAP

The eDocument Framework alone does not yet allow e-Invoices to be sent through specific services such as Peppol . To convert and then submit eDocuments to the desired target format, companies have several options:

1) Convert eDocuments with AIF and send them via the SAP Cloud Platform

The SAP Application Interface Framework (AIF) is an SAP module for converting eDocuments into country-specific formats, such as the XRechnung. For the transmission of the created invoicing data the SAP Cloud Platform can be used, from which the invoices are forwarded to the receiver.

The SAP Cloud Platform Integration (CPI) is a communication platform with which data from SAP ERP or S / 4HANA can be exchanged with other systems. Web services are used to send and receive documents and messages to external systems. To use CPI, a subscription to the service is required.

2) Convert eDocuments with AIF and send via a service provider

Once e-Invoices have been converted to the desired target format using the AIF, they can also be sent using a service provider. In order to accomplish this, a middleware is needed that links the customer’s SAP system with the service provider’s software. A lightweight and slim middleware, for example, is the EPO connector. If another SAP middleware such as SAP PI or SAP PO is available, this can also be used for the connection to the service provider. The following figure shows the principle used.

Conversion of an e-Invoice via AIF and shipping via a service provider
Conversion of an e-Invoice via AIF and shipping via a service provider

As soon as an invoice arrives in the system of the service provider, the required data for the delivery of the invoice are read out, in order then to be able to send the e-Invoice to the recipient. In the case of XRechnungen, the documents are delivered to the recipient’s Peppol access point, such as a German authority. But also, receiving data, such as an Order via Peppol, is possible in this way.

If only the AIF is used in conjunction with the EDOC_COCKPIT, the invoices are only stored on the application server and must be manually downloaded and sent from there.

In the solution with the connection to the EPO Connector, the dispatch and receipt of the invoices as well as the transfer of the invoicing data to and from the SAP takes place fully automatically and without manual interaction. This allows complete automation of the invoicing process.

3) Convert and send eDocuments with the help of a service provider

SAP AIF is part of SAP Business Suite or S / 4HANA and standard in modern SAP releases. However, to use the “SAP Document Compliance, On-Premise Edition” you need a separate license. Depending on the size and needs of a company, consideration should also be given to outsourcing the conversion of eDocuments to other formats. Especially if a service provider is already connected to SAP ERP, the required process can be implemented quickly and easily. The following example shows an integration of SAP eDocument in conjunction with the EPO Connector.

Conversion and sending of e-Invoices with the help of a service provider
Conversion and sending of e-Invoices with the help of a service provider

In the process, eDocuments are sent to the service provider via the EPO Connector, which then automatically determines the required invoice format and – if necessary – converts the document accordingly. It is then sent to the recipient as described in the previous section.

4) Convert e-Invoices using the EPO Connector and send them via a service provider

Companies can also do without the eDocument Framework entirely. The conversion of the SAP data into another format, such as InvoicePA, takes place via EPO Connector. The invoice data is transmitted directly from SAP ERP to the EPO Connector. The EPO middleware handles the conversion of the invoice into the required format and forwards the final document to the service provider. This takes care of the correct addressing and delivery of the e-Invoice, such as the Spanish platform FACe . The following figure shows the principle used.

Conversion and sending of e-Invoices using a service provider and without e-Invoicing framework
Conversion and sending of e-Invoices using a service provider and without e-Invoicing framework

The main advantage of this approach is the financial savings with the low cost and lightweight EPO connector solution. When using the AIF solution, many SAP notes must be imported, which require a large number of further manual adjustments. For SAP consultants who work on a time and material basis, this can quickly become very expensive.

The solution with the EPO Connector in conjunction with ecosio eliminates expensive time and material costs and the company can work with predictable fixed costs. The final e-Invoice solution is handed over key in hand and the exchange of electronic invoices can be fully automated.

Benefits for Companies Using a Service Provider

The service provider not only takes care of the conversion and transmission of e-Invoices: The monitoring of the running processes is a central component of the service, because only then can invoices that do not meet the required standard be corrected immediately. In addition, converted invoices are validated before they are sent to ensure that the recipient has no reason to contest the invoice.

As mentioned at the beginning, e-Invoicing is subject to constant change due to changing legal requirements. Companies that hire a service provider can count on the system to be up to date. If new requirements are imposed by the legislator, these are implemented by the service provider and the company can make full use of the modified solution. There is no additional implementation effort for the company.


With the eDocument Framework, SAP offers a good basis for converting e-Invoices into popular formats. With the help of further SAP add-ons, the invoices can then be transmitted to the recipients.

The EPO Connector in conjunction with a central service provider such as ecosio provides an easy to implement and cost effective alternative. This allows current and future e-Invoicing requirements to be implemented quickly and easily.


Do you still have questions about SAP eDocuments? Please contact us or use our chat – we are happy to help!

Are you aware of our free XML/Peppol document validator?

To help those in need of a simple and easy way to validate formats and file types, from CII (Cross-Industry Invoice) to UBL, we’ve created a free online validator. To try it out yourself just click here.

© 2020. SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved. Used with permission of SAP SE.

most read

Keep on reading

5 minute read

Why an API Connection is Key to a Streamlined EDI System

Discover how your business could improve EDI processes through the use of an API connection to your EDI service provider.

4 minute read

Improving Your VAN landscape

Complicated VAN landscapes are common in EDI. But routing messages to partners via VANs needn't be such a difficult task...

4 minute read

Five Reasons Handling VAN Connections In-house is Unwise

VAN connections can be time consuming and costly if not handled correctly. Find out why an in-house approach might not be for you.

7 minute read

An Introduction to the Four Main EDI Methods

Do you know which of the main EDI methods makes most sense for your business? To help, in this article we break each method down one by one.

6 minute read

How do I Implement EDI with SAP Cloud Platform Integration?

EDI with SAP Cloud Platform Integration: take over internally yourself or hire a fully managed EDI service provider? In this article we explore the positives and negatives of these approaches.

3 minute read

How to Plan an EDI Project Correctly

Planning an EDI project properly is crucial to the ultimate success of your solution. But what do you need to consider during this stage?

6 minute read

Four Tips to Ensure Your EDI Integration Project is a Success

Approaching an EDI integration project can be a daunting task. By considering these four key points you can increase your chances of success.

2 minute read

How to create an SAP transaction code

Want to know how to create an SAP transaction code for an existing ABAP program so that you can easily call the program?

4 minute read

Supply Chain Automation via EDI - The Four Main Hurdles

Successful supply chain automation is impossible without reliable EDI processes. However, implementing a EDI solution comes with challenges...

5 minute read

Web EDI - What, Why and How?

What is Web EDI and how does it work? Read our article to find out the basics about Web EDI and whether it can benefit your business.

Upcoming Webinar - The 7 Options for EDI with SAP ERP and SAP S/4HANARegister Now!

We use cookies to provide an optimal website experience. You decide which one you want to allow. Depending on the setting, however, not all functionalities may be available to you. Data protection & imprint.