In this article we show you how companies can best implement electronic data interchange (EDI) to automate message exchange across supply chains using SAP Integration Suite® (previously known as SAP Cloud Platform Integration).
In short are basically two possibilities:
- Managing EDI internally with SAP Integration Suite®
- Outsourcing to a specialised fully managed EDI service provider
We also present a number of questions that decision-makers and IT managers can ask themselves to find the right solution.
EDI and B2B integration with SAP Integration Suite® – what decision do I need to make?
The SAP Integration Suite® itself is a Platform-as-a-Service solution that includes a comprehensive range of services for the in-house development, integration and operation of cloud services or cloud applications. At the same time, individual extensions of cloud and on-premise landscapes can be carried out.
Thor’s SAP hammer…
One of these services is SAP Integration Suite®, which was designed to integrate cloud or on-premise applications into SAP systems. SAP Integration Suite® is an extremely comprehensive and powerful tool from the cloud that allows you to create EDI functions (and much more) in-house and is very popular in companies with large supply chains. In essence it is similar to SAP PI or SAP PO, but unlike these is designed to be used locally.
…can be quite difficult!
However, this tool must be used properly. The big challenge in implementing EDI in SAP Integration Suite® is the high degree of effort and EDI expertise required from the in-house teams that implement the connections individually for each B2B partner.
Therefore, the key question for decision makers implementing EDI in companies with SAP Integration Suite® is:
- How much internal EDI capacity can I use? Do I want to manage EDI completely internally or do I want to relieve my internal teams by outsourcing EDI?
Further potentially useful questions include:
- What EDI capabilities does my B2B network require? Do I need access to Value Added Networks (VANs)? Does I need to connect to Peppol? Do I want automated message exchange with those suppliers without EDI capability (via Web EDI)?
- How flexible do I want my EDI solution to be? Can I rely on a rigid implementation in the long run or do I want to make my EDI solution resilient and future-proof?
- Which technical requirements must my EDI solution fulfil now and in the future? Which formats, protocols, document types and legal regulations in electronic invoicing (e.g. XRechnung in Germany or FatturaPA in Italy) do I need for my B2B network?
Let us now look at the two options in detail:
1) Manage EDI internally with SAP Integration Suite®
In principle, many necessary EDI tasks can be implemented via SAP Integration Suite® with correspondingly high internal capacities and previous EDI knowledge. These include:
- Mapping and routing of all existing and new connections
- Ongoing maintenance of the connection parameters and regular renewal of all certificates
- Ongoing maintenance of mapping tables and industry internal practical knowledge about the implementation of special formats (e.g. VDA)
- Ongoing coordination with B2B partners and procurement of all necessary information (especially during onboarding)
- 24/7 monitoring and troubleshooting
These processes require a great deal of internal EDI know-how and corresponding industry knowledge, especially when problems or errors occur in message transmission, as protocols and formats can vary greatly across different industries, regions and business areas.
Potential problem areas must be considered:
- E-invoice compliance: this can be partially implemented with pre-defined integration flows. However, it is important to ensure that no necessary updates are missed, so that the legal requirements are always met.
- Maintenance of various integration scenarios: this must be done on an ongoing basis, including regular monitoring of integration flows and temporary data as well as the management of security artefacts such as digital certificates.
- No access to message payload. Only available if payload trace is enabled. This can only be activated for ten minutes per iFlow and then automatically deactivates again. This makes real-time monitoring of connections difficult.
It should also be mentioned that additional services may have to be purchased, such as OFTP2 connectivity. If Value Added Networks (VANs) or X.400 are used, companies that manage EDI themselves are also stuck paying a high cost per message. By contrast, EDI service providers can provide lower costs by exploiting economies of scale thanks to high message volumes.
2. Outsourcing to a fully managed EDI service provider
Fully managed EDI is a cloud-based EDI solution where a company is connected to a specialised EDI service provider via a single connection. This service provider then takes over all EDI functions and processes, depending on your company’s requirements.
All the above points are taken care of by an experienced team. The time-consuming coordination of information and technical changes during partner connections is also handled by a dedicated project manager – in turn speeding up the process hugely. Meanwhile, troubleshooting is a fixed component of the 24/7 monitoring and support and is carried out proactively.
- Internal teams are completely relieved of EDI tasks (especially during operation)
- A single connection provides companies with the complete “EDI package” without the need for EDI expertise
- Companies purchase bespoke, fully functional EDI that is turnkey ready
The technical implementation of the connection between ecosio and SAP Integration Suite® takes place via HTTPS using the ecosio API. This enables a seamless integration of EDI functions into the SAP system using SAP Integration Suite® and ecosio, which retains complete data transparency within the company – including full text search and message status tracking.
This means, for example, that the exact delivery status of a sent EDI message, right up to the final recipient, can be viewed directly in the SAP system as IDoc status. This gives specialist departments security and confidence in the EDI solution as well as the possibility to view failed messages and the exact reasons for rejection directly in the familiar SAP GUI at any time.
Summary: EDI with SAP Integration Suite®
You now know the two possibilities for EDI implementation with SAP Integration Suite®: handle it yourself or outsource it. SAP Cloud Platform is a comprehensive Platform-as-a-Service solution that can provide a good foundation for experienced developers and EDI experts – as long as your company has appropriate resources and expertise and potential future changes and extensions to your EDI landscape are anticipated and planned for in advance.
Partnership with a fully managed EDI service provider enables companies to fully manage and operate all EDI functions without the need for internal EDI effort and expertise, flexibly scalable and monitored 24/7 during operation.
Do you still have questions about EDI and SAP Integration Suite®?
Do you still have questions about SAP Integration Suite® or electronic data exchange with an SAP® ERP or SAP S/4HANA® system? Get in touch with us – we will be happy to help you.
SAP ERP and SAP S/4HANA are the trademarks or registered trademarks of SAP SE or its affiliates in Germany and in several other countries.