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The role of the EDI adapter explained

Did you take use of the EDI adapter into consideration with your answer to the previous question on SAP BC and...

EDI?

Apparently not :-). It caused a bit of an uproar because I did not mention the EDI adapter in respect of SAP Business connector and EDI. In my original answer I neglectingly limited myself to referring to the fact that there are numerous SAP certified EDI converters available. Indeed, there is a free load of templates as add-on for the SAP Business connector in the download section of service.sap.com, known as the EDI adapter. There are numerous schemas defined that enable the BC to convert XML IDoc documents into EDIFACT, X/12 etc. So here it is said.

In fact, I am not using these templates, because the problem in real-life EDI lies much deeper. There are factually two types of EDI partners you may encounter.

* Traditional, long-year users of EDI.

* Young, flexible companies who are about to set up an electronic way to exchange information, that is what I call a X-company workflow.

Let us start with the latter: these companies have dynamic IT structures and usually accept a wealth of different formats, and are more than happy to receive plain XML data streams, if only asked. Some (I dare to say a slight majority) is also using SAP on their end and therefore would be happy with receiving the IDoc file just in SAP IDoc format to reprocess them. If you are dealing with these category of EDI partners, you have no need of EDIFACT, ANSI X/12 or any other of the traditional EDI standards that would only add to the overhead of administration and traffic to exchange the information.

However, if you meet one of the traditional EDI users (automotive is a typical example) they will require you to send them in exactly the format the company has defined as their standard. Unfortunately this is not limited to saying we need EDIFACT or X/12 etc. but there is a number of degrees of freedom how the fields have to be filled. What is needed then, is a large portion of know-how about the individual EDI partners on how they actually apply the standard. In addition you need a tool that lets you manipulate the mappings depending on the partner or you set-up the IDoc user exits accordingly.

It requires therefore proper consideration whether the free EDI adapter is really the best solution or a commercial tool that comes with proven and actual references of successful operations with selected partners of an industry brings a better ROI.

This was last published in April 2003

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