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What is a bdoc? 

A while back somebody posted the question what is a bdoc in the SAP CRM area.  As a new CRM moderator, it caused quite a quandry for myself.  This question really presents a problem on whether it should be answered, deleted, or moved to place for it to get less than useful answers. Personally I don’t know how to answer the question politely and not lie in the process. The problem is that in an expert forum you expect people to speak the same lingua franca in that area. In the whole area of SAP CRM if you are a technical or functional expert on the solution and don’t understand that concept(bdoc) you should not be working on the solution. The reason being is that is considered “fundamental knowledge”. So my next question is should the “expert” forums be the place to gather fundamental knowledge?

Let’s face it, gathering knowledge on SAP products pre-SCN was almost mission impossible for the general population. You needed to take a $3000+ course, get a hold of a help cd or buy one of the five overview books available on the product. The help cd was considered the holy grail, because theory on how the system works was located there. The help never told you exactly how to configure or write something, but why/how it should be written. IMHO it was the cliff notes for the system design blueprint. As SCN came along a lot more online knowledge became available and the forums became a place to discover and share information. Even the holy grail of the help cd’s were available on http://help.sap.com. E-learning also appeared, giving a lot less excuses on not having access to methods to get fundmental knowledge.

So if I had to re-learn my CRM knowledge today, how would I do it without asking fundamental questions first:

My steps to the so called “enlightenment” 

1. First I would read all the documentation on SAP CRM at http://help.sap.com frontwards and backwards.
2. I would purchase or get it from a public library all the SAP Press books on SAP CRM and read them frontwards and backwards at least twice.
3. If I had access to service marketplace, I would review all the documentation located at http://service.sap.com/crm
4. If I could afford it, I would buy access all the RKT material on SAP CRM startting at CRM 40 and building on each release at http://service.sap.com/okp
5. I would review all the information on the CRM wiki until I had a headache
6. I would read all the solved questions on SCN about CRM in the forums and all the knowledge articles and blogs until my head explodes
7. Finally take some SAP CRM training courses if you have the time or the money

During steps 1 through 7 I would find access to a SAP CRM sandbox system to practice and explore the concepts that I have learned

8. Find an experienced SAP CRM consultant to become my mentor and guide me through further on steps one through seven

Once I completed steps one through seven, then only would I start posting on SCN forums questions about CRM. I would also limit those questions to applying the theory I learned to the practical issues that I need solve. I would also when comfortable discuss parts of the theory of the solution. How many of us are guilty of posting/answering questions that should have been resolved by performing steps one through seven of the process? I know I was personally guilty of giving people the “fish” instead of teaching them how to fish.

The secret formula 

I personally follow this process all the time and thus limited my personal questions on the forums to when steps one through seven fail. Last year I invested the time and the effort to learn the new web UI client and CRM 52/2007 webclient customizing without asking questions in the forum as my training device. Instead I learned via answering questions instead! It is amazing how much you can learn by researching the topic at hand, instead of letting someone else solve it for you. The old saying of “No Pain, No Gain” is so true.

You now have my “secret recipe” on how to become more knowledgable on CRM. I hope and expect those of you posting in the CRM forums will challenge yourself to learn in this fashion. Please keep in mind I’m not saying don’t ask questions when you get stuck, but really challenge yourself to answer your question first, before posting.

The answer to the question 

So back to my original question on what is a BDOC. The SAP help link shows the answer:
http://help.sap.com/saphelp_crm60/helpdata/en/2f/a3b45773a3d511b1250008c784efb1/content.htm

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26 Comments

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  1. Thorsten Franz
    Hi Stephen,
    You give excellent advice. When I got infected with the SAP virus ten years ago, even the documentation was so incomplete that I learned how to work with another invaluable source of knowledge: the actual SAP code. 🙂
    I recommend every technically inclined newbie to spend a lot of time working with the system, debugging and analyzing the standard code and data model, and discovering what goes on under the hood.
    Best regards,
    Thorsten
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    1. Stephen Johannes Post author
      Yes,

      I forgot the technique of reading code to understand why something works.  It’s amazing how a little exploration using the Respository Information System can yield so many hints on where things are.

      Although I aimed this at CRM folks, the concepts are general enough, to be applied to any SAP solution. 

      Take care,

      Stephen

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  2. Anik Roy
    Well explained!

    We should consider having a permanent link from the expert forums to your blog… this would add details to the rules of engagement high level guidelines.

    Regards,
    Anik

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    1. Stephen Johannes Post author
      Anik,

      I was tempted to add this into the CRM forums, but wanted to hold off, not to violate the spam rule and also get some peer review.

      Take care,

      Stephen

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  3. Harshit Kumar
    Hi Stephen,

    Steps to “Enlightenment” will take time and test patience. A lot of time people are in hurry to understand SAP system. It would be my advice to all those who are entering the SAP world that please have patience and slowly the complexities of any SAP system, will make sense to you.

    A lot many times people do complain about SAP system being complex. Well, if a Complex SAP system can make Business Process simple then it’s worth the complexities.

    Regards,
    Harshit

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    1. Stephen Johannes Post author
      Harshit,

      Yes time is the essence.  I can honestly say that after working with SAP CRM for almost 8 years and SAP software in general for almost 11, I still learn something new everyday, and nor claim to understand everything. 

      The problem we have is that people use forums as a crutch, instead of trying take those basic first steps.  I’m still amazed at how many people on my early projects, would not even take 15 minutes to read the documentation.

      I guess my goal to is move the questions away from regurgiation of help documents and towards “gap” that exists between system errors and standard documentation.  This is my small nudge towards that goal.

      Take care,

      Stephen

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  4. Mike Anecito
    This has been my business motto from way back when I started as an A/R clerk, became a Sales Rep, Operations Manager and now eCommerce/CRM Geek.

    I took one Basic class back in high school (in the 70’s) and have no formal training…but, I know how to use the Search features!

    I may never be as prolific an answerer as you or many of the other ‘experts’ here, but when I see a topic I have taught myself pop up here, I answer it.  Sure, I skip the “What is bdoc” questions…and most of the other “I’m too lazy to search, would you please do it for me” ones too.

    But, most of my contributions to this forum have been providing links to some of the pertinent blogs or obscure areas of the SAP documentation landscape.  Let’s face it, while it may have come a long way, there’s still some CRM areas that go unpolished.

    That said, I heartily agree with you.  Folks should concentrate on searching/learning first, asking second.  For myself, I’ve tried to maintain a post to point ratio where my number of posts is less than the number of points I’m awarded.  I know I don’t have the expertise most of the rest of you do, so I try to give back what knowledge I do have.

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    1. Stephen Johannes Post author
      Mike,

      Yes the concept should be “quality” over quantity.  I much rather see only 10 posts a day on very good questions, rather than 100 posts that could be mostly answered by documentation.

      In addition I personally know people who don’t participate because of the noise drowns out them seeing the “quality” questions that need to be answers.

      You shouldn’t worry about be a voluminous contributor, but rather quality contributor.  I personally don’t contribute a lot of blogs unless I really feel they would be worthwhile.

      I would also encourage you to post some of that knowledge that you have in CRM wiki.  If we could got everyone who answers questions in the CRM forums to post one topic to the wiki, we would have a huge repository of information, that would help cover those areas not as well documented.

      Take care,

      Stephen

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  5. Vijay Vijayasankar
    You are absolutely right – this is applicable to all SAP solutions.

    here is how I find info
    1. Google the question using several key words – this usually covers SDN.
    2. Go to service marketplace and sap help
    3. Try to relate how ERP solution for similar problems work – SAP reused a lot of concepts and this helps me a lot.
    4 Debug the app myself and find out the issue, or go start from step 1 with info gained from debugging
    5. Call one of my colleagues in CRM practice, or one of my contacts in SAP labs
    6. Post on SDN as a question

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  6. Masood Imrani Shaik
    Great Blog Stephen !
    I would say the best and easiest way to solve any issue or Gap in CRM is first start looking if there is a similar functionality provided by SAP in any of the components,implement the same by tuning it for your use.( You can make further improvements to it).
    Personally I started learning Web UI by concentrating on one component and drilling down to all the below layers and exploring them.
    People at SDN Forum were very helpful when I had no answer to many of my critical issues.

    Regards,
    Masood Imrani S.

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    1. Stephen Johannes Post author
      Masood,

      Yes the best way to learn the solution is to study and experiment/practice what you have learned.  There is a lot of knowledge to be gained by working with the system.

      I think what I’m asking here is for people to do their “homework” first before posting questions.  Trust me I can definitely tell you have done your homework when you post.

      Take care,

      Stephen

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  7. Carsten Kasper
    Hi Stephen,

    excellent blog! I will definately bookmark this one and get it out every now and then to aehmm… make people think.

    However, I still feel that even the most obvious questions sometimes are very hard for newcomers. Though “What is a BDOC” might be answered quoting the help, the “Where is a BDOC used” will be harder to track just using help. You would have to know where to look and make sure the things you found are all there is to it.

    regards Carsten

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    1. Stephen Johannes Post author
      Carsten,

      Yes for a beginner the where/how/why questions are more problematic.  However if we had less “what is” questions, it would allow people to answer/focus on the where/how/why type questions.

      At the end of the day I think my point is asking everyone to make a good-faith effort to research their problem instead of expecting the community to do their work.  Now if we had more people like you involved in the community there wouldn’t be as much of a need for this blog.

      Take care,

      Stephen

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      1. Carsten Kasper
        Stephen,

        thanks for the laurels. But to be honest, I did not do most of the steps you suggest in your blog when “learning” CRM. At least not until I gained enough knowledge to know they exist and how to use them… My bonus always has been the desire to get down to the bottom of things, myself.

        As a newbie to SAP and CRM I stood in front of a big pile of software. Like it is often advertised in job descriptions “training on the job”. Now as a consultant you face a small problem: “Do I have the time to read all the stuff to get a single problem done?” The answer is simple: “No”. I suppose this is the main reason why so many people just ask in forums for “Step by step guides” for the most mundane tasks. You need to get things done. Fast.

        I have done a lot of development work including Pascal, Assembler, C++(even for Mobiles), Lotus Notes and I am beginning on .Net. SAP is by far the most inaccessible thing I have encountered, ever.

        This is exactly why I like your blog that much: It is an initial starting point. Telling the beginner what is already there. Where to get information out of this big heap that is SAP. It would be a brilliant thing to somehow pimp up this blog as a portal to CRM world.

        cheers Carsten

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  8. Ajay Das
    This is one of those commentaries where a listener would nod and applaud the seemingly reasonable words being said, but have a WTH moment later – on what if anything it meant.

    Step 1-8 are a multi-year work and would cost a lot of money and in some cases are just not feasible. (Which is good for the author because it invites a riposte ‘Look at me! Look at me! I did it!’)

    If I go and post a question in a ‘Gardening Forum’ because my kid has got a daehlia plant from school and I am clueless about what to do with it, and get a 10-step list as to how I need to be in harmony with nature and need to be trained on composing compost and study soil forms and weather patterns and classical music (ok, that last one was overkill)…
    You get the gist.

    Not everyone here is asking questions to be an expert. Many ask because it may help them in their jobs, and because it is free.

    Lose the condescension (explicit or otherwise) and your message may rhyme with intended audience (novices) rather than with your partners-in-crime (self-acclaimed experts).

    At this moment most such messages whether in forums or blogs trigger a self-fulfilling feedback ripple and nothing much else.

    My 0.02.

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    1. Stephen Johannes Post author
      Ajay,

      A couple quick comments while being as civil as possible:

      1) If you click on the Forums link, the title says “expert forums” not hobbyist forums.  If you read the rules of engagement, it’s not much asking people to put some effort into looking up an answer to their problem first.  Instead some would prefer this to be a human google.

      2) Some of the resources quoted are dirt cheap in terms of knowledge vs cost.  Favorite example is the SAP Press CRM Middleware book covers almost everything you need to know on CRM middleware and costs less than $100. 

      3) Learning is a continuous process.  You never complete steps 1-8. 

      4) Yes a lot of people are really expecting other people to do their work by posting forum questions, and then charge other people for that work as a so called “consultant” or contractors.  You want to encourage this in the BI area be my guest, however I’m not going to tolerate this practice in the CRM area.  It’s a lot easier to just keep providing people the name of same table or report to earn points(like someone I see), but you know those points get you cool t-shirts/stuff(lol).

      5) Last if you actually participated in the CRM portion of the community you would understand.  Most of the comments have come people in the CRM portion of this community who understand what I’m talking about. 

      Take care,

      Stephen

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      1. Ajay Das
        Stephen,

        Learning and its value is (or should be) self-evident.
        If you are pointing people to follow ‘Expert forum’ rules, I will ask you to check any highway close to you in US – how many drivers follow the speed limit? It sure is posted prominently everywhere – and is in fact illegal to cross over. I haven’t seen anyone driving within limits stopping and loudly complaining about everyone else, but I do see people waiving the ‘expert’ tag here all the time.

        CRM forum has nothing special if I go by similar commentary made by others on state of ABAP, EP, XI and every other forum.

        I comment when I see someone flagging something which is self-evident (that you need to learn to be successful at your career) AND presenting oneself as a shining example of that – later part being the questionable one for me.

        TShirts/points only have importance if you ascribe it to them.

        There have been a number of discussions on abuse of forums, and there will be more. I only intend to voice what is not mentioned in most these discussions – that novice questions exist whether one likes them or not, and they indeed do have some right to exist.

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        1. Stephen Johannes Post author
          Ajay,

          If you want to get into a personal match here.. please take it offline and I will be happy to respond with the “gloves off”. 

          I never said there can’t be novice questions here, but they don’t need to be repeated 100 or 1000 times.  I’m just as guilty now and earlier of answering a question that was already answered.  I’m actually working on a few projects not visible to general public to provide more resources for people who want to get started in CRM from the ground up. 

          I’m not claiming being a success from my method, but I was just trying to show what I have done in order so I can do my job.  You have to invest some time and sometimes money if you want to build your SAP skills.  The method I have used allowed me to complete upgrade and implementation projects without needing a large team of “consultants”.

          Then again my viewpoints are slightly skewed because I support a SAP CRM implementation with 200+ end-users as the sole project manager/configuration analyst/developer.  My biggest fault is expecting/wanting the best out of people.

          Take care,

          Stephen

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          1. Stephen Johannes Post author
            BTW:

            I’m working on an ASUG virtual education session aimed at people new to the CRM technical concepts.  It should be useful as I’m going to cover beginning material that you can’t learn via a SAP Training class.  As part of the presentation session prep, I’m building a wiki with material to help folks get started in the CRM area.  I have been working developing this concept since I posted this “rant” in May. 

            The other great aspect since this will become a wiki project it can be expanded down the road to encompass more details and other areas not covered. 

            It takes a while due to personal and work time committments and I’m building this from scratch by myself.

            Take care,

            Stephen

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  9. Andrew Findlay
    Hi Stephen,

    Another good blog by you, really appreciate it as I always look out for your content.

    The biggest problem with what you are trying to get across is you can’t teach common sense.  Another great example of the crazy english language because common sense is not common!!

    Think of all the bad consultants and customers you have had to deal with over the years in the industry, I know I have lost count.  So guess what, most of them are part of this community. 

    The next problem is people are lazy, why put effort in when I could ask someone to do the work.  This is why I never fully answer a question, trying only to point them in the correct way.

    Finally I find it funny that Ajay used the garden forum example as he would have had to google to find the forum in the first place so searching my have found the answer!!!

    Keep up the good work with the CRM area.

    Cheers
    Andrew

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    1. Stephen Johannes Post author
      Andrew,

      Yes it’s hard to teach the what would seem obvious and interested paradigm is this also applies to computer systems.  Sometimes you either get a concept or don’t get the concept.

      Now for fair disclosure I was a consultant at one point, so I understand the good, bad and ugly points of consulting.  I was on the “receiving end” for my due share of comments about “consultants”.

      Take care,

      Stephen

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  10. Davy Pelssers
    Hi Stephan,
    I agree that a lot of people just post questions without having done any research in the traditional knowledge bases.

    People should start with help.sap.com and read the normal documentation on topics before posting a question out here.Next they might look at SAP books and or online knowledge products (which bot are not free however, but on the other hand do not represent the high cost of following a traditional SAP course).

    I personally think you might work ‘off the radar’ as SAP consultant; being lazy and asking questions here on SDN without further research, but to be a frontliner and getting some selfrespect and market value, those people really taking the dive and doing some research theirselves might end-up on the ‘wishlist’ of reputable customers….
    cheers
    Davy

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    1. Stephen Johannes Post author
      Davy,

      Yes.. invest some effort in order to get a benefit back.  My other favorite way of looking at it is “you get what you give”.

      Take care,

      Stephen

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  11. Kavindra Joshi
    Hi ,
    Found this blog informative and true to what I have done in my current formative years.I would also like to point out the absence of some of the “must” have things in CRM world. There is no full fledged document/wiki/article available on One order framework. Some times lack of these documents force people to ask questions thinking they would get some material in lieu.
    No Doubt there are many people who ask questions to solve their work related problems, and get billed by customers but there is no caveat mentioned in the forum on such questions.Another trend I have seen is once somebody answers a question , some other person just rewords/better the solution. Have a check on this also.
    I love making points but my effort is not only targeted at making points. My effort is targeted at self development. Points are just an endorsement that I am on right track.
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  12. Samantak Chatterjee

    Hi Stephen,

    A big thanks for posting such a wonderful roadmap to learn SAP CRM. 🙂

    I love reading this blog post as this helps me to unlearn and relearn SAP CRM and keep my concepts and knowledge uptodate. For any topic in SAP CRM the way you mentioned is the best way forward and will help anyone in the long run who all very serious about their SAP CRM Career.

    Keep up the very good work and also keep on producing this kind of amazing blogs which helps several developers/consultants to reinforce and grow the knowledge in varied topics in SAP CRM arena.

    Thanks,
    Samantak.

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