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Understanding Reference and Template Characteristics in SAP BW

SAP BW 7.3, 7.0 and will also work on BW 3.5

Disclaimer: I came across many bw consultants who are not clear about reference characteristic even after working for few years. So I hope, this article will helpful for those consultants.This article is completely based on my  project experience and your suggestions are most welcome.


This article explains in details how Reference and Template Characteristics work in sap bw.

Author: Prakash Kumar Sahu     

Company: Cognizant Technology Solutions(Pune/India)

Created on: 27 June 2013

Author Bio


Prakash Kumar Sahu is a SAP BI consultant with 4 years and 6 months of SAP BI/BW experience and currently working with Cognizant Technology Solutions(Pune/India). He has got rich experience and worked on various BW/BI, BPC and BOBJ implementation/Support projects.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Template InfoObject

3. Reference InfoObject

4. Related Content

1. Introduction

You can create an InfoObject from the scratch for your project requirement or can create it as a reference or template of existing InfoObject.All the technical properties like length, data type etc and master data attributes, compounding attributes etc are copied from the existing InfoObject. Which option you should select depends on your requirement. Below we will see how our newly created InfoObject behaves when created using template or reference characteristic.

2. Template InfoObject

When you are creating your InfoObject taking template of existing InfoObject then all the master data attributes, compounding attributes and technical properties are copied to new InfoObject. You can edit this new InfoObject. For example, you can change the attributes, data type, length etc. It will have its own master data table. Transformation can be created and data load and maintain of master data is possible for this new InfoObject.

When to use: When you are going to create an InfoObject whose most of the master data attributes and compounding attributes are same as some existing InfoObject. It will reduce your development effort.

3. Reference InfoObject

When an info-object uses any existing info-object as the reference it would not just have its technical properties but would use the data of the reference characteristic. In other words, you cannot change the length, data type, master data attributes, componding attributes etc of new characteristic that has been created using the reference of existing InfoObject  and it will have the same master data table (P, X, Q, Y etc) and text table.

Basic InfoObject


Reference Characteristic


Here InfoObject ZTEST_R has been created taking the reference of InfoObject ZTEST_M. Here we can see that InfoObject ZTEST_R do not have its own master data like /BIC/PZTEST_R, /BIC/TZTEST_R etc but its master data is same as master data of InfoObject ZTEST_M. e.g. /BIC/PZTEST_M, /BIC/TZTEST_M etc.

Below are some important points that we should know.

Point 1. You cannot load the data into reference characteristic

Explanation:- Reference characteristic will have the same master data attributes and compounding attributes, however you cannot load the data because system will not allow you to create the transformation for this infoobject.


Point 2. When you insert this characteristic as InfoProvider, system gives you message that it is not used as data target.



System Message


  Point 3.You cannot maintain master data for this reference InfoObject and system will disable this option for reference characteristic. If you insert reference characteristic as Infoprovider and try to maintain master data, system will give you error message.


Point 4.You cannot change the master data attributes and compounding attributes of reference characteristic.

Point 5. In reference characteristic we only have display attributes so all the nav attributes of basic characteristic becomes display attribute in Reference characteristic. If you are using reference characteristic in InfoCube or in any other InfoProvider then attributes of reference characteristic  will not be available for drill-down in reports.



4. Related Content

Reference 1

Reference 2

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      Author's profile photo Benedict Venmani Felix
      Benedict Venmani Felix

      hi neat document 🙂 .

      May i suggest that you mention a business scenario as well for using a template or reference characteristic. It would help the learners understand when to use a template or reference.


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Benedict,

      Thanks for your suggestion. Sometimes I will explain in other blog business scenario how I used reference characteristic in my project.

      Author's profile photo Ranganath Korata
      Ranganath Korata

      Hi Prakash,

      It is a well presented document. However, I would suggest a correction in Point 5. in this document. It is possible to drilldown using Navigational attributes of a Reference characteristic.

      When a reference characteristic is created, by default, the system creates Navigational attributes of the referred characteristic as Display attributes in the reference characteristic. However, one can manually change such attributes to Navigational attributes in the reference characteristic. Please test it to see for yourself.



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Prakash  ,

      Good document . Thanks for sharing . Please make the correction as suggested by Ranganath. We can  drill down as well as see the navigational attribute of reference characteristics.



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Good Explanation....Would like know more about it.

      Like What is the difference between Masterdata attributes and compounding attributes?

      Author's profile photo Daniel Ray
      Daniel Ray

      Dear Sahu,

      I have a concern on your 5th point above. we have created a zreference iobj for 0material and it has got all the DIS/NAV of the existing 0material. But we have also changed from DIS to NAV for few attributes of the zmaterial. But you said, all the attributes of the zioibj will be converted to DIS and will not be able to be usable in the drilldown. Did I get your point wrong ? I was able to use as NAV .

      Please comment.

      Thank you


      Author's profile photo Sunil A
      Sunil A


      for, few attributes which you changed form Dis to Nav, must have been maintained as Nav in 0Material, that's why you were able to change it Dis to Nav.

      Coming to Point 5 what Prakash mentioned

      In reference characteristic we get by default display attr ..only have display attributes so all the nav attributes of basic characteristic becomes display attribute in Reference characteristic.



      Author's profile photo Daniel Ray
      Daniel Ray

      Hi Sunil,

      that is what I am saying, we have created a ref IOBJ, and it did not get all the attributes as DIS, it were same as the org IOBJ. We could also change for a couple of attributes to DIS to NAV, where as those are same as DIS in the main IOBJ.