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Replacing SAPScript and SMARTFORMS

Having had close involvement with several S/4HANA projects recently, I am staggered that the mix of different output technologies still remains in the product.

Organisations have struggled to maintain SAP Output using SAPScript for years. SMARTFROMS was the first attempt at a replacement. SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe (‘Adobe forms’) was the second.  But in the standard product we still see a mix of approaches, and it has got no easier to use any of these technologies.  I think it’s fairly ridiculous that IT departments need to maintain expertise in all three.

My argument is that organisations should:

  1. Ty to reduce the number of output approaches, and abandon SAPScript and SMARTFORMS completely;
  2. Decide what output media should be used in what circumstances to reach their business communities;
  3. Settle on a single technology, where possible, to deliver the output.

Stop Printing

Do you really need to print the output? Really? There are some scenarios, like the production of export documentation, that require a hard copy to move stock across particular borders. But, apart from exceptional cases, stop printing otherwise.  It’s 2021.

Stop Attaching

There shouldn’t be a case for generating attachments to send by email internally.  Externally your communication could be EDI, SMS or Email, unless you are able to use an app with your business community. When you use email to communicate, use the email, not a separate attachment.

Design your communication for the communication medium.  You don’t need PDF attachments for order confirmations, purchase orders, customer statements, or even invoices in some cases.  The email is a file that can be stored and printed if necessary.

Redefine Your Output Strategy

Define when you can send by EDI or SMS, when you need a physical print and when you absolutely need an email attachment. In all other cases your output content can go into the email body.

Define communication guidelines for the email. Include branding, imagery, social links, colours and legal texts.

Then you can determine your toolset for the design and maintenance of your output templates.

The SAP-standard toolkit is free, but has limitations.  External tools are more flexible, but have limited integration with SAP data and apps.  Our solution is Floe, which is an Add-on, providing the flexibility and the SAP integration.  But you will need to determine the best approach for your organisation.

PDF Generation without SAPScript, SMARTFORMS or Adobe Forms

Floe enables the creation and management of SAP email templates for SAP Output, and it can also be used to design PDF attachments too.  The rendering of the PDF document is handled by a low-cost cloud service, Renda.io.

This means that a single designer can be used for email output and PDF output, providing a viable option to replace legacy SAPScript, SMARTFORMS and Adobe forms.  The first and most obvious benefit is the step-change in the quality of the SAP email communication.  The second benefit is that the designer is much easier to use than the SAP-delivered technologies.  The third benefit, which is possibly the most important for IT departments, is that there is a collapse in the required skillset for SAP output template maintenance.

 

4 Comments
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  • I've often been frustrated that SAP has left their output generation in the 1990s.  Output form design should be as simple as screen design in Personas, and similarly is something a power user should be able to do with user (not development) tools.  With that in mind, your Floe tool holds a lot of promise but the linked YouTube video leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

    #1 The video doesn't show the usability of the Floe tool when creating the form, just the finished form. Can you link additional content?

    #2 The video example shows output triggered by NACE rather than BRF+.  How well do the generated forms integrate with the new output management technologies including fragmented forms?

    #3 Are the fields in the forms selected from the old "Output Communication Tables" or can they directly reference fields in CDS views?  If we customize fields using the Custom Fields and Logic App, will they be available to Floe or do we also have to append and use the "old" move_field_to_Komxxx userexits?

    #4 The output forms included variable content that appears to be delimited by "&".  Would we need to switch to a WYSIWYG mode to see the true alignment of form content?

     

    Sean

    • Hi Sean, great questions!  I don't think I can answer them all in detail but I can explain a bit more.

      1. Here are a couple of videos showing the design-time:

      https://youtu.be/tv-v49pN81Q

      https://youtu.be/FePkDqo8yX0

      2. Floe is trigger by a simple function call, passing in either the entire data set or a document number.  In this example we cloned the print program and added in the function call, but equally you can trigger Floe from anywhere.  Since the Floe templates are made from content blocks (fragments), you add in logic within the template to include or exclude fragments.

      We don't deliver a whole bunch of print programs, but we provide sample code in order for you to plug-in Floe to document output, workflows, mass communication etc.

      3. In this example we passed the old communication tables into the function call, but equally you can pass in any data, or add in a user-exit to call functions to bring in data.  The email is generated in the SAP back-end, so if we can call a BAPI/function we can include the data in the output.

      4. Yes - There is a preview function in the designer so you can see what the output looks like with data.

  • Hey, thank you for sharing your interesting point of view.

    There are a lot of problems in SAP with creating forms. In many cases our customers experience problems while developing the forms.

    Furthermore it seems that your e-mailing solution might be troublesome when in use. We need to protect the sensitive and personal data of our customers, which means, you also need to protect your e-mail.

    I am glad to see, that there are other options for e-mailing from SAP.

    Whats happends next? Right now we have no general output at EDI-side. This mean, each customer has his own solution for that. I think, ZUGFeRD and ORDER-X are good alternatives to run an electronic data format. Attaching relevant documents is a gamechanging feature and well integrated in ZUGFeRD and ORDER-X.

    The future of communication in SAP will be hybrid in electronic formats like ZUGFeRD, ORDER-X and EDI and for sure e-mail will play a big role in that.

    The problem is not the "wrong" tool, the problem is often the missing strategy for communication.

    At B2G we see, that PEPPOL works for a lot of countries. It's a good time to think about communications.

    Future of communication in SAP will be hybrid in electronic formats like ZUGFeRD, ORDER-X and EDI and for shure with E-mail.

    It's a good time to think about communications. More in general and not pointed of e-mail.