Why SAP IDocs are Important & Relevant

Espresso Tutorials

Fabian Bentz

jelena-at-legolandIn this excerpt from Espresso Tutorials Virtual Book Club Meeting: What on Earth is an SAP IDoc? author Jelena Perfiljeva shares her thoughts on why SAP IDocs are important and relevant in today’s IT environment.


Why did you decide to write a book on this topic?

Jelena Perfiljeva: There’s a lot of information about the IDocs. It’s not new and exciting knowledge really. I find that the kind of books that are out there, they’re very, very thorough, but they’re also very long and thick. Some of them are out of print actually. There is a lot of information that is just scattered around SCN. As I was answering some questions on SCN, I frequently would ask people to go and read documentation or maybe check out the books.

When I tried to really understand the documentation myself, it didn’t really make a lot of sense to me. I thought why not I write a small book on it that would give someone information much more quicker and in much more simple way.

One thing that you mentioned at the very beginning of your book is that you think that IDocs are one of the most misunderstood concepts in the SAP world. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about that.

Jelena Perfiljeva: Yes, I actually ran into this issue in my current job. It seems like few people actually know and understand at least in basic what the IDocs are, and what they do and what they cannot do. For example, a question came up in one of projects, “Oh, we have this very, very slow interface and we hear this company is using IDocs for a very similar interface. What if we started using IDocs, will it make our interface better?

To me, the obvious question is no because your problem is not the container that you use to move information, but your speed that and IDocs cannot really make it any faster. They just transfer data differently. Also IDocs structure itself to me it was maybe simpler to understand, but only because I come from a mainframe background. As you know, SAP started with a mainframe system.

It does not really translate well into modern technology understanding until you realize that it’s actually very similar to XML, but not many books and not many documents drove this analogy because it may not be a hundred percent accurate, but I feel it just helps to understand it very well. Then there’s SAP documentation as I mentioned. It’s unfortunately written a long time ago and it’s sometimes just written very poorly. It just does not describe it in the way that someone can easily understand.

Why do you think IDocs is a valuable or knowledge about IDocs is a valuable skill to have?

Jelena Perfiljeva: Because SAP seems to be sticking with IDocs for the long run. For a while, I thought that they might actually go away and be replaced by maybe web interfaces or some more modern technology. As the years go by, I don’t really see the IDocs being on decline, actually, it’s the other way around. There are some presentations and a test fire last year where I saw that IDocs are very much used with SAP integration solutions that was started as XIs and PIs and it was their name to PO and currently, it’s called SAP Pro Process Orchestration.

It really continues to be used. Also IDocs or IDoc interfaces are pretty much common for many industries and companies of different sizes. I think that every SAP customer has them even if you don’t know about it because there are some SAP standards interfaces, such as user data that is actually using IDocs. Even if you don’t have EDI or some kind of custom interface, you will probably find some IDocs in your system either way.

Also this the kind of skill that applies equally to technical and functional areas. It would complement the current skill set for both developers and functional specialists. It’s really something that crosses the lines between technical and functional and something that is really good to know for everyone.

The recording from the Espresso Tutorials Virtual Book Club Meeting: What on Earth is an IDoc is now available.

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130What on Earth is an SAP IDoc? author Jelena Perfiljeva is a Technical SAP Analyst at Elster Solutions, LLC in North Carolina. Since her SAP career started by accident 10 years ago, she has worked as an ABAP programmer and general SAP problem solver in the wholesale, professional service, and manufacturing industries. Her duties include implementation and support of numerous EDI and IDoc interfaces. Jelena’s lack of any official SAP credentials has not prevented her from becoming an SAP Mentor, an SCN blogger, and a speaker at international SAP events. She was SCN Member of the Month in April 2013. When she is not debugging SAP or answering questions on SCN, she enjoys using Google for finding new food recipes to test on her unsuspecting family members