7-Step Checklist for SAP B2B “Ecosystem” Integration

February 4, 2016 Daniel Ford


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Regardless of whether you are an existing SAP client or thinking about becoming one, at some point your ERP system is going to need data from your “ecosystem” in order to perform its functions. Your ecosystem is the collection of companies that you depend on to operate your company. This includes your banking relationships, your logistics vendors, your customers and your suppliers. It can even include the government.

In this ecosystem there is an exchange of information needed by the ERP; some of this information is an input and some of it is an output. Facilitating these inputs and outputs can be done the old-fashioned way using people, data entry, printers and relying on fax and snail mail. Agile and cost-conscious companies have focused on using EDI to bind their ecosystems in order to avoid manual data entry, faxing and limiting the use of physical mail.

The decision to electronically bind the ecosystem has a tremendous number of advantages, and many companies have already elected in some capacity to facilitate this electronic bonding. Most often this electronic bonding is being facilitated by the company’s IT organization using a variety of internal tools and an internal EDI staff. This “internal” effort to facilitate the bonding of an ecosystem is quickly being replaced with an outsourcing trend referred to as B2B Integration (B2Bi) Managed Services.  

The decision to electronically bind the ecosystem has a tremendous number of advantages, and many companies have already elected in some capacity to facilitate this electronic bonding.

A B2Bi Managed Services provider is a trusted third party that facilitates the bonding of your ecosystem. As a result, internal IT teams are no longer tasked with having to own EDI tools, transformation engines, EDI standards manuals, and community enablement resources. These responsibilities are essentially outsourced to the B2Bi Managed Services provider.

This desire to outsource B2Bi has created a market of B2Bi Managed Services providers, many of whom tout the ability to integrate to SAP. Given the investment you have made in your SAP system, it is critical that you select a B2Bi Managed Services provider who doesn’t just boast a marketing tag line claiming the ability to integrate to SAP. The following is a SAP B2B ecosystem due diligence checklist to assist companies in making a more informed decision.  

7-Step Checklist for SAP B2B Integration:

1. SAP has numerous ERP products (SAP ECC, SAP Business ByDesign, SAP Business All-in-One, SAP Business One). Ensure the vendor you select has experience with the SAP system you are running (or plan to purchase). If you are a large company and are planning to have divisions (or country locations) running different systems, ensure the B2Bi Managed Services vendor has expertise in the different SAP systems.

2. To ensure the B2Bi Managed Services vendor has expertise in integrating to the SAP system, ask the following questions:

  • How many B2B integrations have they done with each of the above SAP systems?

  • Do they have client references for each of the ERP systems

  • How has the integration to these ERP systems been facilitated (file-based or internal native adapters[1])?

  • Does the B2Bi Managed Services vendor attend, sponsor or hold any leadership positions in SAP user groups or other SAP sponsored activities? If yes, request a comprehensive list and find out who from the company attends.

  • Does the B2Bi Managed Services provider own the IP being used to integrate the SAP system?

  • Do the B2Bi Managed Services provider’s solutions support the new SAP HANA database?

Once you have the answers, below are some suggestions for evaluating the responses.

3. Be wary of selecting a B2Bi Managed Services vendor who has expertise in only one SAP ERP system. While you may only have one SAP system today, you may elect to install an additional and different SAP ERP system in a satellite location.

4. Be wary of vendors who do not own the IP they plan to use for the integration. It sometimes suggests that the B2Bi Managed Services provider doesn’t have the strong SAP skills they claim to have.    

5. Be wary of vendors who rely solely on file-based integration. Every file-based integration is different and you will need to review and approve the technical architecture being proposed. Embedded integration is often the better approach since it is native to SAP and SAP provides the SDK (Software Developer Kit) for the function to be embedded inside the SAP system. With embedded integration you will never leave the native look and feel of SAP to facilitate the exchange of EDI with trading partners.  

6. Look for B2Bi Managed Services partners who have made an investment in SAP. This includes understanding if they attend shows, sponsor events or hold leadership positions at SAP funded conferences.

7. Look for B2Bi Managed Services partners who have invested in HANA and can integrate to HANA. SAP has invested millions in making the transformation to support HANA.

If you are in more need of additional guidance with your SAP B2B integration due diligence or would like to talk to SAP B2Bi integration experts, click here and ask about our latest integration with HANA!

[1] Internal native adapters differ from file based integration. File based integration uses an API and performs all EDI integration and ecosystem setups externally to the SAP System. Native SAP adapters perform all the integration and sets natively within the SAP – making the functionality appear as if it was native to SAP.

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