SAP SNC integration, part 1

Recently I have had the pleasure to dig into SAP SNC (Supply Network Collaboration) download/upload interface. SNC is a portal for suppliers, I have no experience myself of SNC, but it is a portal where suppliers can log in and work in our SAP ERP, one key area in probably vendor managed inventory.
SAP SNC also supports up- and download of files for suppliers that do not want to enter transactions in real time but upload them in a file or download status reports etc. For this SAP SNC uses a rather complicated Comma Separated Value file format.

The Company have many small suppliers that want to interface SAP SNC automatically with their own ERP system. In order to do so they need to transform the CSV files of SNC into a format their ERP systems understand. And here is where we and the suppliers have a problem. They do not have an IT department that can transform SAP SNC complicated csv files into a format their ERP system understands. The SAP support guys at the company turned to me for help. We could go one of two ways, either do the transformation inside SAP SNC so the suppliers communicate with  files in ‘their’ formats or we give the suppliers transformation routines. Creating the transformation inside SAP SNC would take long time and be costly. I decided to try to build a transformation routine in the suppliers MS Windows environment. I did not want to rely on software not standard in MS Windows, I wanted to use as much standard concepts and software as possible. These days XML file format is a well established standard and it seems most of our suppliers prefer XML formats. It is actually a mystery to me why SAP decided to go for csv formats for these integration files, SAP is normally a strong proponent of XML integration, even when XML is not a good choice. XML can be very verbose and if you send information about very many object these streams may constipate your network. XML and SAP own IDOC format for SNC integration looks ideal to me. Maybe I have misunderstood something, but as it is now I have to deal with the csv format, IDOCs would have been much easier to transform.
There is no standard for parsing and transforming csv files and certainly not the csv files of SAP SNC, but there is an established and good standard for XML file transformation XSLT. You can use XSLT to transform csv files but it is complicated and XSLT is not designed for that. I decided to built my own SAP SNC csv file parser with tools available in a standard MS Windows PC. I did not want to invest too much time and efforts in this solution, since I’m convinced SAP will redesign this interface in not to far future. I did not want to change my procedure for every ‘supplier’ format. I also wanted to give the suppliers something they could modify themself. And lastly I wanted to learn something new. I’m not very comfortable in Windows so almost anything except bat files would be a learning experience. After studying the alternatives I decided to use Powershell scripting, something completely new to me. After browsing an introductory tutorial and some Googling I started to build my csv file parser. The supplier have to download the SNC cvs file, the run my parser script and then upload the transformed file into their ERP system. This parser is not beta tested yet, but when beta testing is done I will write a post about the parser.

I think this SNC up- and download integration is badly designed by SAP. If I had designed this schnittstelle, it should at least provide you with three options, use either CSV, XML/IDOC or JSON file formats.What I really like to see is an easy2use high-level toolbox in SAP for application integration. I think SAP customers are worth something better than present csv files, and I believe SAP can afford to develop such an interface. I might have missed something, is there something already available I’m not aware of?

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