Companies rely on valid address information for everything from invoices and shipping labels to mass mailings. Mislabeled or duplicate shipments, for example, can be quite costly in terms of money, resources, and customer ill will. If a user is supporting a SAP R/3 3.x environment, he manages addresses with application-specific solutions. Each of these solutions has different data structures and a different look and feel. This makes it difficult to move beyond the simplest forms of address checking and incorporate more comprehensive postal address checks or checks for duplicate entries, because activities such as these have to be tailored to fit each and every application.
Central Address Management (CAM), which became generally available with Release 4.0, offers a feature set that provides developers and administrators centralized control over this process. CAM offers three methods of address checks that enable administrators to check the plausibility of an address, and verify addresses against city and street directories as a function within the standard CAM system and/or via third-party supplied solutions (as of Release 4.6), which CAM supports via open interfaces called Business Add-Ins (BAdIs). Third-party solutions provide advanced functionality such as postal validation, error-tolerant searches, and checks for duplicate entries. CAM was renamed – it is called Business Address Services (BAS) as of SAP Web Application Server 6.10. The new name better reflects the role of BAS in the SAP System and SAP’s dedication to satisfy internal and external customers. The functionality described in this first part of the article is working both in CAM and BAS. I will speak mainly of BAS and mean CAM equally.
A Widely Used and Highly Beneficial Function
BAS is already used by a broad range of applications, including SAP Business Partner, mySAP Customer Relationship Management (mySAP CRM), SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW), SAP Advanced Planner and Optimizer (SAP APO) and many other applications in SAP R/3, SAP R/3 Enterprise, and mySAP Business Suite. In addition, BAS provide functions to support change documents and change pointers, archiving classes, SAPscript and Smart Forms (address windows in forms), SAPphone, and SAPconnect. From an end user’s perspective, BAS present themselves as dialog screens that help users find their way through different applications as they enter or change address information.
BAS function modules enable the application to store the addresses for the associated application object in BAS tables. The address data is updated together with the application data. Developers and administrators have to ensure that the address data stored within BAS is both up to date and accurate. And there are lots of opportunities for address information to go astray! Users can enter erroneous abbreviations, postal codes, or street addresses. Misspellings are rampant, particularly when dealing with proper names, as is the case with street and city names. Information can become obsolete due to incorporations within cities, new street listings that come about with new construction, and changes (at the discretion of the post office) of postal codes.
So it’s recommended that users reconcile or update the address information that resides in BAS regularly, depending on how often they get new reference data. BAS deliver ample flexibility, functionality, and support helping to guarantee complete, accurate, and up-to-date address data in a centralized fashion. This means that changes and enhancements can be made just once for every application that uses this component.
Three Methods of Address Checks
The three methods of address checks supported by BAS are as follows:
- Simple plausibility checks: These checks are performed automatically by BAS. To activate this capability the user only has to customize certain country-specific settings that ensure postal code checks and the like are performed against the correct rules (most of the standard settings are delivered by SAP).
- Cross-checking of address information against the reference data that is stored in the SAP Regional Structure: This step is optional. To enable this method of address checking, users need to populate the tables of the Regional Structure, which are shipped without any content. Once they have loaded the appropriate postal files into the tables, they simply activate a checkbox called City file active in the country-specific settings.
- Use of specialized third-party solutions for performing postal address checks, automatic validation of addresses, duplicate checking, and error-tolerant searches: Introduced in Release 4.6, the ADDRESS_CHECK and ADDRESS_SEARCH Business Add-Ins enable partners to integrate their products with BAS. SAP is now working with industry-leading partners to certify integrated solutions for performing postal address checks, automatic validation of addresses, duplicate checking, and error-tolerant searches. The BAdIs come ready for use in the users system. They become active as soon as there is an active implementation. An implementation comes via the import of a transport order, which may contain the implementation in active or inactive form. If the implementation is transported active, it is instantly available after the import. For some BAdIs, e.g. ADDRESS_UPDATE, multiple use is possible. For the BAdI ADDRESS_CHECK, this is not reasonable. Any implementation of the BAdI ‘wants’ to change central fields of the address, like city or postal code. As Basis technology does not provide a given order in which different implementations of the same BAdI are called, the result of two subsequent calls of different implementations would be unpredictable. Though multiple use is not allowed for the Business Add-In ADDRESS_CHECK, an active implementation is possible for different filter values. The ISO code of the country named in the address is used as the filter type. Because of this filtering, a customer can have different third-party tools in a globally used system.
As pointed out, the plausibility check is instantly available. It’s up to the user whether he also wants to use additional checks — i.e., cross-checks against the SAP Regional Structure, checks using third-party tools, or all three checks. Since no postal reference data nor third-party software needs to be purchased to use the plausibility check, it is reasonable to leverage this address check method. Relative to the cost of erroneous address information, this check delivers a lot of bang for the buck. Cross-checking of address information with that of the Regional Structure and/or adoption of third-party solutions obviously introduces additional costs.
Are these more advanced address check methods worth the time, effort, and expense? That’s a question users have to answer for themselfes, depending on the amount and importance of address data in their systems.
Simple Plausibility Checks
The simplest method is to check the plausibility of an address. Here, the function module ADDR_CHECK is used. BAS call this function module automatically. It is used as a standard check of all address data input. Users don’t have to modify any code to make this happen. Appropriate settings are delivered as a standard.
Several plausibility checks are performed via this module. One check, for example, is to verify that a zip code’s length and format are compliant with the standard format for that country. If, for example, “DE (Germany)” is specified in the country field, BAS will produce an error message if an entry to a zip code field has only four digits since the rules for zip codes in Germany are “length = 5, to be kept exactly, numerical, without gaps”. Administrators have to determine the rules for these checks as part of the customizing of the country settings (transaction SPRO), under IMG general settings.
Address Checks Against Reference Data in the Regional Structure
The Regional Structure can be activated to verify address information before it is accepted by the SAP system. (As the saying goes, “The best defense is a good offense!”) Here, the administrator is customizing BAS to compare the user’s input with the central set of reference data that can be found in the Regional Structure. Tables within the Regional Structure store zip code, city, and street information. As the tables of Regional Structure are shipped without content, the administrator has to load the needed data from postal files using the Legacy System Migration (LSM) Workbench. (See OSS note 132948” for details)
BAS check data input from the user against the data stored in the Regional Structure tables. The user will be informed if he or she attempts to enter address information (e.g., a street name) that is not in the reference data of the Regional Structure database. He can accept an address in the dialog even if the address does not comply with the reference data. This address data is marked as differing from reference data and can be reconciled quarterly. If the reference data includes the assignment of postal codes to streets, its necessary to activate the Street postcode check. There is a corresponding flag for each city in the reference data. However, the administrator has to hold off activating it until all reference data is complete. This is, of course, true for other checks as well.
For address information that has already found its way into the SAP system BAS incorporates a process to update address data stored when the Regional Structure data has been updated. Cross-checking an application’s address information against information stored in the Regional Structure is predicated on the notion that users are keeping the postal reference data that is stored in the Regional Structure up-to-date! This too should be done on a regular basis. In Release 4.0 and 4.5A, users have to change data of the regional Structure individually. As of Release 4.5B, they can use the report RSADRLSM02 for the automatic import of mass data. (See OSS note 132948 for details)
How third party tools can be used for Address Checks is discussed in part 2 of the article.
There is a list of SAP-recommended partners information on SAPNet under www.sap.com/partners/software/directory/. On the site click “Search options: Advanced Query”. In the field “By Software Category” there is a dropdown list of software categories. Choose “Business Address Services” and start the search.
Many hints regarding the BAS can be found in the SAP release notes. There are BAS release notes for Releases 4.0A, 4.5A and 4.6B. BAS release notes are available for Releases 4.0A, 4.5A, and 4.6B by choosing “Help -> Release notes” in the menu, then choosing “Complete list” from Release 4.0. Then follow the same paths as described above.
Lots of information regarding SAP’s address management including documentation, presentations, e-learning, as well as information regarding third-party tools, vendors, and links to the SAP partner program are available on SAP Service Marketplace (http://service.sap.com/bas).
I would like to thank the Business Address Services development team for their support during the writing of this article. The advice of Toralf Grossmann, in particular, was invaluable.
Source: SAP Professional Journal