In Top Form: SAPscript to PDF

SAPscript goes the way of the printing press. (image: Fotolia)
SAPscript goes the way of the printing press; PDF is now the preferred format. (image: Fotolia)

Studies show that if business operations are not running like clockwork, poor document management is to blame around 33% of the time. If goods don’t have a shipping label they can’t be shipped, and someone has to spend time working out what went wrong.

Document management, however, is generally not one of the top priorities for businesses going through transformation; they are focused on getting their core processes right. Downstream activities, such as printing documents, are often something that project teams least want to think about. If complaint forms or credit memo forms are not ready before the new system goes live, they are simply cobbled together at the last minute.

Companies can come to regret this, at the latest when they try to modernize their IT infrastructures and find that they have to convert non-standard forms into standard ones. This is especially tricky if they are still using older formats that are coming to the end of their lifecycle and can’t keep up with the latest advances in electronic form technology.

It’s time to switch

SAPscript has served us well for over 20 years, but this classic piece of SAP development is now showing its age. Easy-to-use archiving functions, graphical facilities, and interactive features are all standard capabilities these days, yet SAPscript does not have them.

Matters are further complicated by the fact that generations of programmers have taken advantage of SAPscript’s flexibility to create very specific forms. Over time, customers have used these forms to create their own country and language versions, taking them further and further away from standard forms.

Some time ago, SAP announced that it no longer wanted the SAPscript language to be used for changing forms or developing new ones, and that it would be using Adobe’s PDF format instead. This means that some customers face a problem. It’s not unknown for developers to take their SAPscript knowledge with them into retirement, and the youngest generation of computer programmers prefers to use the latest tools. So how do you cross the format divide?

SAP Consulting’s Output Factory offers a new service that considerably reduces the amount of manual programming required to convert SAPscript forms to Adobe. Efficiency gains of 70% on manual programming are not that unusual, and 50% gains are “definitely possible,” says Gerhard Fuchs, manager of SAP partner Platinum Consulting in St. Leon Rot, near SAP’s headquarters in Walldorf, Germany. As a subcontractor, Platinum converts SAPscript forms to Adobe using its own tool. The process has several steps, and is largely automated.

Checking forms and print routines

Due to technical differences between Adobe and SAPscript, Platinum’s experts need to take a closer look at the forms before customers can start converting them. With Adobe, all the data that the forms are to contain needs to be transferred to an interface before the data can be loaded into the form. In SAPscript, however, data can be loaded into the form at any time.

Platinum’s experts not only look at each SAPscript form but the print operation as well. If the customer does not want to have to set up separate printer parameters for each new Adobe document – SAPscript forms are not printer-independent – Platinum has to make changes to the print routine.

Fuchs says: “We can read SAPscript forms entirely automatically, but in many cases we have to adjust the print routine manually.” This means that, before they can convert the forms, the experts from Platinum have to assign types to each component for the Adobe interface and structure the components.

Their service is based on the “platinumFormConverter,” which converts forms automatically. Among its technical highlights is a script language that copies source code to an editor. The editor can then be read to generate routines that create the new Adobe form.

Solved: Bauer Group converts its forms

The new Adobe form looks exactly the same as the SAPscript form. Comparison of language versions, testing without having to change customization, and translations – all this can be done, and is part of the service. If the customer wants, the look and feel of the form can be changed to match the company’s corporate design, and more features added. This kind of thing is normally done at the end of the project.

“To some extent we are pushing the limits of what the Adobe format can do,” says Fuchs. With each project, Platinum learns something new to help it improve the new SAP service. Just recently, they converted forms for international construction and machinery manufacturer Bauer, whose headquarters are in Germany.  It took only a few days to convert Bauer’s SAPscript forms, while retaining the logic of the forms and their print format.

Prices and versions

The Output Factory offers a starter pack for €4,900. The offer includes the conversion of one form and a complete SAP infrastructure check for Adobe. If there are any technical hitches when the first form is converted, these can be resolved before the customer continues converting the rest.

The converter runs on SAP ERP 6.0. To use Adobe forms in SAP ERP, customers need SAPNetWeaver 7.0 and Adobe LiveCycle Designer 8.0 (SAP delivers this) with Acrobat Reader.

For more information about Platinum Consulting, point your browser here.