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Sap & SharePoint – connect the best of two Worlds

This article explains how to connect data from SAP and SharePoint in an efficient way with the ERPConnect Services of Theobald Software GmbH.

Sebastian SchützeSebastian Schütze
This entry is part 1 of 5 in the article series ERPConnect Services

Attention: This first article is a very low-level article and more for making business decisions. This is only if you don’t know Theobald Software and the ERPConnect Services!

An Overview

First of all this article is not explaining what SAP or SharePoint. I’m not trying to convince you why you should use one of these. If your scenario is to connect the Data of SAP and SharePoint in an efficient way with the ERPConnect Services Tool of Theobald Software GmbH. If this is the case, then this is your article. SAP and SharePoint are often used systems to store data. Both systems can be connected but only in a hard and expensive way (mostly development). Theobald Software is a small company which offers a solution to read data from SAP and displays them in the SharePoint world. Display external data with external lists and the BCS (Business Connectivity Service) in SharePoint is nothing special. But Theobald Software offers a no-code approach  to easily connect both systems. Both writing and reading are possible. In many cases, no development is needed. In more complex situation it is still possible to extend Theobalds Solution.

My Data Hub, your Data Hub

As I work with SharePoint I noticed one thing: SharePoint is very useful as a data hub with all its functions, collaboration, search and document management features. But it is also important to be able to structure the data. If you create several lists without a plan you data hub turns more and more into data chaos. It is hard to maintain and not what you call „easy to find and work with“.

Of course, you can map and create a lot of processes in SharePoint like finance or a full functioning ERP system. But why reinvent the wheel?

Because SAP ERP already offers a very good and complex ERP system it makes no sense to change it (no to talk about the costs). Companies already use SAP ERP to manage processes for products and finance. SAP makes it easy to map your company processes into the system. But also SharePoint is used because of the need for collaboration in the daily business and to work together on documents. And guess what happens? When systems can not communicate with each other, then data will be stored redundantly. And why? Because people are lazy! 😉

Two Sides and everybody speaks their own Language

But if you really want to get the systems on both sides of the table, then you have good possibilities. On the SharePoint part, you have the BCS. On the side of SAP, you have the RFC-Library (Remote Function Call – Bibliothek). But both can’t talk to each other. You still need a middleman. For SAP you have the „SAP Gateway for Microsoft (GWM). But what you definitely need programming knowledge and deep knowledge of the BCS and the SAP RFC library. What know? Know you try to start a development project, get in time problems, get some gray hair. No problem  you will have fun! And what comes for free: Bugs you can play around with.

ErpConnect Services – The Translator from Theobald Software

The first „no-code“ solution which covers a lot of use cases can be found with the ERPConnect Services. Just to give you a small impression of a „show me data from SAP in SharePoint“ use case and how long it would take to set it up:

We achieve all this with just some clicks and without programming.

I have to admit that it can be arbitrarily complex and with that, you probably need to start coding again. But when I mean coding I mean the included library of the ERPConnect Services which makes it still much easier than using the offered solutions by SAP or Microsoft (Duet Enterprise for example). This is just a small example to give an impression what is possible with the solution from Theobald Software. The main point of the idea: care less ab the works but more about the content.

The tool knows the interfaces and structures of both systems. It unifies SAP and SharePoint in one small tool with a clear user interface and provides a powerful but easy to use the library (.NET and JavaScript).

A closer Look – The Architecture

To be precise Theobald Software ERPConnect Services offers everything you need:

Maybe you noticed that I only talked about how to view or edit SAP-Data from SharePoint and not the other way around. The ERPConnect Services (and possibly created Webservices with the WebService designer) will be directly installed on a SharePoint instance. Potential Webservices and connection to external lists are processed through the Theobald Software solution or the BCS of the SharePoint. But the idea is more to enrich project rooms in SharePoint with SAP data. In SharePoint, you have the possibilities to make a rich and fluid interface which is more usable for complex solutions than in SAP. And furthermore, you can write data back directly into the SAP system without any other middleware.

ERPConnect Services dient als Vermittler zwischen den Welten.

ERPConnect Services serves as middleware between both worlds. Source: Theobald Software GmbH

In the Clouds…

In these cloudy times, the question raises if you can use ERPConnect Services on SharePoint Online in Office 365: YES! What you need is not ERPConnect Services itself but the core part of it – ECS Core. This will not be installed in SharePoint Online but on an on-premise Server in Azure or somewhere else on a company server. In this case, you need an additional Azure Service Bus to access the ECS Core from Office 365. With that, you can program your own SharePoint app with the provided JavaScript library from Theobald Software.

SharePoint Online und SAP verbunden mit dem ECS Core

SharePoint Online and SAP connected with the ECS Core, Source: Theobald Software GmbH

Conclusion

ERPConnect Services are really easy to set up. I have already finished several projects using this tool. Even though I have very limited knowledge of SAP-System I could develop sophisticated applications (Theobald Software also offers Nintex Workflows  Actions with the ERPConnect Services). In a lot of situations, this solution provided me possibilities to develop a clean application with the given time resources. Since this is a part of a series of articles I will cover a deeper dive into those tools.



Sebastian Schütze is working as a SharePoint Consultant since 2013 at the Fritz & Macziol GmbH. Beforehand he also worked as a trainer for ASP.NET web development in the Microsoft Student Partner Program. His passion is dedicated to Microsoft technologies.

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