Integrating Paper, Email & EDI into Your SAP Workflows: Q&A on Enterprise Content Management (ECM) for SAP Systems

July 15, 2014

Thanks to everyone who joined our Q&A on setting your ECM strategy and integrating document management into your SAP systems. 

Chrystal Legan and her colleagues from OnBase by Hyland - Tim Nero, Director of Industry Solutions, and Julie Rush, Solution Architect, ERP Integrations - joined us for a chat on Enterprise Content Management (ECM). They took reader questions and shared tips on integration between ECM solutions and SAP systems, SAP ArchiveLink and PI, as well as ECM scenarios for invoicing, AP/AR, and HR.

View the chat replay, or read the edited transcript, to review the entire discussion.

Live Blog Integrating paper, email & EDI into SAP workflows: Q&A with Chrystal Legan, July 15

Allison Martin, Financials 2014: Thanks to everyone for joining our Q&A today. I’m Allison Martin, conference producer for SAPinsider’s annual Financials conferences, and will be moderating today’s online chat on document management and setting an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) strategy for your SAP systems.

 I’m pleased to be joined today by Chrystal Legan for this one-hour online chat. Chrystal is a Solution Consultant for OnBase by Hyland, and will be taking your questions today along with her colleagues Tim Nero, Director of Industry Solutions, and Julie Rush, Solution Architect, ERP Integrations. 

Thank you, Chrystal, Tim, and Julie for joining us today!

Chrystal Legan, OnBase by Hyland: Hi everyone! I am really looking forward to digging into some of your ECM questions today! It's a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with you.

Tim Nero, OnBase by Hyland:  Hello everyone. 

Julie Rush, OnBase by Hyland: Welcome! Thank you for joining us today to discuss ECM and SAP. 


Allison Martin:  Glad to have all of you here!

Before moving to the questions already posted from our readers, I wanted to start with a basic question about ECM generally.  It’s coming from a finance perspective, but is really for any part of the business dealing with a lot of paper residing outside their SAP systems. 

How do you see those organizations using enterprise content management (ECM) effectively with their SAP processes? 

Chrystal Legan: SAP is your powerhouse but sometimes you need to access information outside of SAP that may be stored on paper or in other silos.

An ECM system can manage and maintain these documents and information and present them to you within SAP, ensuring your staff can continue to work within the system they are familiar with and instantly access that information at their fingertips. This means your staff doesn’t need to bounce between systems, or walk to a filing cabinet to manually retrieve a document (which could be misfiled or lost).

Outside of providing your SAP users with access to supporting content directly from SAP, an ECM solution can also help streamline and automate the processes surrounding this content and link processes that reside outside of SAP to those driven by your SAP system.

Allison Martin:  Thanks. It looks like there are a lot of questions in already, so we'll let you get to those now!

Comment From RJ

Is it possible to generate cross application correspondence through workflow?

Chrystal Legan: Hi RJ! Thank you for your question.

If you are referring to the ability of an ECM’s workflow to work hand in hand with SAP’s workflow, then the answer is yes. ECM solutions should have an easy to configure, user friendly workflow that allows for the streamlining of business processes while also being able to hand off the information into the SAP workflow for further processing/completion if workflows already exist in your SAP system and you want to keep leveraging them.


Comment From Johanna Leskinen

Is it possible to implement ECM without PI? I'm asking this as we're using other integration tool.

Chrystal Legan: Hello Johanna. Yes, it is possible to implement an ECM integration without PI. The ECM system would use RFC communication if it were integrating directly with SAP. ECM systems have other ways of integrating with third party integration tools, depending on the tool and its integration capabilities.


Comment From Guest

What scenarios/processes in the organization do you see ECM solution being used with SAP?

Chrystal Legan: ECM can be applied across the enterprise whether it be in an operational department or in the back office, such as accounting and finance, human resources, legal and more. Basically look anywhere where you manage information and your processes can benefit from an ECM system. For example, if you’re managing paper in your order fulfillment department, or managing incoming invoices in accounts payable, or managing employee files in human resources, an ECM solution can be leveraged to capture, process, measure, and store this content from a centralized secure location, all while providing access to it from your users’ main line of business application.


Comment From Guest

What type of integration with SAP should we expect to have with an ECM solution?

Chrystal Legan: Look for an ECM system that has a certified integration to SAP. This ensures seamless transfer of document images and data between the ECM and SAP. Also look for an ECM solution that compliments, enhances, and streamlines the SAP business processes that are currently working for you. An efficient ECM solution will have the ability to fill the gaps in your current business process without ripping out the parts that work well.

Not only should an ECM system be able to provide your SAP users with direct access to content that supports the SAP transaction, but the solution should be able to systematically take information that it has already obtained and hand it off to SAP to keep business processes moving forward without the cumbersome and costly need for entering data twice. The ECM solution should also be able to keep in sync with the information that resides in SAP automatically. When information changes in SAP, your ECM solution should be able to leverage these changes to keep its content updated, and drive processes forward within the system if needs be.


Comment From Satyam

How can we integrate ECM in an R/3 system? Could you explain more in detail how it works?

Chrystal Legan: In essence there are two basic concepts of integration: content enablement and business process automation. Content enablement leverages SAP’s ArchiveLink solution through configured repositories enabling users to access and store supporting content directly into the ECM repository from SAP. Business Process Automation leverages externally exposed BAPIs to automate the entry of data as well as read data from the SAP system. Leveraging both in tandem not only empowers your SAP users, but also streamlines business processes.


Comment From Roger Lozada

What is the difference, advantages and disadvantages of using Application Enabler vs Integration Suite for SAP ArchiveLink?

Chrystal Legan: OnBase’s Application Enabler provides interaction between the business applications screen data and the related documents, content and process management. Users can opt for a real-time, no-click display of documents associated with their enabled screen, or access documents and processes with a simple mouse click or key press. Business systems (not only SAP) can be configured without custom programming, scripting or modifications. This integration tool does require a client side installation of Application Enabler.

OnBase’s ArchiveLink integration is SAP Certified and is a tighter, behind the scenes configured integration. It allows a user to select an SAP button (GOS button) to display and store content within OnBase. It leverages a web client for retrieval which means that users do not require any client side installation.


Comment From Susan

Do I need to purchase ArchiveLink to associate a document with an employee? Let's say their resume.

Chrystal Legan: You do not need to purchase Archivelink from SAP, however you do need to enable the functionality in SAP and have a certified ArchiveLink ECM repository.

Comment From Guest

Is ECM an SAP product?

Tim Nero: No, Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is a separate technology that provides a suite of products to manage your company's content. ECM systems are excellent tools for automating business processes with workflow, storing large amount of business content and integrating directly with ERP’s such as SAP. ECM products are typically purchased separately and leverage the investment in your ERP.


Comment From Ovidiu

Recently, the Norwegian legislation changed, allowing companies to use solely electronic purchase documentation. Does SAP provide functionality for the end user to handle attachment of files (PDF, JPG) to trip expense forms in the transactions PR04 and PR05?

Chrystal Legan: Through basic SAP enhancements, the ArchiveLink functionality can be exposed on these screens to allow the storage and retrieval of content from the ECM solution. I would recommend looking into the SAP SNotes to find details on how to expose the Generic Object Services for ArchiveLink.

Comment From Barbara Pagach

What are the typical documents from HCM module that use this Document Manager - HR and Payroll? We are used to employee file folders with copies of signed documents from an employee.

Chrystal Legan: You can store any type of content related to your employee files; I-9s, Benefit forms, tax forms, resumes, employee handbook acknowledgement, video interviews, etc. Good ECM solutions support electronic signatures so you no longer need copies of signed documents. They can all be managed electronically. Document retention can now be managed systematically assuring that documents are kept for the designated amount of time. Not only will this free up physical storage space, you will have more control over the security of the documents.


Comment From Guest

If I have approvers for invoices that are not SAP users and some that are at remote locations, what options do I have to streamline our current (paper) approval process?

Chrystal Legan: Good ECM Solutions have tight integrations with Microsoft Office. With this integration it allows users to approve invoices directly from their Outlook email. It also gives them access to the supporting content needed to approve the invoice such as any disbursements that have already been applied as well as the invoice image itself. For employees that may be on a job site mobile apps provide the same functionality - they allow the approver to approve directly from their mobile device while they are on the go.

Comment From Guest

Is it possible to send automatically block invoices (for price discrepancy over the tolerances) to emails within the same company (if possible, based on the buyer identified in the purchase order)?

Chrystal Legan: An investment in an ECM solution can provide exception handling for those invoices that are outside of tolerance. An ECM solution should leverage the rules defined within SAP to help support the exception handling, providing a single source of record without the need to duplicate these rules in multiple areas.
Exception handling provides the ability to notify the exception handler via email and empower them to make corrections or decisions directly from their familiar email client. In addition these decisions can be supported via our mobile integrations.


Comment From Michele

Will approvers have the capability to use mobile devices for approvals Is there a limited number of approvers for one invoice? Does the total volume of approvers slow the system down? Are the approvers pulled from the PO or manually chosen?  Are the approver based on names or positions?  

Tim Nero: An ECM system with an approval management module will provide multiple ways for users to access and perform their approvals such as through a workflow client, email, or even a mobile device. There can be an unlimited number of approvers per invoice. These approvers are typically based on roles but could be assigned to specific users as well. One of the most powerful features of an ECM approval management function is its ability to leverage a hierarchy chain for escalation purposes, ensuring invoices get paid in a timely manner. Basically, a well-developed ECM approval management module will allow you to approve invoices however your business process dictates.


Comment From Jay

Can ECM be leveraged to streamline/accelerate SAP archiving projects? If yes, how?

Julie Rush: Yes, ECM is a vital component to your archive strategy. In order to archive, you need a content repository to store the offline data archive. Utilizing a certified SAP content repository will help accelerate and streamline this process.

Comment From Chad Delbridge

Does this system feature an automated workflow that distributes work to multiple users?

Tim Nero: Hi Chad,

Yes, ECM systems provide robust workflow functions that are highly configurable. These workflows are intended to automate business processes and distribute work in a variety of ways. For example, work could be distributed in a FIFO order, round robin, based on some type of assignment like region or by security controls. This ensures that work gets to the right people in a timely manner.

Comment From Guest

How does automated data capture work from documents, and what expectations should we have about accuracy of data entry for our SAP system?

Chrystal Legan: Data capture uses advanced software recognition technology, often known as OCR or optical character recognition, to locate and identify data on a page, then extract that information, validate it, and then pass the data into your SAP system. Once the data has been captured, it is validated against your organization’s business rules (such as invoice numbers should always be seven characters long and in a certain data format) and your databases (such as your purchase order database). Some data can be automatically corrected by the software, and any questionable characters can be presented to a verifier to further ensure accuracy.


Comment From Chad Delbridge

Does the system have the capability of capturing performance data and to generate reports?

Tim Nero: ECM systems can capture performance metrics for both people and process. These metrics can be viewed through dashboards or data reports. Information such as how many invoices were processed in a day or how many invoices an individual processed can be reported on. ECM systems can also capture non-performance data such as accrual information for outstanding invoices. This particular report can help an organization better understand they’re outstanding payment liability at the end of each month.


Comment From Guest

We are looking at streamlining AP documents and automating data entry. Any tips, scenarios, specific SAP considerations to watch out for?

Chrystal Legan: Great question! An investment in an ECM solution in support of your AP automation needs is very typical application. 

There are several things to consider when investing in an ECM solution to help support your AP automation needs. Complete automation from capture to post should be offered by your ECM solution as well as support of your exception handling needs. The solution should provide the ability to compare the OCR data from the image to the data existing in SAP to support your matching needs and vendor verification needs, making sure to catch those exceptions up front and route accordingly. 

A major play for an ECM solution in streamlining your AP process is in support of approvals. Approvals can be routed via email notifications and mobile. A strong ECM vendor should provide tools such as Approval Management, that empowers the users to maintain and support their approval hierarchy and take it out of an IT function. In addition, Approval Management should also provide the option of working directly with the approval chains defined in SAP. 

Make decisions of where you want the users to do their work. A good ECM solution will provide you the ability to leverage SAP or ECM workflow, whichever works best for your business process.

Comment From Jay

Do you have any recommendations regarding Optical Character Recognition? Which types of documents support OCR in a typical ECM system?

Chrystal Legan: It is recommended to look at your volumes to determine if an investment in OCR is a sound investment.   50,000 invoices per year is a good figure to use where the investment starts to pay off. An investment in an ECM solution that provides OCR will not only handle invoices, it can also support the capture and extraction of data for all supporting documents (backup).

Comment From Margaret

Hi Chrystal, We are implementing many of the Talent Management solutions from SuccessFactors including Onboarding. Can documents from SFSF Onboarding be sent to SAP through integration and be archived against the personnel number? Or would we have to save the files on a network drive them upload the documents to SAP?
Also, even though ArchiveLink is the repository for the documents, don't we need to also have LiveLink or OpenText (or some other product) to view the documents?

Chrystal Legan: Documents that are generated within SFSF can be archived into the ECM solution. As a certified ArchiveLink solution, the ECM solution can immediately link these documents to the transactions such as PA01 etc.
An ECM solution should provide the ability to automatically link to transactions based on information such as the Personnel number (which is the SAP Object ID) without requiring any manual attachment. It should be noted that LinkLink or OpenText is not required to view these documents. A certified ECM solution like OnBase by Hyland Software is all you need in order to link and retrieve supporting content.


Comment From Guest

How do I know if the ECM solution we are reviewing is a 'certified ECM solution'?

Julie Rush: Hello! The ECM provider you are working with should be able to provide you with a copy of their certification. You can also contact SAP to verify the level of certification the supplier has.

Chrystal Legan: You can also find the information on SAP’s site here.

Allison Martin: Thanks again, everyone, for joining us for today’s Q&A and posting some great questions.

And a big thanks to Chrystal Legan, Tim Nero, and Julie Rush of OnBase by Hyland.   Thanks to all three of you for taking our questions today!

Chrystal Legan: Thank you everyone for joining us today. If you have further questions, please feel free to visit us at . Have a great day!

An email has been sent to:

More from SAPinsider