EDI Resource Center

What is IDoc in SAP? Overview, Structure, and Types

SAP's ubiquitous enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions drive efficiency and streamline operations for businesses around the globe. Integral to the SAP ecosystem is the IDoc, a data standard that is equal parts mysterious and pivotal. This article explores the structure, application, and impact of SAP IDoc and includes a brief description of how CData Arc can leverage the IDoc standard to establish a seamless data flow within a SAP ecosystem.

What is IDoc in SAP?

IDocs (intermediate documents) are standardized documents, or data containers, that are used for data exchange with both SAP applications and non-SAP systems. SAP IDoc transactions resemble EDI documents and are commonly used to electronically transfer information, such as purchase orders, invoices, shipping notices and more.

IDocs are based on two EDI standards, X12 and EDIFACT. Each standard defines types of transactions and the format of data segments within these documents required to communicate the requisite information.

SAP IDoc's structure

The IDoc is made up of three structural elements:

  • Control Record: A collection of metadata that describe the contents of the document: the document type, IDoc number, transaction code, sender & receiver, and other contextual information about the message type of IDOC, message type, status, sender, receiver and other information about the message
  • Data Record: The payload contents of the document, the details of which depend on the type of document (e.g. a purchase order document would contain details about the purchase, price, date, payment, customer, etc).
  • Status Record: A collection of information about the current IDoc status and includes a historical view of prior states that the IDoc message has undergone.

Types of IDoc

IDoc basic types

IDoc Basic Types define the structure and format of the standard IDoc that SAP provides out of the box. These are predefined templates designed to accommodate a wide range of business processes and data exchange requirements. Each Basic Type corresponds to a specific kind of business transaction or data structure, such as purchase orders, invoices, or shipment notifications. Here are some common IDoc Basic Types:

  • ORDERS: Used for purchase orders. It carries information about the order details, including items, quantities, and pricing.
  • INVOIC: Facilitates invoice processes. It contains details related to billing, such as invoice amount, tax calculation, and payment terms.
  • DELFOR: A delivery forecast or delivery schedule. This IDoc type is used for transmitting scheduling information to suppliers, outlining quantities and expected delivery timings.
  • DESADV: The shipping notification IDoc. It provides details about goods that are dispatched to a customer, including packing and carrier information.

IDoc extension types

While Basic Types cover a broad range of business needs, specific scenarios require modifications to the standard IDoc structure. This is where IDoc Extension Types come into play. They allow for the customization of Basic Types to meet unique business requirements without altering the original IDoc structure. Extensions are typically used to add additional data fields or segments to an existing IDoc Basic Type. Here's how they work:

  • Extension of a Basic Type: To create an IDoc Extension Type, you start with a Basic Type and add custom segments or fields. The extension is given a unique name to distinguish it from its base IDoc type. This customization enables businesses to include additional information that's not covered by the standard structure.
  • Example of Use: Suppose a company needs to exchange purchase order information but also wants to include environmental compliance data specific to its industry. The standard ORDERS IDoc might not have fields for this data. The company can create an extension of the ORDERS IDoc to include these additional details, ensuring that its unique business requirements are met without disrupting the standard IDoc processing logic.

IDoc Extension Types maintain compatibility with the base IDoc Basic Types, ensuring that standard SAP functionality is preserved while allowing for the necessary customizations to support specific business processes. The use of extensions is a powerful feature of the SAP IDoc system, offering flexibility and adaptability to meet the evolving needs of businesses.

IDoc SAP Processes

There are two primary processes and function modules involved with IDocs: outbound and inbound. Let's dive into each of these to uncover how they operate and their significance.

Outbound IDoc process

The outbound IDoc process begins within the SAP system when a triggering event occurs. This could be generated from an ABAP script or an event within several SAP applications like an ERP system detecting low product inventory. Here's a simplified breakdown of the outbound process:

  • Triggering event: A specific action within SAP, like the creation of a sales order, triggers the need for an IDoc to be sent.
  • IDoc generation: Based on the triggering event, the SAP system generates an IDoc. This document is structured according to the IDoc type that corresponds to the data being sent, containing all the necessary information.
  • Partner profile and port configuration: The system consults the partner profile to determine the destination of the IDoc and the communication method, such as file, EDI, or RFC (Remote Function Call).
  • Data transfer: The IDoc is transmitted to the target system or partner through the configured port, using the specified communication protocol.

The outbound process is integral for sharing data with external partners, enabling businesses to automate and streamline their operations, such as order processing, inventory management, and shipping.

Inbound IDoc process

Conversely, the inbound IDoc process involves receiving data from external systems into the SAP environment. This is essential for integrating external data, such as purchase orders from customers or inventory updates from suppliers, into the company's internal processes. The inbound process typically unfolds as follows:

  • IDoc reception: An IDoc is received from an external system or partner through a predefined communication channel, like EDI or RFC.
  • IDoc parsing: Upon receipt, the IDoc is parsed by the SAP system to interpret the structure and content based on the IDoc type.
  • Data posting: The parsed data is then used to update the SAP system, such as creating or updating records in the database. This might involve creating a new purchase order, updating inventory levels, or any other transaction supported by the IDoc type.
  • Acknowledgment: Optionally, an acknowledgment IDoc can be sent back to the originating system, confirming the successful receipt and processing of the data.

The inbound process is critical for ensuring that the SAP system remains up-to-date with external data inputs, thus maintaining synchronization across the business's digital ecosystem.

IDoc transaction codes in SAP

IDocs are used for a variety of interactions, primarily in the areas of financial, logistics and sales transactions.

In SAP, transaction codes (t-codes) are shortcuts or commands that take you directly to the tasks or processes you need to perform. Within the realm of IDoc (Intermediate Document) processing and management, several transaction codes are pivotal for creating, changing, monitoring, and troubleshooting IDocs. Here's a brief explanation of some of the most common IDoc transaction codes:

  • WE01 - Create IDoc: This transaction code is somewhat misleading by its name, as IDocs are typically generated by executing specific processes within SAP (like posting a goods receipt) or through inbound processing from external systems. However, WE01 might be referenced in custom development scenarios for creating or initiating IDoc processing scripts or programs.
  • WE02 - Display IDoc status: WE02 is one of the most frequently used transaction codes for working with IDocs. It allows users to display IDoc status information and to view IDoc volume trends over time. It's an essential tool for administrators and users to monitor and troubleshoot IDocs, providing a detailed view of each IDoc's content and status.
  • WE05 - Display IDoc List: Similar to WE02, WE05 provides a detailed list of IDocs based on selection criteria. It is widely used for monitoring IDoc processing, enabling users to view the status of IDocs and identify any errors that may have occurred during processing. WE05 is particularly useful for tracking the flow of IDocs through the system and ensuring that data exchanges are occurring as expected.