The release of SAP S/4HANA brought major developments to the APIs that the platform makes available. Primarily, these additions will benefit any organization connecting SAP S/4HANA to partner systems.
As you begin your SAP S/4HANA journey, it is critical to understand the benefits of these APIs in order to fully exploit your platform. So in today’s article, we will explain why SAP S/4HANA’s new APIs are a key differentiator between SAP S/4HANA and SAP ECC, and we’ll also take a look at the benefits these new APIs deliver.
Once you’ve read through this article, you’ll be ready to take a deeper dive in the SAP support website, located at https://api.sap.com/. SAP has been actively working to document and consolidate all API documentation in one central place, and the website includes all the available APIs and business events for SAP S/4HANA for Private Cloud, Public Cloud, and On Premise. You’ll also find many posts on the site sharing information on how to access the platform.
More on that later, but let’s get the big picture first!
Why would I move to SAP S/4HANA’s APIs when I already know which BAPI to use?
When I first encountered SAP S/4HANA APIs, it crossed my mind that they are just BAPIs (Business Application Programming Interfaces) wrapped into a new presentation layer in order to open them up for calling from partner systems. While there was some truth in this observation, the APIs do deliver a big benefit in that they bring a much simpler way of integrating BAPIs and Function modules with the partner world. At the same time, the fact that the SAP S/4HANA APIs are functionally consistent with their BAPI counterparts is both logical and useful.
Increased speed of integration
In pre-SAP S/4HANA integration projects, “functional analysis” was a key activity in designing the integration. In a lot of cases, you relied on a functional consultant with a high level of technical understanding to describe how to call the different Function modules, depending on the use cases and scope of your project. A lot of time was spent on the analysis of how to map the functional field names and the technical names used in the function module. With the API Business Hub, this process is now much more efficient.
To demonstrate, let’s take a look at a use case from when I started using the API Business Hub for the first time. My customer wanted to extract business partner data towards his e-commerce platform and create address data for contacts. The e-commerce platform, however, was not a SAP platform.
We went searching for business partner APIs within API Business Hub, and within literally 5 minutes had discovered the API we required for the job. How easy was this? It took just two steps:
First, we navigated to SAP API Business Hub and selected APIs for SAP S/4HANA:
Next, we searched for ‘business partner’ and quickly discovered the following web service:
And that was it – we had the API we needed.
A common language for functional and integration consultants
Once the API was identified, it was great to discover that it covers a lot of use cases that would have required a techno-functional analysis in classic ECC systems. For business partners, for instance, all the subcategories like addresses/contact people/banks/etc. are defined and documented in a way that will enable both functional and technical consultants to understand immediately how the API should be called:
As you can see in API listing above, we already had what we needed to start exchanging information with the partner system. During this early integration project, this sped things up massively. In fact, within one hour we were exchanging business partner data between the two platforms, and we hadn’t even needed to discuss technical field names or SAP tables. Here was integration at warp speed!
How do you get started?
If you want to start using SAP S/4HANA APIs, you first must activate a web service on the API Business Hub. In practical terms, this means activating the service at ‘/N/IWFND/MAINT_SERVICE’.
Once this has been done, the web service can be tested.
Out-of-the-box integration and development
The tools in the API Business Hub will also prove a real boon for developers. The Hub offers a very flexible way of simulating how different web services can be called and what options are available to define responses, such as sorting/filtering/selecting/etc. All of this is pretty much self-explanatory for an experienced consultant, and it should present only a shallow learning curve.
About the SAP Cloud SDK | SAP Cloud SDK
Given how easy it is to activate these web services, it’s a fair question to ask if they are secure. The answer is the same as for all other connections to SAP S/4HANA. You cannot connect to SAP S/4HANA other than through a secure, authenticated method.
If you want to learn more, check out our book, Securing SAP S/4HANA, or contact the people who wrote the book, Chris Walravens, Christophe Decamps, and Bert Vanstechelman.
(You can also find the book along with other SAP-related titles on our website: https://www.expertum.net/en/publications)
At Expertum, we are convinced that the APIs and the API Business Hub serve S/4HANA’s business case, and that they deliver a solid implementation for building future-proof integrations between your SAP and non-SAP systems.
You should definitely make the time to get familiar with the API Business Hub. It is by far the fastest and easiest way to get both functional and technical consultants up-to-speed on SAP S/4HANA’s integration capabilities with other systems.
And now you’ve got a big-picture overview, why not take a deeper dive on the SAP API Support portal. We recommend kicking off your reading with these two great articles on the site:
Overview about the SAP API Business Hub
SAP S/4HANA APIs and Business Events on SAP API Business Hub – The wait is over!