From Report to Smartform : Pros and Cons

During an SAP implementations, many times customer expectations are not well defined and sometimes customers envision something but cannot articulate it properly. Even so, Functional consultants sometimes lack the knowledge to understand the differences between various technologies and options available in SAP.  Over the years SAP has adopted different technologies to solve various business challenges. However the advantages and uses of these technologies may not be very clear to functional consultants. These are the situations when sound technical knowledge helps when consulting in SAP. Technical consultants need to explore and understand as many technologies available in SAP, know their uses, pros and cons and have a good judgement to propose which technology to use in what situations.

A typical case that happened in my project would help to explain this and to learn the actual difference between a SmartForm and a Report Program.

The Business user initially requested for a report which could list down  transactions that happen through the year. Let’s say they wanted information of all the sales orders that were processed in a given year for a particular customer. This sounds like a good candidate for a report program. Hence the functional consultant joted down a spec requesting for a report program. As technical consultants we realize that such output can easily be handled in an ALV, right?

So the way the program was initially speced out was

  • A selection screen with a couple of parameters which would output an ALV report in the form of rows and columns. Nothing Fancy.

But when I started to read the requirement, I realized that the user might actually be needing a document which they could either print and mail to their customers. So infact the final consumer of the program output was not the business user but their customers outside of the SAP enviornment.

It therefore was quite evident that the business user would gain more benefit from a word or a pdf document output. So as a technical person my first thought was to suggest to the functional person, that it would be a better approach if we change the spec to be a FORM rather that a Report ( RICEF ).

A meeting was scheduled with the customer to actually find out what the user wants. and it happens that our understanding was partly correct. The idea being that in 80% of the cases the Business would like to send out a standard document with the relevant data, but then 20% of the times they would simply just output the data to Excel and then do a mail merge or something in Word to flexibly reformat the letter output.

Hence one requirement was spilt into 2 objects. A basic report and another being a Smart Form.

This therefore brings us to understand the difference between a Report and a SmartForm in traditional SAP.

SAP Report ProgramSmartForm
To Show DataTo Print Data
To View/check data on a daily basis such as output logs, inventory status etc.Store or Send Documents to external Parties like customers/vendors etc.
Data is usually output in Row/Column formatData is output in a predefined Template format such as invoice printing etc.
ALV output is presented in a consistent format. Output rows can be moved and formatted to some extent by the userOutput is pre-populated in a hard-coded template and cannot be modified later.
Output Data in List/Grid FormatOutput Data in Printable Output Format

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