SAPs product range includes a powerful document management system (DMS). Its wide range of structuring options bring order to document-based business processes. Additional features are required, however, in order to ensure files meet certain quality standards (e.g. compliance with the PDF/A standard for long-term reproducibility.) The life cycle of a document is surrounded by a host of demands and corresponding solutions.
Business processes often result in large numbers of documents being stored in many different formats. However, not every format will remain stable over long periods of time. This is why, when first adding files to your SAP DMS which will remain relevant for long periods of time, it is essential to check whether these files comply with the PDF/A standard and to modify them accordingly, if necessary. Other types of documents can be put through the same process later on at the point of publication, for example.
Living documents those which will continue to be processed over a given period of time should be converted to a long-term format at the point of publication. The process can be triggered by a change in status or by an SAP workflow. SAP offers standard interfaces for handing files over to an external conversion system. Such a system will be able to convert standard graphical, printing or plotting formats to PDF/A, as well as Office, publishing and CAD files. If the SAP system requires a file to be converted to PDF/A and no standard interface is available, the external conversion solution will also offer a web service providing the same functionality.
Many paper-based documents leave the SAP system after only having been created at the point of printing (using data held by the system). SAP has an integrated form system for this purpose, but it lacks the ability to create a PDF/A file instead of (or as well as) the printed output a feature which is sorely needed for applications such as invoicing. This need is met by integrating another system with the SAP printing process, diverting the print data stream where appropriate and instructing a separate server to prepare a PDF/A file. The finished PDF/A can then be returned to its original context, allowing the entire business process to be archived.
Johannes Hesel, board member, SEAL Systems AG, summarized the situation: Many documents need to remain reproducible within SAP environments for long periods of time. External tools supporting PDF standards are needed to meet this goal.