access to SAP through ODBC, SAP database structure

Dear Experts,

I am a new user of SAP.
The system works on DB2 database.
Our installation is small, there are only around 50 users.
Our support is not meeting all my needs, so I am looking for help here.

1)
I wonder if I can connect to the database using ODBC?
Is it possible directly or do I need 3rd party tools?

When I was working with another ERP system (SQL server based),
there were no problems with connecting to the database using ODBC.

If 3rd party tools are needed (it seems so), what are your recommendations?
please provide rough prices as I do not have a big budget available.

So far I have found this:
http://www.rssbus.com/odbc/sap/
but it seems that it requires SAP NetWeaver
which is probably not available with SAP R3 but is something extra that must be purchased additionally?

2)
If I manage to connect to the database, is the database structure very complicated?
The database structure of our prior ERP system was not trivial, but I could figure out a lot even without documentation.
Naming of tables and fields was reasonable and it was giving clues what kind of data you could expect.

Is it the same with SAP?
Is the documentation of database structure available?

3)
In case direct access to SAP database is not feasible for some reasons, whan can you recommend?
I could always create an own small data warehouse by exporting manually needed reports from SAP to Excel and importing them to the DW.
Is it a good idea?
what are the alternatives?
Commercial solutions of course are also acceptable, but please remember our installation is small (50 users) and we cannot afford the most expensive solutions.

thanks a lot for help!

kind regards
Jarek
LVL 1
ja-rekAsked:
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tomfarrarCommented:
I have worked with SAP over the past, but it has been a while.  Here is what I recall:

There are probably 7000 tables in SAP, so getting access to them would be complicated.

SAP has a query tool that (if enabled) can be very useful to users.  Generally it is controlled by the IT group or a SuperUser so as not to build queries in a bad way.

Many SAP users now have a Business Intelligence Module that can facilitate a lot of what you may want to do

For small amounts of data, many reports can be directly produced to Excel.

For large amounts of data there is a transaction (SM37?) that can be used to download lots of data.  There is a process to learn here (about how to download), but once you have done it, it is not too bad.

I have taken data from SAP into Access databases to then do additional linking of data and reporting to users.

  - Tom
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ja-rekAuthor Commented:
Tom,

thanks for your answer.

we do not have the BI module.

Regarding query tool - do you remember its name? is it part of standard package?

How did you "feed" your data warehouse in Access?
mostly using the query tool or mostly by importing standard reports (first exported to Excel, I assume?)

Jarek
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tomfarrarCommented:
Don't remember the query tool, but I am pretty sure it is part of the standard package.  I'll see if I can find out.  As for Access, generally I used the transaction (think it was SM37) to download the data because there was a lot of data.  Report downloads can work for smaller needs, but will time out if request is too large.

Downloads were in Excel or Text depending....
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tomfarrarCommented:
ja-rek - This documentation might help you on the SAP Query tool.  I have not built queries myself in SAP.


http://ptgmedia.pearsoncmg.com/images/9780672329029/samplechapter/0672329026_CH03.pdf
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ja-rekAuthor Commented:
Dear Tom, thank you for you valuable input.

Will other SAP experts share their experience with me please?
thank you.
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tomfarrarCommented:
Yes, I agree you need more SAP input.  - Tom
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ja-rekAuthor Commented:
thank you for help.
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tomfarrarCommented:
Hi ja-rek - Thanks for the solution.  - Tom
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