An SAP transaction code, commonly called a t-code, is similar to the URL of a website.
You invoke a website by entering its URL into the address bar of a web browser.
You invoke a specific SAP user interface or execute a program when you enter an SAP transaction code into the command field of the SAP GUI.
Let’s dive right into the details!
SAP Transaction Codes Made Easy
To understand what an SAP transaction code, or so-called t-code, is, you need to first understand the context in which an SAP transaction code takes place.
First of all, what’s SAP: SAP (System, Applications, and Programs in Data Processing) is a HUGE company that makes business software.
To be more precise, SAP makes software that manages the processes within a company.
SAP’s flagship products are ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) applications. Those applications run on-premise, in the cloud, or as a hybrid version of both of them.
So let’s take a look at the differences between on-premise and cloud computing:
On-Premise vs. Cloud Computing
SAP’s applications can be categorized as either on-premise or cloud-computing.
On-premise applications run on the company’s own hardware, whereas cloud computing applications run on hardware owned by the cloud computing application provider. Or a third party that again provides the necessary infrastructure for the software to the cloud computing application provider.
For example, SAP offers to run its SCP (SAP Cloud Platform) in its own data centers. But it offers to run it in the data centers of Amazon, Google, Microsoft, or Alibaba as well.
On-premise means that the company takes care of the installation and maintenance of the software themselves. Plus, provides the necessary hardware for the software such as the server infrastructure along with the IT stuff.
Cloud computing means that the cloud computing application provider takes care of the installation and maintenance, and the company accesses the application through the cloud.
The cloud is just hardware and software provided and maintained by a third party—nothing else than an application on a server you access through the internet.
It’s like housing: Instead of making a large investment and buying a house, many people rent a house instead. They don’t have to take care of maintenance and renovations themselves, but can use the house as if they own it.
On-premise has been the typical way for a company to run its business software. Now, cloud computing is becoming more and more common.
Small and medium-sized businesses especially show interest in cloud computing.
The biggest advantages of cloud computing for smaller companies are that it has lower upfront costs and predictable costs over time.
On the downside, cloud computing applications are less customizable. To come back to the rent a house instead of buying a house example: You can not just tear down a wall in a house that you rent.
Here are the most significant challenges of cloud computing technology worldwide, for the years 2019 and 2020:
Large enterprises still tend to go for on-premise because on-premise applications are highly customizable.
Plus, large enterprises don’t care that much about investing upfront in hardware or already own it.
Another major factor is that the data and its protection is in the enterprise’s hand itself and not a third party because the software runs on the enterprise’s hardware.
What’s the bottom line here?
SAP On-Premise Applications Use Transaction Codes
Transaction codes are part of SAP’s on-premise applications.
The current versions of SAP’s most prominent on-premise applications are:
- SAP ECC (ERP Central Component)
- SAP CRM (Customer Relationship Management) 7.0
- SAP S/4HANA (Suite 4 High-Performance Analytical Appliance)
All these applications utilize the SAP GUI (Graphical User Interface).
Imagine the SAP GUI as a web browser, but only for SAP applications.
The SAP GUI kind of looks like you’ve been beamed straight back into the 90s:
A web browser takes you from one website to another on the internet—the SAP GUI takes you from one user interface or program to another in an SAP application.
SAP Transaction Codes vs. Website URLs
In a web browser, you invoke a website via the URL of the website that you enter into the web browser address bar. For example, “google.com.”
In the SAP GUI, you navigate to a specific SAP user interface or execute a program by entering an SAP transaction code into the SAP command field of the SAP GUI.
You find it in the top left corner of the SAP GUI next to a button with a check mark:
For example, to invoke the user interface where you can create a rush order, you enter the SAP transaction code “VA01” into SAP the command field in the SAP GUI.
You might be wondering whether the SAP GUI has a future:
The SAP GUI Will Survive
The SAP GUI is the standard user interface for SAP’s former ERP flagship products R/3 (Real-Time Tier 3) and ECC. As well as for its use to be #1 CRM on-premise system SAP CRM 7.0.
With the difference that in SAP CRM 7.0 the SAP GUI is intended for administrators and developers—the CRM 7.0 user interface for the key and end-users is the SAP CRM WebClient UI.
The SAP Web UI is similar to a website and accessible through a web browser.
However, SAP’s newest ERP application SAP S/4HANA still features the SAP GUI intended for administrators and developers.
But similar to the SAP Web UI, SAP S/4HANA features an additional user interface for its key and end users:
SAPUI5 combined with SAP Fiori.
The central entry point for an end-user in SAP S/4HANA is the SAP Fiori Launchpad.
The SAP Fiori Launchpad is a portal that contains SAP UI5 applications accessible by tiles. You can imagine the SAP Fiori Launchpad similar to the user interface of a mobile phone.
That SAP’s newest flagship product SAP S/4HANA still features the SAP GUI for administrators and developers is more than justified.
Nonetheless, though the SAP GUI might look outdated, for an administrator or developer it’s the most efficient way to navigate and use the SAP system.
On the contrary to an end-user or an administrator, a developer does not need a beautiful user interface in which he can click around.
As an administrator or developer, you need an user interface that allows you to interact with the system on a deeper technical level as efficiently as possible even if that means that it doesn’t look that good.
And for administration and developing is the way faster and more efficient than any other browser-related user interface SAP GUI. The SAP GUI will survive for a couple more decades to come.
Simple SAP Transaction Code Definition
SAP defines a transaction code as follows:
In a nutshell, an SAP transaction code is a key that you enter in the SAP GUI command field to navigate to a specific user interface or directly execute a program of an SAP on-premise application.
Originally, SAP transaction codes were 4 characters long, and the first character described the business area to which the transaction code belonged.
For instance, the SAP transaction code “MMI1” is used to create operation supplies in material management, and “FBU3” is used to display an intercompany document in finance.
Now, transaction codes can have up to 20 characters and contain namespaces such as the t-code “/ACCGO/BLKPP.” “/ACCGO/” is the namespace for agricultural contract management and “BLKPP” refers to the user interface for maintaining contract types and their statuses.
At the present moment, you can find over 120,000 official SAP transaction codes.
You can see all SAP transaction codes in the database table “TSTC:” enter the transaction code “SE16” in the SAP GUI command field to navigate to the data browser and then invoke the database table “TSTC” in the data browser.
SAP Transaction Codes vs. SAP Easy Access Menu
The SAP GUI also provides an user menu called SAP Easy Access to access specific user interfaces or to run programs instead of using an SAP transaction code. The menu is structured as a tree.
The SAP Easy Access menu is helpful if you just don’t know the t-code you need, but it takes quite a lot of time to navigate through it.
It’s possible to customize the SAP Easy Access menu and add transaction codes as favorites to access them quicker and without a lot of clicking. But often it’s still not as fast as just entering the transaction code in the command field.
SAP transaction codes are like shortcuts: You access functions or run programs faster than by clicking around in a user interface.
As a user becomes more familiar with their SAP applications, they’ll learn the transaction codes they use most frequently and their speed and efficiency in the application will improve.
Most SAP Cloud Applications Don’t Use Transaction Codes
On the contrary to SAP on-premise application, most SAP cloud applications don’t use transaction codes.
Many SAP cloud application are like a websites. That means you invoke different functionalities of the application through URLs in your web browser—your web browser is your SAP GUI.
SAP cloud applications use different technologies for their respective user interface that you see in your web browser but the most of those don’t work on the concept of t-codes.
Nonetheless, that most SAP cloud applications use different front end technologies, SAP tries to provide the same look and feel across all user interfaces with the SAP Fiori design guidelines.