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SmartAdvice: Best Practices For Using SAP In Multilingual Settings

Analyze your busines processes before selecting code pages when using SAP in a multilingual environment, The Advisory Council says. Also, don't count on a Windows NT Workstation security patch support extension; and there are two basic options when selecting an E-mail encryption technology for your sensitive mail.

Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers three questions of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to

Question A: What best practices would you recommend for the multilingual use of SAP?

Our advice: Best practices for multilingual support in a global SAP implementation include:

  • Standardize and improve consistency of central data repositories. Having a central coordination and SAP implementation team helps this.
  • Identify and clearly document business-unit and country-specific differences.
  • Map detailed process, procedures, policies, and required data relationships for each business unit within each country, and compare with SAP capabilities.
  • Establish a timeline for leveraging administrative capabilities that exist within SAP, while building consensus across geographies and cultures on relative importance, prioritization, and resources to customize administrative tasks that don't directly map to existing SAP capabilities. This lets a company generate return on investment early, while having a solid plan for long-term and lasting benefits from increased efficiencies and integrated processes.
  • Use technologies for handling conversion amongst a diverse set of languages. Three possibilities include: a blended-code page, dynamically switching among multiple code pages simultaneously, or Unicode. The first and second alternatives are SAP proprietary, while the third is an open standard backed by more than 50 key companies, including SAP.
  • A brief description of the technology underlying SAP multilingual support follows. We first describe alternative 1 above, the blended-code page, then give an overview of alternative 2, technology that enables switching among multiple code pages simultaneously. Finally, we relate Unicode industry standard to the above two technologies.

    A blended-code page allows conversion among a set of languages. The specific language characters that can be converted depend on which SAP-provided blended code page that's used. SAP has collected related languages in sets: Latin-1, for example, includes Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, German, French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.

    The code page resides in the database. The code page can either be the traditional ISO (International Standardization Organization) code page or a blended code page described above. As the page is in the database, the same code page is shared amongst the multiple application servers and the front-end users (presentation layer.)

    In the second alternative, multiple code pages reside in the database and the database is used as a byte store. Different code pages could be in use by different application servers and an application server can dynamically switch to a different code page depending on the demand from and languages used by front-end users coming in through the presentation layer. As a result, front-end users can use an even more diverse set of languages.

    Alternative 3, Unicode, is conceptually simple--the goal is to have a single code page that works globally. However, this requires more storage and transmission resources, since several of the languages have a large number of characters that require two bytes to represent a character. This can result in additional overhead for languages that have fewer characters and could be represented in one byte. SAP supports Unicode, and this will result in better, more uniform language support and simplify global data storage and exchange.

    -- Anurag Gupta

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