Characteristics are the criteria in Profitability Analysis (CO-PA) according to which you can analyze your operating results and perform differentiated sales and profit planning. The combination of the values for the characteristics in an operating concern is called a Profitability Segment.


The characteristics you define are stored in a field catalog. Using the function Maintain operating concern, you can select characteristics from this field catalog to define your operating concerns.


The semantic meaning of a characteristic is determined by the data element to which it is assigned. The data element contains the texts that appear on the screen and in lists for the characteristic.

The technical attributes (data type, length of the values, and value set) of a characteristic are determined by the domain. The valid characteristic values determined in the value set by the data type and value length can also be specified explicitly in a check table. If a characteristic is assigned to a check table, it can only take on those values that are contained in the check table. You can assign texts to the values contained in the check table. These texts are displayed on the screen whenever you work with those values.

You can arrange the values for a characteristic hierarchically in a characteristics hierarchy.

Characteristics can be categorized according to how and when they are defined:

Standard Characteristics in the SAP System

A number of fundamental characteristics are automatically predefined in every operating concern. These include the product number, company code, billing type, business area, sales order, customer, and the controlling area, to name but a few.

In addition, each type of Profitability Analysis has its own fixed characteristics:

(account-based CO-PA)

You can display the fixed characteristics in Customizing. Choose Data Structures ® Operating Concern ® Maintain Characteristics. Then select the option All characteristics ® Display, and then Extras ® Fixed fields.

In addition to the fixed characteristics, a number of other predefined characteristics are available in the field catalog. Such characteristics include customer group, customer district, and country, and they can be added to your operating concern if desired.

Customer-Defined Characteristics

In addition to these predefined characteristics, you can also define your own additional ones. You define these in the field catalog— independent of any client or operating concern —and can later add them to your operating concerns.

You create characteristics in Customizing under Structures ® Operating Concern ® Maintain Characteristics. There are a number of ways to define characteristics. Moreover, the way you define a characteristic influences its attributes.

You can define your operating concerns by using characteristics that already exist in other applications. For example, you can select fields from the tables for customer master records, material master records, and sales documents. You can also select the partner roles defined in the structure PAPARTNER in the Sales and Distribution (SD) application and use them as characteristics in Profitability Analysis.

The table that you take a characteristic from is referred to as that characteristic’s origin table. Characteristics that you take from the SAP table are then derived automatically from the key fields in the SAP table. The system creates the necessary derivation steps automatically.

Your operating concern contains the characteristic Customer district, which comes from the sales data in customer master table KNVV. The key fields of this table are the customer number, sales organization, distribution channel, and division. When you make a posting that contains these four characteristics, the system automatically derives the correct customer district.

For more detailed information about derivation of characteristics, see Characteristic Derivation.

The characteristic inherits all the technical attributes of the field in the origin table, including all the valid values that exist for that characteristic. These values are stored in a "check table" or in the corresponding domain. In Profitability Analysis, the characteristic can only take on values from this value set. In most cases, texts also already exist for a characteristic with a defined value set.

You can use the function "Transfer Fields from SAP Table" to transfer special characteristics such as customer hierarchy and product hierarchy into CO-PA. You can find specific fields in the appropriate SAP tables. (For more information, choose Structures ® Operating Concern ® Maintain Characteristics in Customizing)

If the characteristic categories are insufficient for your needs, you can define completely new characteristics from scratch for exclusive use in Profitability Analysis. To derive values for these newly defined characteristics, you need to create your own derivation rules.

To define such a characteristic, you need to specify the technical name, a description, a short text, a title, and the data type and length of its values. The texts you enter for this characteristic are used to identify the characteristic on transaction screens and in lists.

If you only want a characteristic to have a fixed number of values (which should generally be the case), you need to create this characteristic by maintaining corresponding values. When you do, the system automatically creates a check table and a text table for this characteristic. You maintain the permitted values and their texts in Customizing under Master Data ® Characteristic Values ® Maintain Characteristic Values.

If you do not want to limit the values permitted, you can create the characteristic without maintaining any corresponding values. Values entered later for these characteristics will only be checked by the system to see that they use the correct data type. No texts exist for these values.

Another way of defining characteristics is to use the option that references existing values. This lets you create a characteristic by referencing a data element that already exists in the system. The characteristic inherits all the attributes of the data element.

Note that it is not possible to use two characteristics with the same data element in the same operating concern.

Dependency of User-Defined Characteristics (Compounding Characteristics)

You can make a user-defined characteristic dependent on another characteristic in your operating concern by compounding them. You do this in Characteristics maintenance with the function Display compound, where you specify one or more higher-level characteristics for a user-defined characteristic. The subordinate characteristic can only be defined in connection with the higher-level characteristic. This means that you can only determine a characteristic value for the subordinate characteristic when a dependency exists linking it to the characteristic value of the higher-level characteristic. A subordinate characteristic can thus never be used on its own.

A region defined as "North-East" can only make sense when dependent on a country. For this reason, the region is placed in a dependency-relationship with the country. In this example, you would assign the higher-level characteristic Country to the characteristic Region in characteristics maintenance. The characteristic Region could not, for example, be copied to a report on its own; you would have to transfer the characteristic Land as well. Were you not to do so, you would be unable to use the region as a basis for data analysis.

Overview: Characteristic Categories

An overview of the characteristic categories is shown below: