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Extracting data from SAP ECC: what are the options?

Extracting data from SAP ECC for analyses and reporting purposes is usually done using BI ETL tools, for example SAP Business Warehouse. However, when data is needed for a regular robust maintainable process, and there are no ETL tools available, what options are there?

In general, there are four options available that all have a certain level of standard SAP versus custom build. For future maintenance it is always recommended to use the standard as much as possible, but sometimes it is needed to build custom solutions.

Obviously, the first and easiest choice that comes to mind is the use of the standard reports in SAP. Typically for financial related extractions, for example to feed a consolidation tool, these are sufficient.
Second, reports that make use of customized tables like the Profitability Analysis (COPA) and Logistic Information Systems (LIS). To a certain extend these can be sufficient.
Third,  the use of SAP query, where it is possible to join tables and add additional fields.
Finally, and this is completely custom build, is the use of an ABAP program. The upside is, everything is posiible, the downside is, for any future changes you will require programming skills.

I like to elaborate  more about the use of SAP query, since I find this one the most flexible and robust option.
An SAP query can be executed in the background, and the output of the query can be written to a dedicated location on the SAP server, in a specified format (this will require the implementation of an SAP User Exit). The output file can then be (automatically) picked up to be used as input file for uploading the data in another application.
Further, an SAP query can be built on the development system and transported through the landscape, in this ways it is possible to test it properly and have protection from accidental changes.
And finally, an SAP query is a tool for the analytic business users, so they will understand how the data is extracted, this makes it easier to maintain. But also, when in dire need, it is possible to add ABAP code at certain dedicated places to make sure that the flexibility is there to meet the users demands.

In conclusion, when data extraction from SAP ECC is needed, check the four options mentioned. Depending on your requirements, choose the one that fits the best. In my view SAP query is one of the best options.