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The motivation Factors

So let us ask the question that what compels an organization running SAP to upgrade its ERP. The obvious reasons are the need for new functionalities which could cater the companies’ business needs and help them survive and flourish in complex and competitive business environment. Besides achieving the competitive edge over in their business domains their can be other factors that can encourage the organization towards SAP upgrade. Before dueling into those reasons lets just give you a brief on the release strategy for SAP applications which follow a “5-1-2” maintenance concept five years of mainstream maintenance, 1 year of extended maintenance at an additional of 2% of the maintenance fee and finally a  2 years extended maintenance at an additional 4 % fee. And even after that if your still don’t want to let go of the SAP release there is always customer specific maintenance which I think would not be cheap and personally not very encouraging. For more information on this subject you can logon to

I am pretty sure that most of the IT decision makers are not aware of his information and Which is why I am sharing this info with you and to make the readers realize the amount of additional investment they would be making in maintaining the SAP system if they choose not to move a head with the upgrade. I would encourage you to do the math on these numbers considering your SAP installation and I am sure you would be compelled to focus on the upgrade. Enlighten you with this information we get back to the subject matter which is the motivation factors for upgrading the SAP System, here are some of the important ones, 

New Features

The main reason for upgrading has always been the additional functionality .Every SAP Release brings new features and opportunities. The need for upgrade id mostly driven by business needs which in turns require new functionality in your ERP e.g. empowering your end user by integrating your Email System with SAP, Richer reporting and analytics to make timely and informed business decisions and etc. Now the choice must be made whether to implement and develop the new functionality or to go for an Upgrade. This is what we call a ”solution gap” now here we have to ask us that is the solution gap large enough to justify the SAP Release Upgrade? And since SAP upgrades are a complex task is it worth while investing time money and resource to achieve this solution gap with an SAP Upgrade and finally would our user base and business units support this thought process of SAP Release Upgrade. 

Out of Date Technology

Your sap system needs to be constant customized and enhanced in order to be able to support the evolving business needs. The time may and will come when the installed release will no longer be able to answer to your needs .Secondly staying on the same release becomes unsustainable from an infrastructure point of view e.g. new server platforms, new operating system, new RDBMS version, new communication and collaboration interfaces. 

Release Support

As stressed earlier in the opening paragraph that there is a maintenance limit of every SAP release and the extended support leads to additional cost but this will also cease eventually. At this point there are 2 choices Upgrade or a customer specific maintenance and the later is not very attractive as it implies increased cost for a depleted service level, as SAP no longer provides support packages for release that are out of maintenance. Surprisingly 35% to 40 % of the sap customers are compelled towards SAP upgrade based on this factor which would be either the ending maintenance period for their SAP Release or the additional maintenance cost.  

The Effort

Testing and End User training represent the major part of the Upgrade Project. The 2 processes take the most amount of time and effort. During the upgrade it is not advisable to implement new feature, modules or applications. The primary focus should remain on the Upgrade task and the new feature should be implemented afterwards in a separate project.After the upgrade of the development system you need to test all SAP Applications, Custom Developments and integrations to other applications (SAP and non SAP). It is best time to utilize your investment on SAP Solution Manager e-CATT tool (SAPtips Article: The Power of Automated Testing (I &II)).While you resolve the issues arising from the release upgrade the production system is still running in the old release hence a change management procedure need to be set up to support the production system.

SAP Technical Upgrade: Action Items

The sap upgrade is not just the technical activity less then 25% of the work goes into the technical area the major portion goes to testing and adopting to the new release as our upgrade would be effecting the business applications and processes. Going into the SAP Upgrade project you must realize the following

  • Every team member of the SAP Upgrade Project is aware of the Upgrade Methodology.
  • You have SAP Solution Manager installed and running as part of your SAP Installation.

The SAP technical upgrade consists of five major phases

  1. Preparing of the environment
  2. The Prepare Process
  3. Up Time of the Upgrade
  4. Down Time of the Upgrade
  5. Post Processing Activities

Now you must be wondering what actions do need to perform in these phases, so lets go through them one by one

Preparing the environment

Proper preparation of the upgrade is essential with it you run into excessive risk known and preventable problems, upgrade is a time consuming and complex task hence you need to be organized and maintain good documentation of your work. SAP has wide range of Upgrade Service portfolio like Going Live Functional Upgrade Check , SAP Safeguard ,SAP upgrade Hosting , SAP Weekend Support and many more the list is constantly being updated to cover various audiences and scenarios, have a look at the site for latest service listing. I am going to list the key activities that need to be performed in this phase and brief you on some of then

Establish a project plan

After reading some material and putting my experience and my colleges experience on upgrade project we came to a consensus of developing 3 different plans 

  • A master plans which reflect a high level view of upgrading all the different SAP system (development ,acceptance, production) and the satellite system (BW or SCM).·       
  • A detailed project plan for each system within the landscape describing the activities needed to be carried out before, during and after the technical upgrade·       
  • A detailed project plan describing the technical upgrade itself it contains the action taken during the technical upgrade.

Identify human resources, technical and functional

The upgrade project need the commitment support and attention of the management, different teams are needed to bring the project to successful completion example of such teams are; Project Management Team , Technical Upgarde Team, Functional and Domain Experts team. 

Evaluate suitability of current hardware

Resource requirement increases with every SAP release for if you have and operational SAP environment this increase is difficult to estimate and depends heavily on SAP modules and business process being used, the number of concurrent users and the amount of business data. Analyzing the current situation is the first step in estimating the load increase, this is why we emphasized earlier on having SAP Solution Manage Up and running before you start thinking of going for an upgrade , apart from providing the analysis on the current system through Early Watch Report , solution manage is also necessary for get the upgrade key from SAP. In addition to this sap also provides some online tool for capacity planning which can be accessed from  beside this many performance and tuning transactions exist in sap like DB02; ST03N; STAD; ST04, SM04; ST06 and etc.

 Apart from these activities there are some other activities which are to be executed in this phase like Examine software compatibility; Order desired SAP Upgrade Resource;Perform the necessary hardware software (OS,DB,SAP Plugin) upgrade; Obtain the upgrade media and documentation and Clean up the development environment

The Prepare Phase

A technical process that imports the tools required for the upgrade and performs the extensive checks to see whether the system is ready for upgrade. Careful preparation of the upgrade is the best guarantee that it will run with out any errors. The prepare program uses a series of check to support the preparation of the upgrade, it can be used without effecting the productive environment .The advantages of executing PREPARE are,

  • Uses the same upgrade tool as the upgrade (technically it is the special run mode of the upgrade program R3up.).
  • It displays highlights the object that would appear during the modification adjustment.
  • It forecasts the number of database conversions, space requirements, and request allocation of additional space if necessary.
  • It can be executed while the system is being used for productive purposes.

The PREPARE can be broken down into 7 different sub phases as schematically displayed in figure 1. image Figure 1: SCHEMATICAL DISPLAY OF PREPARE MODULES 

The PREPARE starts from the input phase in which information on the system to be upgrade and key generation activity through solution manger is carried out with some basic consistency checks. In the initialization phase along with some basic checks on the source system the SAP and the database release are verified and the needed space for the upgrade tools is verified. The import phase imports all the tools needed for upgrade into the database and installed in the upgrade directory.In the extension phase the add-ons, support packages, user modifications, and languages are installed in the source release are integrated into the upgrade. The extension phase is the most important phase in PREPARE as the target release of every SAP component and add-ons is decided. The extension phase lands into the integration phase in which all the support packages , add-ons ,customer modifications and additional transports are integrated into the upgrade. The integration and extension phase are closely related. The installation phase comprises of a shadow instance and shadow schema being created into the database. At this point all the verification tools are used to check the source environment meets the upgrade requirement. The general check module identifies many thing like version of both the system, looks at the locked objects and availability of free space for database, list tables which are not converted, DDIC and repository object with conflicts in the new release and etc. The luxury we have in the PREPARE is that it can be run and reset any number of times. Before the actual upgrade, but the successful execution of the PREPARE phase would insure a some what some sailing during the upgrade. 

Up Time of the Upgrade

This phase calls for activities like

  • Importing for all new data dictionary objects, programs and languages together with the latest support packages into the system in a non active stage.
  • Comparison of the new data dictionary object with those changed by the customer through modifications and notes.
  • Resolution of data dictionary conflicts.
  • Activation of data dictionary still in a special non active stage.
  • A mass pre upgrade conversion of large tables (ICNV). 

Down Time of the Upgrade

The activities performed in this phase are;

  • Activating all new repository objects (dictionary and development objects).
  • Changes at database level e.g. creation or conversion of tables.
  • Conversion program to adopt data into the system according to the changes data model.
  • Technical activities e.g. parameter changes etc.
  • Import custom modifications to the development objects
  • Key user testing

Post Processing

Release system to end users Start post production work in the new release. SAP

Upgrade to the new release is a tricky part, with this article I have tried to present some of the motivation factor which an organization may need to consider before committing itself into the upgrade project ,these motivation factors can be used by the management to really focus on developing SAP roles in their organizations vision statement and mission .Further more I have highlight some of the key phase and project activities that need to be carried in the SAP upgrade project although I have not gone into details of these phase , the objective was just provide the reader vision of how to execute the upgrade project

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