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How To Tackle an Upgrade (2): Technical Upgrade

In How To Tackle Upgrades to SAP ERP 6.0 of this series, I explained that there are not several upgrade strategies to choose from but a strategic roadmap organizations need to follow. Today I’ll focus on the first step of this roadmap – the technical upgrade.

A pure technical upgrade is usually the enabler for growth and business innovation, providing the foundation that leads to the next steps in the upgrade approach. It reduces risk while allowing a staged introduction of new functionality at the pace that best suits your organization.

The impact of this phase on your business and business processes is very limited:

  • Previously used business functions are retained, which means no disruption;
  • Modifications and custom developments are reduced, in turn reducing the cost of operations and system complexity;
  • Unicode conversion is feasible. The benefit of a Unicode conversion is you can use different languages in your systems concurrently and in any combination. Note that a Unicode conversion is only necessary for those customers using Multi-Display, Multi-Processing technology or blended code pages. However, some organizations may want to perform a Unicode conversion to provide future support for languages with different code pages – for example, for users in Asian or eastern European countries.

In general, the focus during the technical upgrade is on risk mitigation – that is, upgrading to the planned release while keeping limiting downtime as short as possible without disrupting business activities. Total cost of ownership (TCO) is also lowered while a technical consolidation of the system landscape is also addressed.

The technical upgrade simply creates the basis for functional and strategic improvements and, according to our customers, its main value lies in providing access to new functionality.

Technical Upgrade Procedure

The technical upgrade itself consists of several project phases. Each phase in turn contains several project activities that are assigned to the various project team members. The actual upgrade of the system landscape is the core technical activity with the following steps:

  • 1. Creation of an upgrade project system (a sandbox or test system that is a copy of the current productive system);
  • 2. Upgrade of the upgrade project system;
  • 3. Upgrade of the development system;
  • 4. Upgrade of quality assurance system;
  • 5. Upgrade of productive system;

To gain a detailed view, see the presentation on Transition and Upgrade outlining every step of the upgrade (Service Marketplace login required).

Lessons Learned in Technical Upgrade Projects

Based on the experience of thousands of upgrades, we can offer you many tips and tricks:

  • To get a realistic forecast about the expected system downtime, a sandbox upgrade with a representative configuration and data set is highly recommended.
  • Conversion to the new SAP GUI version should be started early, even before the actual upgrade, in order to reduce overall efforts during the actual upgrade project.
  • The impact and dependencies in the system landscape should be examined early in the project in order to plan the potential adaption of third-party products and other systems in your system landscape.
  • Test upgrades provide useful insight prior to the real execution of the upgrade.
  • Test all aspects of the upgrade in the upgrade project system. For example:
  • Technical upgrade procedure;
  • Modification adjustments;
  • Custom developments in new release;
  • Upgrade customizing;
  • Functionality in new release;
  • Core business processes.
  • Reduce the dual maintenance period in order to decrease overall project efforts: Conduct high effort work in the upgrade project system before you upgrade the productive system landscape. This will reduce the downtime window between the upgrade of the development and the productive system.
  • Use a 3-system landscape for maintenance (only emergency corrections allowed)
  • Plan and communicate code freeze time to avoid follow-on efforts

Read more about how to tackle an upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0 in the next parts of this blog series and in our brand new guide Getting Started with an Upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0.

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