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How To Tackle an Upgrade: Implementing Functional Enhancements

In part 2 of this series, I focused on the first step of the upgrade approach – the technical upgrade – and how it creates the basis for functional and strategic improvements and provides access to new functionality. Today, I will provide you with an overview of the implementation of functional enhancements and explain how crucial project management is for this phase.

The focus during the first phase – 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. The second upgrade phase focuses on increasing business value by implementing those functions that are most valuable to your organization. These will be the foundation for future business innovation and improved process automation. Though this phase can be combined in a single project with the technical upgrade, statistics show that more than 80% of SAP customers approach this second phase a separate project, and it is usually conducted after a technical upgrade has been completed and overall system stability has been reached. SAP software modifications and custom developments are replaced with (new) standard SAP software functions during this phase. You can improve operational excellence by picking and implementing “low-hanging fruit” – functions that offer the greatest business benefit with the least effort.

Discovering which functions provide the most business benefit is highly unique for each organization. You’ll need to identify your crucial business requirements and the aspects of your business model that could change or be improved, and then map your needs to the functions available in SAP ERP 6.0. The solution browser tool can help you identify the concrete benefits of the upgrade, an element that’s also important to include when building your business case for upgrading.

Project and Risk Management

Take upgrades seriously: Plan and manage upgrades to SAP ERP 6.0 as carefully as you do other SAP projects, for example, by establishing comprehensive project standards and procedures.

The project preparation phase consists of the following steps:

  1. Complete detailed cost and effort estimation and gain approval;
  2. Determine a project governance structure;
  3. Allocate project resources;
  4. Set up a project kickoff meeting and have the team agree on other standards, procedures, and milestones.

In subsequent project phases, a project manager should conduct progress tracking, budget monitoring, capacity and resource management, efficient escalation management, and communication and change management as well as coordinate the application and technical teams.

Success Factors for an Upgrade Project

These factors are critical to the successful management of an upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0:

  • Appropriate governance structure and top management commitment, which ensure involvement of IT and business units, fast escalation and issue-resolution procedures, alignment with other IT initiatives, required resources, and so forth;
  • Sufficient capacity / headcount;
  • Establish a project team with suitable skillset;
  • Adhere to project standards and guidelines;
  • Clearly define project scope and reliable change management procedures, especially for the handling of the code-freeze period.

Standards and Procedures

To ensure the efficiency and transparency of the critical project tasks and overall progress of the project, these comprehensive standards and procedures are necessary:

  • Standards for project documentation, problem solving, progress tracking, and procedures for escalation;
  • Project approach and scope (for example, which functional enhancements should be implemented);
  • Roles and responsibilities of the internal and external resources involved;
  • Setup of project landscape and code-freeze procedures;
  • Guidelines and procedures for testing and training strategy.

SAP Solution Manager and the SAP Upgrade Road Map (Service Marketplace login required) content can help you define standards and procedures and ensure they are adhered to. There is also a Usage Guide available on how to use SAP Solution Manager in upgrade projects.

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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