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Author's profile photo Former Member

Unleash your Ferrari !!

Introduction

In my Why don’t you use your new Ferrari?, I had raised the questions – “why do customers choose to stop at ‘technical upgrade’ and never go for functional upgrade? What stops them from using the new features offered by the latest version that can potentially replace many custom programs?” Then we reviewed some of the common causes, genuine reasons (and favorite excuses) for not considering a functional upgrade. As a result, the new upgraded system is like a powerful Ferrari, lying unused in the garage!

Can we do something about it? Can we learn from those who are driving this change successfully? How are they able to pick new SAP functionality that will augment their business? How do they share this vision? Just how do they unleash their Ferraris and zoom away to success?

Let us examine these points in this blog.

Lessons from the ace drivers

            When we look at some of the successful upgrade initiatives, we can notice some of the distinguishing factors that may have led to their success. In each case, the change-driver makes informed decisions, shares the vision, rallies the troops and goes for the kill at the right time. Here are some of these key points:

Get under the hood

Successful leaders understand that a common reason for the inertia is ignorance. Many people do not have knowledge of the new features and functionality. And since they do not realize the true potential of the new system, they never try to tap it. Further, there are two common misconceptions at the heart of this problem:

  • “Not much has changed since 4.6” :Many managers had observed (or overheard) that since 4.6, the new versions had very limited new features. Not much has changed. It’s partially true. Change was gradual. But over time, all these little changes have added up to quite a substantial set of new features – and it’s time to take a serious look at them!
  • “Where do I look? There is no documentation from SAP”:Where as some are totally unaware, there are others who know that “there’s something new out there”. But don’t know where to look. There is still the old idea that SAP documentation is scattered and limited. It’s a project in itself to gather all the information (and a project, whose RoI cannot be justified!!)

            But a lot has changed now and there is plenty of help at hand. As the old proverb goes…

“He who knows not and knows he knows not: he is simple – teach him”

There are several enablers to help you in the Discovery phase of the project:

  • In this information age, there is a plethora of information that can help you understand and learn more about the new functionality. This SAP Community Network is the best place to start. (if you are reading this, you are already here, that’s a big step). Just browse around. You will find excellent articles on every topic possible. Look for the wikis on Upgrade to ECC 6.0 and Enhancement Packages in particular to get a glimpse of what’s new.
  • Take a look at the SAP’s solution browser tool. Its quite a versatile tool to start with! It helps you gauge the exact delta between your old and new versions. Its quite a versatile tool to start with. You can drill-down further and focus on the functionality that interests you. This is a good way to start, before you jump into the fine details in the release notes. In the Service Marketplace, you can get a lot of detailed information.
  • There are excellent books in the market that can bring you up to speed on the latest. You can use such these channels to identify which areas could be of interest to your organization.
  • If you don’t have the bandwidth for self-learning, there are several system integrators who offer help through discovery sessions or delta overview courses. If you do not have in-house expertise or the time, it is advisable to avail of these services, to jump start your Discovery phase. 

Take a test-drive

This is the next important step that is often overlooked. Once you have short-listed the new features, it is very helpful to configure a demo system and share it with other stakeholders in the organization. It’s a big help in evaluating the suitability and getting a buy-in. (the proof of the pudding!)

Remember the sandbox? (no, not the one you built sand castles in). It was a system dedicated to R&D, where you could try out new features and erase it at will. Over time, several organizations have decommissioned the sandbox, or diverted it to other ‘useful’ applications. Its time to go back to that sandbox again! SAP strongly recommends that the new business functions (innovations) in the enhancement packages should be tried and tested in the sandbox before you choose to activate them in your live system.

Make a compelling case

As with any other project, you have to clearly quantify the benefits of a functional upgrade. While you add up the costs and benefits, always remember to measure the cost of doing nothing! Continuing with your existing customized solution also incurs a cost of maintenance and upkeep. Factor in the time and effort spent in resolving production support issues arising from these custom codes and patches that were applied over time. This can be saved, if you migrate to the SAP standard solution, hence should be added to the benefits.

            Some of the other enablers and tools that you should take into account, when making your business case are:

  • Enhancement packages are modular: If you are implementing a new enhancement pack, you can selectively activate a business function. This allows you to pick-and-choose only those innovations that are relevant to you. Other business functions can remain dormant until you choose to activate them. This helps you control the impact of the change and reduce the testing efforts. So you can still get new functionality with limited budget and manpower.
  • There is an Impact Analysis feature: The traditional problem with introducing change has been to gauge the exact impact of the change and identify the processes and people who will be affected. There is a very strong feature in the enhancement packages called impact analysis. For each business function, you get a report of the complete list of transaction codes that will be impacted if the change is activated. You can also get a list of users who use these transactions. It’s a great start to analyzing the total impact. It helps you focus on attention on the affected stakeholders and present a proper case for change.
  • Use the ready test scripts: Another gargantuan task facing a manager is the total effort in unit and regression testing, to make sure that the changes have taken effect and nothing else has been broken. Note that the new business functions come along with a set of ready-to-use CATT test-scripts. These recommended test scripts can be used when a particular function has been deployed. It helps you manage risks and estimate your testing effort with greater confidence.
  • Consider Test Automation: Some of the agile organizations that plan to go for functional upgrades and enhancements have invested in testing automation. Having a bank of automated test-scripts that can be executed at will, can bring you great RoI. If you plan on implementing process improvements and other major projects in the coming years, you can consider this option. A great solution from SAP is TAO. It’s a great tool that works in conjunction with HP Quality Center and helps you automate your test scenario. By staging the input data, the various test scripts are executed and you can assess the test results in a detailed log file. Effectively managing and reducing your testing effort is a key to reducing project costs and risks.

These are just some of the helpful tools out there – it’s not possible to cover them all here. But with all these enablers and tools on your side, I hope the functional upgrade would seem to be less daunting! Once you realize it, you are on your way to exploring more by yourself and leveraging SAP to its full potential.

Conclusion

To recap what we discussed in this blog (and to apply it to your Ferrari), here is what you need to do:

  • Get under the hood. Check out your engine specs. Read more about what its capable of doing for you. Learn what you are missing out on.
  • Take a test drive. And take others for a spin too. Give them a taste of what’s new. It will sure whet their appetite for more.
  • Remember, every great Ferrari still needs a great road to race on. Don’t try to race in your neighborhood – you will only get a speeding ticket! You have to steer the car to a highway, get the right infrastructure in place, before you zoom away !!!

Even though you have a fast car, a specific destination in mind, and map to get there, there is still the journey ahead. In my next blog, we will talk more about the Realization phase. 

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      4 Comments
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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Just to continue your thoughts, when you look under the hood, you know that this Ferrari has two more cylinders that I can fire up and drive much faster to reach the goal. Once you know that I am sure, you will be tempted to take a test drive.

      Great points!! looking forward for your next Blog to find out how fast one can drive this Ferrari.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      The SAP fan in me would love all my clients to make use of all the cool new features. All the SIs of the world, and independents would love it too - since it means more $$ for them. But as a trusted business advisor to my clients - this is not good enough to make a case. Let me explain.

      1. If it ain't broken, why fix it? You have already made significant investment in making custom programs etc which serves your business quite well. And business process has not changed much to warrant a new solution. Cost of disruption and change, plus the sunk cost makes it a hard business case to propose.

      2. Why is the onus on the client to find out what is new by scanning all the scattered information? Why cannot SAP present it in a way that is easy for an internal IT dept to figure out?

      3. Does SAP themselves have an incentive in pushing new functionality to instal base after licensing / maintenance is taken care of ? For new products or new clients, I can imagine SAP sales force pitching functionality. But if SD has new functionality, what is the incentive for SAP to make thousands of customers implement it?

      4. In a complex landscape, hardware investments are not cheap. Not every client has a sandbox for all parts of SAP suite. Many SIs offer demos on their boxes to make a case. But I would think that SAP hosting these new solutions on the cloud for clients to try - may be for a small price - might be a good thing. Maybe they are already doing that, and just needs to advertise it.

      5. More functionality also means more support costs for the clients, especially when it is new. So this adds to the resistance to change.

      In short, I think status quo will prevail for a while.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Vijay,
      Very good points indeed. Not sure if you have read my earlier blog on this subject. I have discussed these obstacles in detail there. Besides the points you have listed here:
      * companies have already invested in non-SAP products and solutions to support the functionality that SAP did not, in the earlier days. Now, even if SAP has new features to offer in that area, the non-SAP systems can no longer be discarded now.
      * resistance from SMEs who were involved with the design of the customized solution, who tend to lose their creation, also acts as a strong impediment.

      However, to share my thoughts on some of the points you have raised -

      1) "If it ain't broken..." (pt #1)- If its really not broken you are in a good position. But are you sure? Check all the break-fix tickets over the years meant to rectify the problems with custom solution. This effort is scattered over time, hence falls off the radar. But if you put it all together, the efforts for a functional upgrade may pale in comparison to the time and effort spent in upkeep of the existing solution. If you can find 4-5 such improvement opportunities, the investment in a sandbox will also be justifiable (pt.#5)
      2) "Incentive for SAP..." (pt#3) - Maybe not. But how can we blame them? The car dealer cannot come to our door to check if you are using our car or not. Its our pain area, and we have to invest time and effort to find a way! That's where I am suggesting ways and means to get started!

      Thanks again, for your response.
      Ashutosh

      Author's profile photo Barbara Buchholz
      Barbara Buchholz
      Hi Ashutosh,
      Your blog greatly illustrates Application
      Lifecycle Management. Therefore I propose to also add this category to your blog for those scanning blogs by this specific category.
      What do you think?
      Kind regards and thanks, Barbara