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The Famous SAP Challenge “Upgrade”

Why we need SAP upgrade?


In today’s cut throat competition Organizations have to be always on their toes to manage competition. This requires proper management and proper IT systems that can give that additional advantage to face this stiff competition. This requires constant upgrade of different IT systems used by these organizations which in turn can adapt to the latest technologies and additional functionalities. ERP systems like SAP being one of them. The upgrade of a system can be viewed as necessary because of the following reasons.

  • Business users are requesting new functionality
  • Reduction of interfaces to legacy systems
  • Technical infrastructure is out of date
  • End of maintenance
  • Merger or Acquisition
  • Extended maintenance costs are about to go up



The question


Upgrading an ERP system is not an easy job, especially, when the current systems are tried and tested, proving a boon to the Organizations overall management, optimizing costs, thereby resulting in increased profits.


There will be many complexities that may come in the way of the upgrade like:


  • Current operations of the organization might be affected
  • Ongoing projects can be affected
  • Does the Organization have the will to go for it
  • What training logistics will be required to train the end user
  • Will this upgrade be accepted by the end user since he is not used to the changes that may result as regards to the upgrade
  • And most important of all, will this upgrade will be successful



So does it make sense, to upgrade the system involving such huge complexities?


The Solution


The answer to all the above questions is a big YES.

In order for the upgrade to succeed with a proper upgrade methodology you also require


  • Discipline
  • Planning
  • Team Work





You must have the discipline to plan the upgrade and follow the plan. Your solutions can still be creative, but you must be methodical about what you do and how you do it. If you deviate from the plan to fix a problem without documenting it, you may not be able to duplicate that deviation on other upgrades. Conversely, if you deviate from the plan, you may create a problem. The upgrade could even fail because you did not perform the procedures correctly. Unfortunately, a number of people do upgrades (and other tasks) without the required discipline. As a result, problems occur that otherwise should not.




Do not expect to open the upgrade kit and immediately begin the upgrade without proper planning. A plan is a road map. It tells you where you are going and how to get there. You must be able to reliably duplicate the upgrade for each of your systems. The only way to duplicate an upgrade is to follow a plan. If you do not have a plan documented, your ability to reliably repeat the process for each system decreases. If you cannot repeat the upgrade identically on each system, the end result may be a failed upgrade. Thus, discipline and planning are interrelated.




An upgrade is not just a mySAP Technology (SAP Basis) task. The Upgrade requires many different groups to succeed. Each group must do their part in the upgrade for it to be successful. These groups include


  • mySAP Technology
  • Functional / Business process staff
  • Technical Staff
  • End users
  • Training staff
  • Partners or Consultants
  • SAP



SAP also provides the SAP Solution Manager which is a helpful tool in the upgrade process by providing centralized control.

Also SAP provides an Upgrade Roadmap which can be used in upgrading the system so that we don’t miss out on anything. It can be downloaded from

Also to support the above YES the following should be taken into account.


SAP Upgrades Deliver Business Improvements:-


Although ERP upgrades remain a risky endeavor, recent research suggests that lessons have been learned. An AMR Research report highlighting recent improvements in ERP upgrades notes that upgrade schedules are becoming more predictable and infrastructure costs are declining.

Upgrades also deliver benefits. Another AMR Research report, one focused entirely on SAP users, indicates that companies that execute a successful SAP upgrade derive the greatest benefits from business improvements. The top five business improvements SAP upgrades deliver include:

  • Access to new functionality;
  • Business process improvements implemented as part of an upgrade project;
  • Improved ease of use;
  • Lower maintenance costs; and
  • Lower cost of ownership.



The report notes that organizations realized a lower cost of ownership following SAP upgrades than organizations with other ERP systems realized following their upgrades.

The report also indicates that SAP upgrades cost roughly 13 percent less than the average cost of upgrading an ERP system:



From the above explanations it can be figured that upgrades are a cost effective way of adding more value to your system and hence should be surely given a thought.

The below statistics provided by ASUG give an indication for the upcoming future for SAP upgrades.


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  • I would add how the technical group's reputation is.   A good reputation can help convince upper management it is a good idea.  (We have done upgrades before, and they have gone basically well.)  A bad reputation will make for an impossible task of convincing upper management.  (We have done upgrades before, and well, they haven't shut the business down.)

    Next would be finding things that will really help the business within the upgrade.  Something that someone who is really tuned into the business can get them excited about.  We would only spend the money for an upgrade for a return on investment.  The more people buy in the more support you will have.  The better the upgrade.

    Consultants?  Choose them wisely.  They can help or hinder your upgrade.  Make sure they are technically sound.  Interview them.  Be sure the person you are interviewing is the person that will work on your project.  How likely are the people to change during the project?  You may want some guarantees.  You also need to make sure they agree to follow common programming standards.

    Are you upgrading and looking at your custom code too?  You may be able to remove some of the old code.  If that's possible, then you can find some more savings - maintenance costs will go down.  More flexibility - and more...  I would say do your home work.  Understand the new functionality.

    Prepare...  Spend the time in a duplicate system as you production system.  Do the upgrade.  See what really is affected.  SPAU/SPAD will help.  Read the notes.  And more...

    One blog - one response...  There are so many things to consider.  So many reasons you'll have to have to convince your upper managment that the cost is worth the return.  Mine thought is that your organizations "good well" or reputation is the number one thing!

    Good thinking blog - another one that made me think - love it!


    • "Consultants? [...] Be sure the person you are interviewing is the person that will work on your project."
      Only possible when hiring freelances, almost impossible when giving the contract to a consulting firm, as there you don't hire a specific person but the knowledge and experience of the company. OK, this comes down to a few outperformers, but rarely you can write in the contract that these will work X hours a week for you.


      • Ahhhh - but see that's the problem.  They send in the golden goose, and you get the guppy.  You know the poor person who this is his first implementation / upgrade.  I guess somehow write the contract so that if someone is not capable as proved by not performing to standards, not getting things done... However.  There has got to be a way to write this up so that if you don't get consultant XYZ, consultant ABC is just as good or better.

        • You only got the recent graduate? Well, luckily for your company the consulting firm hired is famous for it's internal trainings, knowledge sharing culture, mentoring programs, etc.
          If the consulting firm isn't delivering as promised, only thing I know that helps is talking directly with senior management. But then again, who will get into trouble is the recent graduate 🙁
          • Oh they never say they are a recent graduate.  🙂  They just get their code sent back several times for bad coding practices. 

            We'll figure something out.  It's just going to take a while.  We are thinking about requiring an interview on all consultants brought in by the consulting firm prior to them working on the project.

            It may be impossible.  There are a lot of people involved in one project.


          • Here is what I think...

            One of the benefits to going with a boutique, specialized firm instead of a handful of contractors or a giant company is that to keep their reputation in the industry, they need to keep their promises.  Continuing to bait-and-switch is a great way to lose customers.  You may find the best results with a company that requires a certain level of expertise to be able to even step onsite and who will back up their promises with actual solutions and experienced people.  Go with employees, not contractors, so that the company you hire not only vets the talent on your project, but puts their name behind it too.

  • These same concepts can be generalized to other on-premise systems such as CRM.  Technically the upgrade from an older CRM system to 7.0 is like a partial re-install so planning and evaluation is even more important.

    A technical sandbox IMHO is the key in helping make an upgrade successful.

    Take care,


    • Hi Stephen,

      Thank you and I agree with you. We need effective  planning and evaluation for all kind of upgrade. Many customers don’t know that upgrades are really tedious if they don’t preplan it well.
      E.g SAP BI 4.0,  SAP XI 3.0 to PI 7.1 & SAP Portal 7.3.

  • I like your blog and it has got good contents. I think, I would also put some risk management contents as well. There are so many risk factors involved, when any company shoot for a SAP upgrade. Overall, nice blog Arpit. keep up the good work.