Many SAP projects have failed due to reasons which could have been avoided in the first place . The cost the company pays will always be in terms of business impact affecting revenue and loss of trust on the vendor.
In my experience with SAP upgrades there are few things a sap project manager or a Basis consultant should always watch out for .
- Think Production from the beginning : Even from the moment you start your development system upgrade, always think how will you handle the situation in production . Perform you due diligence in the production system and make sure you follow a similar upgrade strategy from Development to Production. Documentation of issues faced and taking care of them beforehand in subsequent upgrades is the key.
- Decide what is in-scope and out of scope – Never add last minute additions to the upgrade projects however tempting it might be . Several projects begin as a plan upgrade project but may add migrations and new implementation along with that . Always decide what’s in-scope and out of scope, Keep additional SAP project work out of your upgrade downtime .
- Decide on a Change management strategy : Your change freeze will depend on whether you are performing the upgrade in a parallel environment or on the existing environment. If the upgrade is on the existing environment your change freeze will be longer whereas if its on a parallel environment you can still continue changes for a long time but effort is needed as part of dual maintenance on the existing and new environments. Project Manager should take the change freeze into account and plan the project and timelines accordingly.
- Never Under estimate Testing : Technical upgrade is hardly 20% of the work done in upgrades . Make sure you give sufficient room for testing . Both Unit and integration testing should be carried out with the Development and quality systems. Ensure the test results are documented and any customization done as part of the integration testing have a corresponding transport which can be replicated in subsequent systems.
- Check compatibility : Upgrade to your target systems may need your DB and OS to be upgraded as well. Always check the SAP Product availability matrix to ensure your target SAP versions supports the DB /OS.
- Also ensure your 3rd party plugins/software are compatible with the target versions. There have been cases where some 3rd party soft wares which are very critical for business but is not supported by the target SAP version.
- Size your target system : Your target SAP version may need a much powerful hardware and memory .Ensure you size your hardware accordingly.
- Test your external interfaces before hand to ensure they work after the upgrade.
- Run Pre-go live and Post -golive checks. Make use of SAP’s go-live services. This can save a lot of trouble and embarrassment. The go-live service is pretty comprehensive and can provide in-depth information on memory
- Mock upgrades are crucial : Cant stress the importance of mock upgrades. But the mock environment should simulate the production environment else the purpose is defeated . Performing a test upgrade on the mock environment will enable us to build confidence and to put surprises out of way, before we perform the production upgrade . Some customers do go the extra mile to mimic production environment to the max. In fact I remember one customer where we had to perform multiple upgrades , put us in a room with a closed network with their complete production landscape replicated in the closed network.
- Reduce Downtime : Upgrade tool provides some options to reduce downtime like incremental conversion and increasing parallel processes during downtime.
- Plan your Golive :
Upgrade cut over can be planned in the weekend . Some of the important things to consider when planning for the cutover is the system downtime , User acceptance testing and release of system to the business.
Informing the business and vendors of the downtime in advance is crucial
- Manage the stability period – Perform post golive checks atleast a month after the completion of the upgrade so that the system would have collected adequate statistical data for better performance estimation. Performance tuning at the SAP and DB level can be carried out to optimize performance of the upgraded system
These are some of the things to watch out for also if you are planning to perform Unicode migration as well sap provides an option to perform Combined upgrade and Unicode migration which can be considered .
Some of the upgrades from very old version may require a twin upgrade where you may have to upgrade to a mid path before getting into the target level.
The need for the upgrade and the path to be taken for the upgrade are important aspects to be taken into consideration when venturing into a SAP version upgrade.