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Author's profile photo Leslie Castle

SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA – Customer Experiences in Optimizing Upgrades – Yes You Can Upgrade Regularly

As a UX specialist in the SAP S/4HANA Regional Implementation Group, I’m privileged to work with many of our SAP S/4HANA customers.  Many of these customers have been working with SAP S/4HANA for many years and have completed multiple upgrades in that time.

Several SAP Customers already do regular upgrades of SAP S/4HANA. Recently, we interviewed these customers to find out their best practice and recommendations for upgrades, based on their experiences.

One customer reported that they are now so efficient that their SAP S/4HANA upgrade production downtimes were typically 24 hours, including 2.5 hours of verification by each of IT and the business.

The purpose of this blog is to share the collected knowledge from these customers to help make your upgrade projects easier and more frequent.

Why should you upgrade regularly

To benefit from the latest innovations in SAP S/4HANA and SAP Fiori, you need to have a well-defined upgrade plan that is clearly understood by your project team/business and that can be executed as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

By keeping your SAP S/4HANA and SAP Fiori systems up to date, you realize the following benefits:

  • Get the latest innovations both on SAP S/4HANA and SAP Fiori as soon as they are available
  • Avoid ending up with unsupported software
  • Avoid having to implement lots of SAP Notes individually
  • Avoid diagnosing & reporting known issues that are already fixed
  • Keep current with the latest long-term SAPUI5 maintenance release
  • If upgrades are less frequent, you risk missing out on new SAP S/4HANA Innovations and the associated business benefits

By doing regular upgrades, the delta is not that big, so your upgrade project is easier and your team is more practised at successfully upgrading. The converse also applies – the bigger the gap between your upgrades, the bigger the delta and the more complex your upgrade project will be.

With properly managed regular upgrade projects, your business will come to accept this as a business-as-usual activity and will work around any downtime

What can I do to make it easier to upgrade

If you currently perform your system upgrades infrequently, you might be put off doing them due to concerns about the work involved. Don’t worry!

Here is a list of ways customers are using to make upgrades to your SAP S/4HANA and SAP Fiori landscapes easier.  

Practice:

  • Use best practice Change Management
  • Ensure you have a very streamlined test cycle
  • Make sure you have a good overview of Custom Developments – know what you have
  • Decide when to do your annual upgrade – e.g., avoid blackout periods, avoid peak periods such as Q4 if you have an online sales presence
  • Understand the complexity of your landscape(s), its touchpoints (e.g., on-premise and SaaS solutions) and integrations with other systems – reduce this complexity if possible
  • Focus on a technical upgrade only:
    • This separates out the work and reduces risk.Minimise the upgrade scope as much as possible
    • Include mandatory “must move” changes only – e.g. replace obsolete apps
  • After the upgrade, implement new features and apps:
    • This is the time to introduce successor apps for apps that are still available but are deprecated or have a successor. This is also the time to implement new features and innovations.

Tip: Refer to the SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA Upgrade Impact Analysis blog post on how to find obsolete, deprecated, and available apps with successors.

Tooling:

  • Use the SAP S/4HANA Readiness Check tooling. You can now use the readiness check for upgrading from one SAP S/4HANA version to another, as well as migrating from SAP ECC to SAP S/4HANA
  • Use the Upgrade Impact Analysis tool in the SAP Fiori Apps library. Refer to the blog post SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA Upgrade Impact Analysis
  • Consider using an automated test tool to automate the post-upgrade testing of your SAP S/4HANA and SAP Fiori landscapes. This will require a very worthwhile one-time upfront investment to set up and configure your automated test tool. A tool option could be Tricentis Test Automation for SAP Solution Manager 7.2 or SAP Cloud ALM, for example
  • Use the SAP Software Update Manager for the execution of your upgrade. Refer to:

The Best Practice upgrade recommendations based on the project lifecycle are outlined below:

Know your Governance Considerations

  • Prepare the scope and schedule of your upgrade project
  • Purchase and implement test tooling (this is a one-off up-front and very worthwhile investment)
    • Refer to the ‘Testing’ section below
  • Ensure a sandbox SAP S/4HANA system will be made available.
    • The sandbox should be on your target version of SAP S/4HANA and have a copy of data from production.
  • Outline your technical upgrade approach
  • Outline your functional upgrade approach
    • Build in a post-upgrade functional phase where you implement new features available in your target SAP S/4HANA version
  • Consider using the SAP User Experience Advisory and Design Service which offers the following benefits:
    • Knowledge transfer in key areas within UX and UX focused SAP BTP to customer team
    • Definition of the UX Transformation and/or UX Adoption Planning to include business value, roadmaps, and app selection
    • Adequate planning and enablement that allows focused and efficient implementation of UX improvement
    • Identification of new use cases and business scenarios that lead to increased productivity
    • Realization of UX based values such as higher adoption and consistent usage, lowering complexity and making system usage more intuitive, and mirroring physical processes optimally to role-based activities

Planning your upgrade

Before starting your planning exercise, ensure you clearly understand the current SAP release strategy – refer to SAP Release Strategy.

Additionally, you should consider the following:

  • Run the SAP Readiness Check for the proposed upgrade. The SAP Readiness Check tool for SAP S/4HANA upgrades provides you with an overview of the most important aspects of a version upgrade for an SAP S/4HANA system and is further documented below:
  • SAP Readiness Check – Feature Scope Description
  • Functions of SAP Readiness Check for SAP S/4HANA Upgrades. It is important to note that the SAP Readiness Check will capture all major changes, but smaller ones (e.g., Value Help authorisations) may not be captured until you run your test scripts
  • If you have any Add-ons in your system, check their compatibility with the SAP S/4HANA version you are upgrading to. Please note that there might be differences between released Add-on versions for SAP S/4HANA on-premise and SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition release versions.
  • For planning purposes, you should consider reviewing the What’s New Viewer – SAP S/4HANA to work with your business and decide what features and innovations you want to implement after the technical upgrade has been done. One approach is to trial new features and innovations in the sandbox system in parallel to the technical upgrade – this is important, so you do not miss new features and innovations.
  • Scope / prepare testing as much as possible, ensure for new features / modules that test data is available
  • Ensure you have a test coordinator for each country or cluster of related (smaller) countries
  • Review your test cases after each upgrade to ensure not too much is tested and test duplication across countries is avoided
  • Get early feedback on the potential impact of your upgrade e.g.,successors for deprecated SAP Fiori apps. Refer to the microlearning video – Finding available SAP Fiori Apps and the SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA Upgrade Impact Analysis blog post

Create a detailed cutover plan that is clearly understood by the project team

You should create a detailed cutover plan and test this plan with mock upgrades, after each mock upgrade you should update the cutover plan with lessons learned information. You should also consider the following:

Dual%20Landscape%20Synchronization%20%28Retrofit%29

Dual Landscape Synchronization (Retrofit)

 

Upgrading your sandbox system

Your Sandbox system is a good place to safely check any area of major concern such as custom apps and critical business processes. It is a good idea to avoid surprises that you upgrade your sandbox systems from a copy of production.

Upgrade your sandbox environment to your target SAP S/4HANA release on FPS01 or higher. When upgrading, you want to go straight to a long-term maintenance release to optimize support. It is worth noting that FPS00 uses an innovation version of SAPUI5 which goes out of maintenance once FPS01 is released. FPS01 will have the long-term maintenance for SAPUI5. Refer to SAPUI5 Versions Maintenance Status.

At this stage of your upgrade, it is important that the following tasks are completed:

  • Ensure you can manage a quick turnaround of SPAU/SPDD changes
  • Good documentation of your custom developments and configurations is essential – with this information you can manage SPAU/SPDD changes in a timely manner during an upgrade

Upgrading your development to production system landscape

Upgrading the development system is the start of your real upgrade project and is where most of the upgrade work will happen. Most items will then be transported to your QA test environment where most of your testing will occur. These items will finally be transported to your production system.

  • Copy your production systems to test systems to provide a dry run environment
  • Upgrade your development and test systems before upgrading production
  • Stick to a 6-week code freeze schedule with a reduced maintenance landscape
  • Manage your Custom Code: One customer mentioned successfully using a partner solution to highly automize custom code conversions. A rules-based approach is used to remove false positives. This approach can be used for conversions and then the first few subsequent upgrades. Once your code is clean, you can use the ABAP test cockpit thereafter, this will ensure only SAP S/4HANA compliant code can run and consequently there are fewer issues with custom code.

Testing

Testing is the most important task in upgrading your SAP S/4HANA. Make a concerted effort to automate your testing over the course of time to speed up your upgrades. It maybe that you automate a couple of critical business process initially and that you automate more testing each time you upgrade – thereby decreasing your upgrade time. You should consider the following:

  • Use a test management solution such as Solution Manager Test Suite to create and manage defects and incidents across your SAP S/4HANA and SAP Fiori landscapes
  • Use a test automation product (e.g., Tricentis Automation) alongside the test management solution you have chosen (in SAP Solution Manager you can specify a test as automated and link this to a test automation product). Refer to SAP Test Automation with Tricentis or Tricentis Tosca

How to avoid your custom extensions and enhancements adversely affecting an upgrade

The recommended approach is to keep a clean core in your SAP S/4HANA environment in order to facilitate easier upgrades. The benefits are as follows:

  • Reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) by making your upgrades eventually non-events from a custom code point of view:
    • Reduce test efforts for your business users
    • Reduce adaptation efforts for your developers
    • IT service providers being able to offer upgrade projects at a fixed price
  • Speed and Innovation:
    • Be able to easily implement SAP Innovations and leverage the resulting business benefits
    • React quickly to changing business requirements
  • Be cloud ready:
    • If you run your SAP S/4HANA system on premise – already lay the foundation today to move to the cloud from a custom extension perspective

When developing extensions and enhancements, it is important that you consider the following:

If you have an On-premise system, refer to How to bring your ABAP custom code to SAP BTP ABAP Environment

Other Considerations

You should be aware of the following considerations:

  • SAP do not detail the release strategy of 3rd party libraries (e.g., Tomcat or Log4J) that may be used in SAP products, however if there is a dependency on 3rd party libraries then these would be in the upgrade scope. For urgent security upgrades refer to SAP Security Note FAQs and for a summary of released security patches notes refer to SAP Patch Day Blog
  • SAP S/4HANA upgrades use the same toolsets across ALL hosting options (such as SAP S/4HANA on-premise, SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition)

What’s next after upgrading

After your upgrade it is time to plan for the new innovations you wish to deploy. As mentioned before, this should be a separate project from the technical upgrade. In the section ‘Planning your upgrade’ you should have used the  What’s New Viewer – SAP S/4HANA to work with your business and decide what innovations you want to implement. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to try out (in your sandbox system only) these new innovations alongside the technical upgrade. This will mean you are fully prepared for your innovation implementation project.

Run a retrospective discussion with your team to learn what can be further improved for your next upgrade project.

Summary

The approaches mentioned in this blog come from real life customer input and have been successfully tried and tested on many occasions. These approaches will allow you to gain real business benefits obtained by leveraging new innovations.

The recommendations mentioned here mean that your business will come to accept regular SAP S/4HANA upgrades and plan around them, thereby ensuring a very good business and IT relationship.

With these guidelines you will be able to ensure the best possible upgrades for your SAP Fiori landscape and thereby make your business leverage the latest SAP Fiori innovations as soon as they are available – increasing productivity, user satisfaction, customer loyalty & solution adoption.

Becoming an SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA guru

You’ll find much more on the community topic page for SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA

Other helpful links in the SAP Community:

Brought to you by the SAP S/4HANA Customer Care and RIG.

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      Author's profile photo Sriram Rekapalli
      Sriram Rekapalli

      Thank you Leslie. Nice coverage of best practices and the latest tooling options, from an upgrade context. We are one of those religiously upgrading to stay on the latest release as we see clear benefits from upgrade projects so far. Glad to see improvements by SAP from a tooling perspective in this context.