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Consider These 3 Questions When Deciding to Upgrade to mySAP ERP

by Jason Fox | SAPinsider

October 1, 2005

An upgrade to mySAP ERP should be easier than previous SAP R/3 upgrades. Learn where to find vital upgrade information and tools, what the best approach to a mySAP ERP upgrade project is, and how to tackle custom modifications, the biggest upgrade challenge you’ll encounter as you move to mySAP ERP.
 

I often have the opportunity to speak with customers who are considering an upgrade to their SAP systems, and a few common themes are regularly discussed during those meetings. When an SAP customer first thinks about making the move to mySAP ERP, I routinely hear the following questions:

1. Where can we find more information about upgrading to mySAP ERP?

2. What's the best approach to an upgrade?

3. What's the biggest challenge we will face with our upgrade?

This article will answer these questions and provide you with numerous links and resources for more information. You'll also learn how to arrange for your own SAP Service Select for upgrades assessment, and what this service comprises.

1. Where Do We Find More Information?

The best and most authoritative repository of information about upgrading is the SAP Service Marketplace (http://service.sap.com). Given the enormous quantities of information available at the Service Marketplace, finding the specific information you need can be daunting if you are not sure where to look. Fortunately, information specifically relevant to upgrades can be found at the SAP Upgrade Info Center (http://service.sap.com/upgrade), the main landing page for customers planning and executing system upgrades. The site contains links to hundreds of documents related not only to mySAP ERP transitions, but also upgrades to mySAP Customer Relationship Management (mySAP CRM), SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW), SAP NetWeaver Portal (formerly SAP Enterprise Portal), and other SAP offerings (see sidebar below).

One of the key tools you can find at the Upgrade Info Center is the Upgrade Roadmap version 2.0, SAP's upgrade methodology, which contains application, technical, and project management information to help guide your upgrade project from planning to go-live. The Upgrade Roadmap contains phases (from project preparation to production cutover and support), accelerators (release notes, documentation, and various links to SAP — a total of 246 accelerators in all), and deliverables (such as sample project plans and issue-tracking documents).1

A Wealth of Upgrade Information Resources

I frequently hear from customers who are unsure about where to turn for more information on upgrading their SAP systems. A wealth of vital upgrade information awaits you at the SAP Service Marketplace. I strongly urge SAP users to visit the following online resources before, during, and after your upgrade projects:

2. What's the Best Approach to an Upgrade?

When describing mySAP ERP, words such as innovative, open, insightful, and flexible come to mind. I believe that it is safe to say SAP R/3 was never discussed in those terms. As more and more customers come to understand the vision of mySAP ERP and realize that along with this application platform they get functionality they have always wanted — a data warehouse (SAP BW), advanced HR capabilities, consolidation methods with SAP Strategic Enterprise Management (SAP SEM), and perhaps most importantly the SAP NetWeaver integration platform — they begin to see how different and extensive mySAP ERP is when compared to SAP R/3. With this realization comes uncertainty about how to plan upgrades to mySAP ERP and how to take advantage of all of this great new functionality.

Customers are always surprised when I tell them that their upgrades need not be complex, and in fact should be easier than any other SAP R/3 upgrade they have ever performed — provided they approach it properly.

So what is the best approach to a mySAP ERP upgrade project? Customers must ask themselves the following questions:

  • First and foremost, what do we want out of mySAP ERP? Or in more familiar terms, do we want to perform a "technical-only" upgrade or an upgrade with new functionality?

  • Do we already have SAP BW or SEM or NetWeaver Portal running?

  • What functions do we need on day one? Can our upgrade project initially make the move to SAP ERP Core Component (ECC 5.0), the replacement of SAP R/3, with a follow-on project to add other SAP components?

  • How long do we want our upgrade project to last, and how much impact do we want this project to have onour organization?

As a general rule, introducing new functionality into an upgrade project increases the scope, thereby increasing some mixture of the project duration, project cost, or project resources required. It also will increase the overall impact (or risk) of your upgrade project upon your organization.

I frequently recommend that customers start by performing a technical-only upgrade, but follow that up almost immediately with a functionality upgrade. By upgrading technically first, you bring your entire organization under the same platform with minimal change; by adding new functionality in a later phase, you affect a smaller portion of your organization.

However, if your upgrade to mySAP ERP requires extensive end-user training, and the new functionality you want to layer on top affects the same user group as the ERP upgrade, then I would advocate doing both transitions at the same time. For example, if a customer currently on SAP R/3 4.0B plans to upgrade to mySAP ERP and is considering implementing mySAP Supplier Relationship Management (mySAP SRM) for their purchasing requirements, then I would implement everything at once because the differences between SAP R/3 purchasing and purchasing in mySAP ERP can require substantial training.

3. What's the Biggest Upgrade Challenge We Will Face?

Most customers moving to mySAP ERP are upgrading from SAP R/3 version 4.6C and below. One of the largest challenges these customers will encounter is migrating their custom modifications, including user exits, customer programs, customer fields, and customer transactions (see Figure 1).

Figure 1
SAP Upgrade Survey Results, Indicating mySAP ERP Upgrade Challenges

For example, as a Unicode-compliant system, mySAP ERP is designed to support multilanguage capabilities in a single system. As a result, this requires a more intensive ABAP syntax check. Even if your organization is currently not converting its systems to Unicode, you may have to modify many of your custom programs and fields to conform to this new standard.2

On average, the modification adjustment time will account for approximately 30 percent of the total upgrade time. This 30 percent includes not only the ABAP syntax check, but also the time and effort spent reverting custom code back to the Unicode standard. The more custom programming you have means the more adjusting and testing required to upgrade.

SAP provides standard tools to help with ABAP program error recognition, along with a wide variety of consulting services to identify and correct custom code issues. Transaction code UCCHECK, for example, identifies custom objects — including programs and fields — that will not pass the Unicode ABAP syntax check. Transaction code SCI identifies issues with performance, security, and syntax in customer-specific programs.

Note!
To address the challenges of upgrading customization-rich industry solutions, SAP has introduced the "switch and enhancement framework" technology with the mySAP ERP 2005 release.3

Customers on SAP R/3 version 4.6C can take advantage of a couple OSS notes that will allow them to download the functionality provided with UCCHECK and SCI. By downloading and running these programs in your current environment, you can get a great head start on your upgrade projects.

Next Steps: SAP Service Select for Upgrades Assessment

After reading this article and visiting the SAP Service Marketplace, you likely will decide you still need more assistance in determining your upgrade roadmap to mySAP ERP. To help SAP R/3 and mySAP ERP customers plan and answer their upgrade-related questions, SAP Services has developed the SAP Service Select for upgrades assessment. The assessment is designed to help you answer four questions about your company's future upgrade:

  • Is our organization technically ready to upgrade?

  • What are the functional and technical benefits of upgrading to mySAP ERP?

  • How long will our upgrade takeand what resources will we need to upgrade our system?

  • What do we do with our user exits and custom programs?

Customers interested in the Service Select for upgrades assessment can contact their SAP Customer Engagement Manager (CEM) for more information. From there, we will set up a call with you to figure out exactly where your company stands in the upgrade process. We want to get inside information into your business process flows, your major pain points, what systems you're currently working with, and what your upgrade plan entails.

Then we move into a preparation phase, where we actually install some programs into your system and execute reports that provide additional information and show us where we should focus our assessment efforts. After an onsite visit, you will receive a detailed project blueprint, a resource plan with both internal and external requirements, and an issue-by-issue process roadmap.

The Service Select for upgrades assessment allows us to look at the functionalities of mySAP ERP and let you know precisely what you can take advantage of, based on your specific needs and pain points, to streamline your upgrade and business processes.

Conclusion

Upgrading to mySAP ERP need not be a time-consuming or resource-straining ordeal. With careful planning, the right tools, and adequate support, your company can successfully plan and execute your upgrade project to quickly reap the benefits of the mySAP ERP solution. SAP Services has extensive upgrade experience and can assist with your modification adjustment, upgrade project management, and functional upgrade requirements.

I also urge those of you who manage or participate in your organization's major SAP upgrade projects to attend the mySAP ERP for Managers seminar (www.mySAPERPseminar.com), where I am a featured speaker, to gain a comprehensive understanding about moving to mySAP ERP and to ask me any upgrade questions you may have.


1 - For an introduction to the Upgrade Roadmap methodology, see "How SAP Solution Manager Can Smooth Your Next Upgrade Project" by Doreen Baseler in the January-March 2005 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsider.com).

2 - Unicode is a coding system that provides a unique number for every character, no matter what the platform, program, or language. For more information, visit www.unicode.org.

3 - For more information on this technology, see "A New and Improved Approach to SAP Industry Solutions: How the Switch and Enhancement Framework Now Consolidates SAP Industry Solutions with the ERP Core" by Karl Kessler in the July-September 2005 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsider.com).


Jason Fox is the Director of Enterprise Solutions for SAP Consulting, where he develops customer solutions for implementing and upgrading to mySAP ERP. Prior to this role, Jason served for seven years as a Platinum Sales and Distribution consultant. Jason frequently speaks at SAP and SAP Insider events about upgrading to mySAP ERP, and he spends a great deal of time working with customers on their upgrade strategy.

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