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Innovation Without Disruption: A Deep Dive into SAP's Enhancement Package Strategy for SAP ERP

by Thomas Weiss and Christian Oehler | SAPinsider

January 1, 2009

Learn how the Switch and Enhancement Framework enables the decoupled installation and activation of business functions — so now, you can add innovative new functionality without enduring a disruptive upgrade.
 

 

 

For innovative companies, regular software upgrades can seem like a must. To maintain their leading edge, these companies want to keep their SAP systems updated with new functionality, new user roles, new business scenarios, and new business processes. But upgrades have traditionally involved grappling with system downtime, modification adjustments, and end-user training on the new software.

So the question is: Can SAP give customers a way to avoid a system upgrade and still access new functionality? And the answer is: Absolutely. With SAP's enhancement package strategy for SAP ERP, customers can keep their core processes stable and still add new, innovative business processes and features to their system without an upgrade.1 Additionally, companies get only the functionality they want; they can choose which parts of an enhancement package they want to install and which parts of that new functionality they want to switch on. For the first time, the installation and activation of new functionality are completely separate.

The technological backbone that supports the activation of this strategy is the Switch and Enhancement Framework, which we've discussed in the last two Under Development columns.2 Additional tools, including the Maintenance Optimizer in SAP Solution Manager, the new EhP Installer, and changes in well-known transport tools, all empower the installation part of the enhancement package strategy. Let's take a closer look.

The Advantages of the Enhancement Package Strategy

Enhancement packages for SAP ERP bring new functionality in small, handy pieces called business functions.3 Companies can choose which business functions they want to activate and then install the most up-to-date versions of exactly the relevant software components, which are grouped into technical usages (see Key Terms box).

After installing these new versions of the software components, your system will continue to behave exactly the same as it did before. This is because all of the new functionality is encapsulated by switches, and the installation of this functionality is decoupled from its activation. This way, an administrator can install the updated technology on a weekend — and in the months to come, the relevant specialists can activate each business function separately as the business requires it.

 

Key Terms

Business function: A unit of set functionality that companies can install from an enhancement package


Technical usage: A comprehensive unit of software components

How Do Enhancement Packages Relate to Support Packages?

Enhancement packages for SAP ERP come in a variety of flavors:

  • Simplification enhancements are designed to simplify user interfaces and SAP ERP implementation processes

  • Service-oriented architecture enhancements add flexibility and improve SAP solution integration with third-party applications

  • Additional functionality enhancements extend and improve core functionality by enriching end-to-end processes in SAP ERP

  • Industry-specific enhancements improve the integration of operational processes with new industry capabilities

Figure 1 shows an example of the functional roadmap for SAP ERP enhancement packages from a business-oriented perspective and hints at some new features that customers can expect in future enhancement packages. SAP plans to deliver about one enhancement package every year.

 

Figure 1
The contents of enhancement packages for SAP ERP

It is important to distinguish enhancement packages from support packages. Support packages contain legal changes and system corrections. Their installation is mandatory, and SAP expects customers to install them regularly. Enhancement packages, on the other hand, contain additional content. Users can choose the functionality they need from enhancement packages; their installation is completely voluntary.

Still, there are several dependencies between enhancement package levels and support package levels (see sidebar). Installing parts of a particular enhancement package, for example, often requires you to install a particular support package as well. In fact, SAP recommends that companies install support packages in conjunction with enhancement packages (see Figure 2).

 

Figure 2
The enhancement package strategy changes the innovation life cycle

 

How to Install and Activate Enhancement Packages

The technology that supports the enhancement package strategy covers two areas:

  • The optional and selective installation of enhancement packages, which is enabled by the Maintenance Optimizer in SAP Solution Manager as well as relevant installation tools

  • The activation of this functionality, which is enabled by the Switch and Enhancement Framework

Let's look at both areas more closely.

Part 1: Installation

The first step is to decide which business functions you actually need. To do so, we recommend visiting https://service.sap.com/erp-ehp. This site is a central point where customers can get all relevant information about enhancement packages, business functions, and their content. You'll also find links to documentation, presentations, release notes, dependencies, and a list of preconfigured acceptance tests in the test catalog for every business function (see Figure 3).

 

Figure 3
A sampling of the information available at https://service.sap.com/erp-ehp

After you have decided which business functions you need, you can choose the relevant software component bundles (called technical usages) in the Maintenance Optimizer within SAP Solution Manager (see Figure 4).

 

Figure 4
Using the Maintenance Optimizer tool within SAP Solution Manager, you can choose the specif?ic technical usages of an enhancement package that you want to install

These technical usages reflect interdependencies among software components and business functions, such as cross-stack dependencies. These might occur, for example, when business functions on the ABAP stack require additional content from another SAP solution. The Maintenance Optimizer also lists all the support packages users must install to get the business functions they want, as well as the required support packages for any technical usages.

Depending on your choice, the tool determines which stack contains the business functions you want, plus the relevant support packages needed for them. You can then install the technical usages (containing the business functions you have chosen) and the necessary support packages in one queue using the well-known transaction SAINT (for ABAP) or JSPM (for Java).

As of enhancement package 4, a new standard tool is available: the EhP Installer, which will dramatically reduce the downtime that can come with enhancement package installation and activation. Currently there is a pilot program in the works for those customers who want to use the EhP Installer with enhancement package 3.

 

NOTE! Each software component of SAP ERP can either be on enhancement package level 0 (with no enhancement package installed), or on the highest enhancement package level available for this component.

Part 2: Activation

Once a system administrator has installed an enhancement package, you can decide, based on your business needs, which business functions to activate — and you can do so whenever it suits your needs.

 

NOTE! It's important to remember that without the activation step, all of the new business function's code will not be compiled and will not influence your system in any way. Functionality that is switched off has no impact on the performance of your system.

As the previous Under Development columns explain in more detail, all of the new functionality in these business functions is encapsulated by switches. This means that even after installing a new business function, there is no change to existing functionality before you activate it. Imagine that you need some functionality contained in the new order-to-cash scenario that's part of a particular enhancement package. Even after you install the relevant software components, your company can still work with the old processes. It is only after you have activated the new business function that you must train your users on it.

All other processes will stay the same. Activating a business function for one process will have no affect on users working with other functionality. Thus, you'll save training time and money by having to teach only the users of the new scenario.

To activate a business function, use switch framework transaction SFW5. This will bring up a list of all the business functions that are compatible with the release, industry solution, and enhancement package you are currently running.

It will also provide links to the relevant information sources — including documentation, release notes, test catalogs, and dependencies (that is, if the functionality within the business function is dependent on functionality within another business function).

Once you have determined which business functions you want and which functions they depend on, you can activate them by selecting Planned Status On in the SFW5 transaction (see Figure 5). You can then click Check Changes to evaluate if you have made a consistent choice. If not, you may need to activate another requisite business function, for example. If the result of the check is OK, you can then click Activate Changes.4

Then, you'll be up and running with your new functionality.

 

Figure 5
How to activate the business functions of your choice in transaction SFW5

 

The Enhancement Package Strategy of SAP ERP in a Nutshell

With SAP's enhancement package strategy for SAP ERP, customers can stay on one stable system release and still get new functionality that may previously have only been available with a complete upgrade. Customers can also choose which functionality they want to install and activate, since the installation of enhancement packages has been decoupled from the activation of business functions — there will be no functional changes in the system until you activate the business function.

Using the Switch and Enhancement Framework, SAP Solution Manager's Maintenance Optimizer tool, and the relevant transport tools to support this strategy, developers and system administrators can easily support a business's growing needs for new functionality — without the disruptions that typically accompany a new upgrade. We think you will find this strategy of innovation without disruption to be a winning one.

 

Additional Resources

  • The Administration and Infrastructure 2009 conference in Orlando, March 24-27, 2009 (www.sapadmin2009.com)

  • "Introducing the Enhancement Framework — a new way to enhance SAP programs without having to modify them" by Thomas Weiss and Michael Acker (SAP Professional Journal, January/February 2008, www.SAPpro.com)

  • "A New and Improved Approach to SAP Industry Solutions — How the Switch and Enhancement Framework Now Consolidates SAP Industry Solutions with the ERP Core," an Under Development column by Karl Kessler (SAP Insider, July-September 2005, www.SAPinsideronline.com)

 

 


1 For more information, see "What Should — and Should Not — Be Running on the Same System in Your SAP Environment? Guiding Principles for Reshaping Your SAP ERP Landscape," a Take Note! column by Dr. Franz-Josef Fritz in the October-December 2007 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com). [back]

2 Please see "Industry Solutions Are Now Integrated into the SAP ERP Core: How the Switch and Enhancement Framework Makes It Possible" in the October-December 2008 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com) and "Modification-Free Enhancements of SAP Programs? With Enhancements, They're Possible — And Here's How" in the July-September 2008 issue.[back]

3 For more technical details about business functions and how they fit in the enhancement package strategy, please see "Industry Solutions Are Now Integrated into the SAP ERP Core: How the Switch and Enhancement Framework Makes It Possible" in the October-December 2008 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com). [back]

4 For more information on activating business functions, please refer to the Under Development column in the October-December 2008 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com). [back]


Thomas Weiss (thomas.weiss@sap.com) has a Ph.D. in analytic philosophy and worked as a professional writer before he joined the SAP NetWeaver Product Management Training team in 2001, where his responsibilities included the e-learning strategy for ABAP. After becoming increasingly involved in writing ABAP material himself, he is now a member of the SAP NetWeaver Application Server Product Management team. The Switch and Enhancement Framework has been one of Thomas's major interests for quite some time.

 

 

Christian Oehler (christian.oehler@sap.com) has been with SAP since 1999. He initially spent five years as a senior technical consultant and technical project team lead, also leading the upgrade focus group. Now, Christian is in charge of solution management for software lifecycle management topics (including upgrades and enhancement packages) within the SAP Business Suite.

 

 

 

 

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