As stated, a SAP upgrade is a project that is going to involve many tasks, but the most important activity of the upgrade project is the gap analysis and adaptation of the current functionally and business processes with the new features of the new SAP release. This will involve not only changes or adjustments to the repository or the customizing, but also new menus, screens, or ways of performing a business process by end users, as well as the new functionality that system managers will have in the newer SAP release. Overall an upgrade project will require a detailed project planning that can be easily followed by the project team and conducted by a project manager. The project plan will be the roadmap to a successful project completion.
The degree of difficulty of the upgrade project can range from simple to very complex, and the main variable that determines this is the degree and quantity of modifications to standard SAP applications as well as to local developments based on standard SAP programs. Regarding upgrade project timing and difficulty, there are other variables, such as the number and size of the systems and volume of the database, on the technical side. On the business application side, an upgrade can be used for solving business processes that were not fully covered or not covered at all in previous version. Therefore, focusing on and analyzing the gaps will be critical in the overall project.
Because an upgrade means changes, some of the change management activities must be undertaken, such as risk assessment, training, communications, and knowledge transfer. This means that organizations must prepare for a new change. A very important factor in any upgrade project that also becomes critical for realizing the upgrade in productive systems is the time needed for completion because this will affect system availability and therefore business operations. A new release might require additional infrastructure such as disk space or processing power. So in the planning phases of the upgrade project, a new systems sizing should be requested.
With respect to the roles and resources needed for duty, when upgrading SAP releases, or any other previous SAP solution, there is the need to have a team similar to the team that performed the initial implementation. The team will be in charge of analyzing the impact of possible business changes; setting up new configuration parameters; developing or modifying ABAP programs, reports, transaction and interfaces; and preparing the technical infrastructure for the new release.
An upgrade can be different in many aspects when performed on a development system or the production system. Though the process will start by upgrading the development system, it can be very helpful to have a similar system, or a test system where the actual productive upgrade can be carried out and business functions tested with the real data. If the goal of the upgrade does not initially involve a functional gain, then those test are known as regression testing, the process of ensuring that the result or output of the business processes transactions are the same as in the source release of the upgrade. An additional factor to consider, already mentioned, is what training will be needed for both end users and the project team.
ustomers must plan for time and resources to gain skills on new functions, changes, or enhancements as provided by a new version. Let's have a closer look to some of the issues and what are the available tools and help to facilitate the upgrade process.
Key Success Factors in an Upgrade Project
The key success factors in a SAP upgrade project are no different than in any other type of project where the organization, the business processes, and a great deal of technical work is involved. These are as follows:
Methodology: The Upgrade Roadmap
SAP has set in place an Upgrade Roadmap as the central guiding point for any SAP upgrade project. The Roadmap provides the methodologies and tools that facilitate and simplify both the plan and execution of an upgrade project. The Upgrade Roadmap used to be part of ASAP and ValueSAP, and it is included in release 3.2 of the SAP Solution Manager. Additionally, you can access the Roadmap in the SAP Service Marketplace. You have also the option to download it in HTML format and install it locally in your desktop.
SAP Upgrade Roadmap— local HTML version
The Upgrade Roadmap includes five phases:
Solution Manager to handle the upgrade project as the central platform for implementation or upgrade of SAP Solutions.
Upgrade Project Plan
There is no general rule or precise estimate on how long an upgrade project might take. Technical upgrades can take as little as a couple of weeks; however, other more complicated upgrade projects involving many software and hardware changes can take several months.In any case, as already mentioned, careful planning is needed that considers the special circumstances regarding the inhouse development and customized business processes. An approach to an upgrade project plan can be found in the ASAP Upgrade Roadmap; specifically you can find a template in the WBS number 1.4.2. The plan, tasks, and activities are normally limited to projects whose previous implementation did not include enhancements based on standard programs.
Sample SAP upgrade project plan
Time and effort needed for upgrading each of the systems will probably not be comparable due to hardware differences and size of database. However, problems and errors detected on previous upgrades will be better solved on following updates. The order of the upgrade is very important. During the actual realization of a SAP R/3 or other SAP solution release upgrade, each of the systems in the landscape is upgraded in the order defined within the transport routes: usually start with development, then quality assurance system, and then production. However, it more normal to copy a productive system into a test environment and perform the initial upgrade tests, upgrade design, and realization in this system. Besides the ASAP Upgrade Roadmap, planning for an upgrade involves also preparing all the documentation and material needed for the upgrade, including the Upgrade Manuals and the related SAP Notes, and organizing the project team.
The Upgrade Script
From the upgrade project plan and with the specific tasks that you will define for the project with the help of the Upgrade Roadmap, you should create an upgrade script. The upgrade script is a sequential and chronological task list that specifies the processes and activities of the upgrade for your specific installation or system landscape. The upgrade script should contain detailed tasks for each project team member, and it becomes very useful, first for the project blueprint and realization, but more importantly for the final phases and go live.
With the upgrade script, the project team, the tasks, and roles to be done are completely documented and assigned, so that no steps are forgotten during the process. The upgrade script is probably the best way to organize tasks by project members. Typically, the final productive upgrade is performed during weekends or holidays, and the timing is usually limited; therefore, following a script (tested previously in upgraded test systems) is critical so that no step is forgotten, which could avoid the "go" decision. It is assumed that this script must have been performed at least once or twice before the actual productive upgrade.
For the technical part of the upgrade, there is an upgrade checklist within the specific Upgrade Manual (depending on your hardware and database platforms). This checklist must be closely analyzed and performed, and every required task must be included within the Upgrade script and in the right order.
Using the checklist in the manual, you must create your own script according to your specific installation. For instance, some of the differences between customers installations have to do with the following:
The tasks specified in the upgrade script must be assigned to project team members, and it is very important to include what are the expected results for some of the critical tasks of the upgrade and which are the decision points for the go/no-go decision. It is very useful to include in the upgrade timing indicators (start-finish dates or time) from previous runs, so that the whole process can be better planned, and a status field to indicate whether the tasks has been completed.
Remember that the purpose of the upgrade script is to be able to repeat the process, so that the final productive upgrade is as free of errors or problems as possible and there is a much greater chance of the "go" decision.
As stated in a previous section, a proper gap analysis is a critical factor for a successful upgrade project. It must be observed that a gap analysis in an upgrade project is similar in methodology to an initial implementation project, but quite different in scope. The gap analysis can be defined as a work of comparison of what is currently implemented in the SAP release and what new functionality is included within the new release of the SAP system to be upgraded.
If you still have the documentation of the gap analysis during previous implementation, the upgrade project can be used to assess whether the original gaps could be replaced by the functionality included within the upgraded SAP system. For instance, the new release can avoid many of the local developed programs, or might include additional BAPIs, so that some interfaces can be replaced.
Checking and analyzing the release notes for each of the components on the new version can be of great help to understand and test the new release. An additional help is to procure and install an IDES system with the new release. Although IDES generally will differ from your current implementation, IDES can be used for project team training, and even some short-scale testing of new functionality.
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