Why Upgrade? SAP BASIS

A SAP release upgrade is a serious project, a project that will require time and organizational resources and might also require external consulting help. Therefore time, resources, and budget must be allocated for the project. From a very general point of view, upgrading is either necessary because companies want to get the advantages of the newer release or they want to solve the issues implied by having an old release, from outdated maintenance to technical shortcomings. Either of the two general factors, and whether they are operational, economic, or strategic, must be recognized by customers to determine if an upgrade is needed. Let's review in more detail some of the reasons influencing a customer's need for a SAP upgrade:

  • End of maintenance. Every SAP release has a deadline, meaning that SAP will not provide additional corrections or fixes in Support Packages. Normally it also implies having to pay additional maintenance fees for regular support.
  • Need for new functionality. It might happen that the new release contains important new functionality that would solve some of the business or technical requirements, whether these are new, or whether they were previously solved with local programming or third-party tools.
  • Need to have the latest release and latest technology. Many companies prefer to be updated as soon as possible (normally starting to plan the upgrade after general availability is released) and so choose to be updated not only with new functionalities, but with all the new technical possibilities (for instance, to take advantage of the SAP NetWeaver integration capabilities or all the Web development options).
  • Technical limitations with current release. Similar to the previous reason, customers might find that the current release is limiting system's growth, compatibility with other solutions, or increased effort for evolving or adapting the business.
  • Reduction in the number of interfaces. Older releases include fewer BAPIs, which might have led to the local development of interfaces with other systems or external applications. It normally happens that newer SAP releases include additional BAPIs and additional interface or integration technologies that most likely will reduce the current number of interfaces.
  • Standardization. Customers with several SAP systems can clearly see an improvement in efficiency, support, and maintenance costs when all their systems are on the same release.
  • Stepping into newer product suites. Upgrading to SAP R/3 Enterprise, thus having the SAP Web Application Server as the application platform, will make customers technologically ready for SAP NetWeaver and newer integrated solutions such as mySAP ERP or mySAP Business Suite.

In any case, there will be a recognition process for upgrading, followed by a justification process, which can be based in one or several of the aforementioned reasons. Justifying an upgrade project will also involve closely analyzing objectives, planning, risks, return on investment, and expected benefits. When too many risks and too little gain are identified, and if the reasons are mainly based on functionality gain, the customer might look at alternatives before proceeding with the upgrade project. There is, however, a theory in the SAP world that the longer a customer makes a decision for an upgrade, the harder and more costly it becomes.

Considerations for an Upgrade Project

Customers will have to deal with a project that will be time consuming and costly, not only for the internal or external resources required, but also because it might involve the acquisition and procurement of new hardware. A SAP upgrade is not just a question of running a program; there are other issues to be considered:

  • Project methodology. A methodology is recommended for any project, so customers must have a framework or roadmap of the necessary phases, activities, and steps required to achieve the goals. SAP provides the ASAP Upgrade Roadmap, now integrated within SAP Solution Manager (available with release 3.2).
  • Upgrade project planning. First a generic plan and then a more detailed project planning will be required. Examples or templates can be found within the SAP Upgrade Roadmap within ASAP or SAP Solution Manager.
  • Functionality. An extremely important factor to consider for an upgrade project is the analysis of the current and future business processes. Even if it is not the objective of the upgrade project to gain new functionality, this must be carefully analyzed to adjust any changes to current business processes in the newer release.
  • Technical upgrade. The technical upgrade will be also a time-consuming process that will require several tests and adjustments, as well as careful planning to minimize the downtime that will be required. SAP provides many new tools that have largely improved the technical mechanics of the upgrade.
  • Modification adjustments. A very important task for a SAP upgrade is analyzing whether adjustments will be required, specifically for repository objects that have been modified by customers.
  • Testing. As in any other project, different types of testing will be absolutely required to minimize the risks of the upgrade. Testing will include technical tests of the upgrade and functionality, and likely regression, volume, or stress tests.
  • Training. Training is an issue largely ignored by many project teams, but it has a very big impact on when the system is activated and on ongoing support. Training will be initially required by the project team, but more importantly by end users, who should be familiar with the way business processes work in the newer release. Therefore, user training must be planned and new documentation and training material must be prepared.
  • Going live with newer release. When careful planning, testing, and training have been provided, going live with a newer release should be a minor issue. This process requires the preparation of what often is called a "mini test," which is a script that can be run in just a few hours and that will lead to the "Go-No Go" of the upgrade.
  • Supporting the new release. Last but not least, the organization must be prepared to provide maintenance and support to the new SAP release. This means that system managers are trained and familiar with newer features, and the persons in charge of the application support have been trained in the new changes in SAP technology.

Upgrading to SAP R/3 Enterprise: What Is New?

Depending on what release you come from, you will find many or few changes in your systems. The new architecture, based on the Web Application Server, as well as the option of running the Java engine, J2EE, was discussed in detail in Chapter. If you have overlooked that chapter because it might have seemed too technical, this section introduces some of the new items you can find in the SAP R/3 Enterprise.

This is a brief list of what you will find with the SAP Enterprise release 4.7:

  • SAP R/3 4.7 includes an Enterprise Core 4.7 functionality, Extension Sets (2.0 or later), and the SAP Web Application Server as the application platform.
  • With the SAP Web Application Server you get a Web-ready SAP system except for some specific applications. However, SAP Web AS does not replace ITS until version 6.40. Understanding HTTP/S does not mean that you can use SAP Web AS the same way as you do ITS. SAP can work both as a Web server and as a Web client (refer to Chapter 2).
  • A new upgrade strategy, where you can choose whether you want to minimize the downtime or the resources required for the upgrade.
  • Enhancements to the ABAP development environment, including the possibility of developing Web applications based on Business Server Pages (BSPs), which combine ABAP code with embedded HTML and Javascript.
  • The Enterprise Extension Sets or Add-Ons can be freely activated. This is the first option you will see now in the Customizing transaction.
  • SAP Enterprise is ready for Unicode and includes Unicode programming code check. You can decide whether to install the Unicode version or not.
  • You can find also specific industry solutions business processes within the SAP Enterprise Extensions.
  • The SAP Web Application Server includes native support for many standards, for instance, the SMTP protocol used by e-mail and messaging system, which makes the installation and configuration of previous connectors either not required or much simpler.
  • The provided functionality of SAP R/3 Enterprise is the core functionality of mySAP ERP and all Industry Solutions, and the provided technical background is the core technology of SAP NetWeaver.
  • Basically you will find the same Transport System and Administration tools, except for the fact that you have newer processes, such as the ICM and optionally the Java Engine (J2EE).
  • You will find some changes in the naming convention of the menu options, and now the classical "R/3" name has been changed to just "SAP."
  • The core application functionality of SAP R/3 4.7 is mostly the same as release 4.6C, except for the new business processes included in the extension set. Visit the "Release Info" section within the SAP Service Marketplace for updated and specific information on new functionality and features of the SAP Solution being upgraded.

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