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MySAP ERP 2005 upgrade challenges and advice

DENVER -- At the start of the Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG) mySAP ERP 2005 Upgrade Symposium this week, Martin Riedel, head of SAP's global upgrade office, and Stefan Kneis, vice president and ASUG executive liaison, discussed some issues facing customers who are considering upgrading to mySAP ERP 2005, how upgrades may affect the SAP jobs market, and the growing importance of compliance.

SearchSAP: Are there specific business issues that are driving upgrades to mySAP ERP 2005? There are several aspects....

First, customers now understand the new functionality more. Second, the whole roadmap of 2005 is the go to release. Now users know that they can have a stable platform for the foreseeable future. Also, the enhancement packs on top of that so that users have a choice and don't have functionality forced on them.

And don't forget the enterprise SOA [service-oriented architecture] angle. It's something where, from a technical point of view, this can help companies drive globalization, their divestiture, and their integration over all topics, for example. And this is a business process platform -- not a technical platform -- that can give users the tools and techniques to make use of the SOA concept. What are some of the common challenges that companies are facing in their upgrades?
We've really seen the upgrade challenges more on the project management side, so it's important to have a good project manager and project plan in place.

Secondly, get the business involved. Don't perceive the upgrade as something to get done in the data center. Perceive it as something where the customers -- the users -- have to be involved and, to a certain extent, even drive the process.

Thirdly, testing is still a major challenge. Get the respective resources from the user community and drive it from the user perspective and not an IT perspective.

From a technical point of view, really look at your landscape and at the implications the upgrade might have for your landscape. So you're not all of a sudden faced with the challenge that you've upgraded R/3 to mySAP ERP and then find out there's maybe something else you have to upgrade as well. Why should users upgrade to mySAP ERP 2005 instead of mySAP ERP 2004?
It starts with maintenance. If you look at the maintenance piece, right now you are able to sit on the release much longer, which gives you, to a certain extent, a better return on investment. Also, with [mySAP ERP] 2005 you still have the flexibility to introduce new functionality. Those are two main things that you can't do with [mySAP ERP] 2004.

On top of that, look at all the effort SAP is putting into it. All the efforts within SAP are clearly focused right now toward 2005, the respective enhancement packages, and switch frame technology to integrate industry solutions. So the investments in regards to making 2005 a robust business process platform toward 2010 and beyond is something you can't find within 2004.

Therefore customers who are in the midst of a 2004 upgrade project should look at whether it would be a good idea to go to 2005. And that's really a very strong point for us. 2004 is a good release, but there are things you don't get, and consequently it's not enterprise SOA, and you won't see 2004 going toward enterprise SOA. How will mySAP ERP 2005 upgrading affect SAP professionals and job seekers, and do you have any advice for them?
My personal advice is that there is a shift in what IT people will be doing. It will become a stronger business environment -- business process engineering, business process knowledge, business process optimization, processes within enterprises, processes beyond enterprises, networking with other IT departments to make those cross-enterprise processes work. So there will be much more on that side of the coin beyond just technology. That's one element.

The second element is still technology. The shift from a normal programming kind of environment into a service-oriented composing environment again requires business content knowledge compared to technical programming knowledge, which is another challenge and opportunity to grow into.

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Last but not least, you still have to have a strong technical platform. Optimization, performance and a stable environment will become even more important. Also, given the fact that the access to data within the organization -- and we are seeing this more with enterprise SOA -- is now going from the BlackBerry device all the way down to the normal PC and browser environment. So there are some other technology areas [where] you see skills really becoming valuable. How will mySAP ERP 2005 upgrading affect SAP professionals and job seekers, and do you have any advice for them?
I will add two more things to that point. One, there are certain solutions to look at -- think about Duet or Adobe forms, for instance -- from a technology perspective. Two, we see a huge amount of interest in GRC (governance, risk and compliance).

I would really encourage people to broaden their more or less classic SAP knowledge. If they look into the areas I mentioned, they should be in very good shape from a career perspective in the years ahead.

And on the SAP side, last year we launched the business process expert community. More than 60,000 people have signed up. I think there is a significant demand out there for this type of skill set. You can play a different role, as Martin said, and be a key user that understands business process requirements and can model them. We are building tools like visual composer that can be used. The SAP expert role will be different two years from now than it was two years ago.

How will mySAP ERP 2005 upgrading affect SAP professionals and job seekers, and do you have any advice for them?
I also want to stress the compliance topic. It becomes really an integrated part of IT, where in the past, maybe, it wasn't so prominent. Now, at the end of the day, compliance is something that business users have to take care of, but IT has to facilitate -- because the business and IT components really have to be merging. Speaking of compliance, do you have any thoughts on what users should look out for?
The point is, really, what does compliance mean? It's really something where the company needs to think about the processes and structures in place, and then the tools are more or less the second choice. I will say it is easier when you have a vendor that is paying attention to the compliance topic.

It is something that has to be driven and comes from the business side, so it has not been a prominent IT topic. But, as I said, it is very important to have vendors, and I think SAP is one of those that are really able to address the topic and support the business.

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