SAP ERP upgrade lessons learned from Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin shared some of the tips, tricks and lessons learned from its ERP upgrade at SAP TechEd.

LAS VEGAS -- As he prepared to deliver his tips, tricks and lessons learned from Lockheed Martin's ERP upgrade,

Chris Church looked at the crowd of hundreds packed into the room to hear him.

"Looks like there's a lot of people who haven't done upgrades yet," the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control system integration analyst said to TechEd's standing-room-only crowd. "Well, we survived."

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Just a year ago, Church said he was sitting in educational sessions at TechEd, trying to learn everything he could to make Lockheed Martin's SAP ERP upgrade go smoothly. Lockheed Martin completed its nine-month SAP R/3 4.7 upgrade in May. The installation, which is one of nine different ERP environments within the corporation, was an upgrade to ERP 6.0.

With the end of standard support for SAP R/3 coming next year and a new support offering that will increase maintenance fees from 17% to 22% of net licensing fees, ERP upgrades continue to be a major concern for SAP professionals. Business Objects CEO John Schwarz, in his keynote address at TechEd, encouraged SAP customers to upgrade to ERP 6.0, citing SAP enhancement packages as a key value driver.

Church shared some of the glitches Lockheed Martin ran into during its SAP ERP upgrade, as well as several steps that ensured that the SAP ERP upgrade was ultimately successful.

Lockheed Martin was running six instances of R/3, four instances of SAP BI 7.0 and three instances of EBP. The company has 4,500 users, 1,100 to 1,300 of which are concurrent users.

Users were locked out at 8 p.m. on a Thursday and unlocked at 7 p.m. on a Sunday, with the final upgrade completed on Saturday, May 17. The total downtime was 71 hours.

Lockheed Martin had four major projects going on at the same time as the upgrade, Church said, meaning that the SAP team and key users had trouble devoting enough time to the upgrade. It is not an approach Church recommends.

IT people need to be available for the weekend and the next week following the upgrade, Church said.

It's also important to keep the upgrade software constant for the entire project. In the middle of the project, Church said Lockheed Martin decided it wanted to add support pack stack 11 and enhancement package 2 -- new, downloadable vertical functionality from SAP.

"By changing the mixture of the software, we figured it added two months to our schedule," Church said.

They also experienced some performance problems. The project team eventually traced this back to sequential reads, and found that updating SQL statistics and the DBSL libraries solved many of the problems.

Church also recommended watching out for SAPHOSTNAMEFULL and ICMHOSTNAMEFULL, and checking these parameters for performance issues: dbs/mss/fae_join=1, rsdb/prefer_in_itab_opt=1, rsdb/prefer_union_all = 1 and rsdb/prefer_join = 0.

Check versions of GUIS too, he said, but with 6.4 and 7.1 most won't have any problems.

Expect and watch out for password issues, he said. Despite repeated reminders, users failed to heed warnings that passwords were now case-sensitive, he said. After the upgrade, several users were locked out of their accounts.

"We still have a higher than normal number of locked accounts," he said. In just a nine-day period, 69 users were locked out, an average of eight per day.

Church said they didn't require any hardware upgrades.

But Nick Crnkovic and John Murdock, both senior SAP consultants for HP, who have been flooded with R/3 4.6 and 4.7 upgrade work lately, said new hardware purchases have been a large part of those projects.

"Newer versions require so much more hardware," Crnkovic said when asked what he had been seeing with upgrades.

As with most upgrades, Lockheed Martin didn't have nearly as much time as it would have liked. But Church said using a downtime-minimized approach saved them 24 hours.

"We had never done an introduction on a live production system with users doing real work," he said. "None of our users realized that we were running an actual upgrade with users on the system."

Church recommended that the upgrade team include all Basis experts, advanced business application programming (ABAP) programmers, and one or two key users. He also recommended practicing. Lockheed Martin did seven upgrades including the final go-live, and created a "playbook" ahead of time so it would know when each question was coming up.

Lockheed Martin also hired a consultant experienced with this particular SAP ERP upgrade, who came a week before the project began and a week after it ended.

"Having somebody else there with a whole lot more experience than us sure helped," Church said.

Ultimately, ongoing communication made all the difference, and was Church's No. 1 tip for success.

The upgrade team continuously updated the service desks and desktop support, sent multiple emails to users, and even created a blog and telephone message system to keep users notified, Church said. They also scheduled a meeting at noon each day on the final upgrade weekend to discuss status and problems. "We had," he said, "early and ongoing communication."

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