SAP ERP/ECC 6.0 upgrade planning and strategy

Designing an SAP upgrade stategy is critical to the success of your SAP ERP/ECC 6.0 upgrade project. Find out how to decide whether you want a technical upgrade, a functional upgrade or strategic upgrade, as well as how to measure the success of your upgrade project.

This section of the SAP ERP ECC 6.0 upgrade guide offers resources to help you create an SAP ERP upgrade strategy

and determine what to include in your ERP upgrade planning. Learn the difference between a technical upgrade, a functional upgrade and a strategic upgrade, and which makes the most sense for your organization. Find out who should be on the upgrade team. Read about best practices from companies that have upgraded to SAP ERP ECC 6.0 in order to minimize disruptions and downtime during your upgrade.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Designing an SAP upgrade business strategy

By addressing potential pitfalls during an SAP ECC 6.0 upgrade up-front, you can avoid critical ERP upgrade mistakes. Many IT managers tend to put off ERP upgrades for as long as possible -- perhaps with good reason.

"Upgrades are the thing users love to hate," said Jim Shepherd, vice president at AMR Research Inc. "They'd like new technology and updated functionality, but they don't want to do upgrades -- they seem too expensive, disruptive and risky. [Customers] hold off until they have no choice in most cases."

But SAP experts warn that if the upgrade process is postponed until the vendor is about to end support for the current ERP version, the upgrade project could turn into an expensive fire drill.

For organizations embarking on an SAP ECC 6.0 upgrade, it is important to first create an SAP upgrade business strategy . According to Shepherd, an ERP upgrade strategy should include a five- to seven-year plan that answers these questions:

  • What will be the short-term ramifications of the upgrade?
  • Will the move change how the company performs its daily business?
  • How will the upgrade affect other parts of the IT infrastructure?
  • What will be the long-term benefits of the upgrade be?

There are endless debates among SAP administrators and SAP managers over how to maintain and update ERP systems. It used to be that the decision of whether to perform an upgrade was either made by the IT department, or else dictated by the software vendor's ERP release schedule. (All software vendors support a given version of their software for a limited number of years. SAP is no exception. Many SAP customers upgrade to ECC 6.0 for support and software consolidation reasons. However, SAP ERP upgrades are now critical enough that upper management needs to have input into the planning of the SAP upgrade project.

The first question is whether the upgrade is a technical upgrade, a functional upgrade or a strategic upgrade. A technical upgrade involves upgrading just the SAP software technology. A functional upgrade takes it a step further to take advantage of new features in the SAP software. A strategic upgrade involves upgrading other aspects of the business, including business processes.

Because the technical upgrade is the easiest and least risky, many companies choose to take this upgrade path. However, functional and strategic upgrades are more valuable.

Shepherd advises AMR clients to decide upfront whether their upgrade will be just a technical upgrade or one that includes major new functionality as well.

If an organization is dealing with only a version upgrade, the project team will consist of primarily IT staff, with some user involvement for testing. But for companies adding major new ERP functionality, the scope of the project will be greater, and business users must be included from the start. Any ERP project without substantial user buy-in will be doomed to failure.

In a SearchManufacturingERP.com article on ERP upgrade planning, Shepherd offered advice for those involved in the upgrade process. He said that "if the business has the appetite for it, then you should take advantage of the upgrade to incorporate new functionality, revisit business processes and look for any modifications or extensions that you can get rid of."

It's also important to identify metrics for measuring the success of the ERP upgrade project. Companies can measure the success of their ERP upgrade by revenue gains, cost reductions or improvements in customer satisfaction. However, ERP vendors and SAP consultants may measure upgrade success by being on time and on budget.

Selecting a partner for an SAP ERP upgrade and building the upgrade team

It's important that SAP customers know how to select the right SAP partner. That means not only finding consultants with the appropriate expertise, but ones with the right cultural fit for your company.

Chris Church, systems integration analyst for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, was in charge of Lockheed Martin's upgrade from SAP R/3 4.7 to SAP ECC 6.0. He recommends that the upgrade team include all Basis experts, advanced business application programming (ABAP) programmers, and one or two key users.

When it comes to assembling an all-star ERP upgrade team, experts suggest developing some technical skills in-house, pulling in business experts, and looking to consultants to fill in the blanks. "Make sure your best people are on the upgrade," said Jon Reed, a consultant with JonERP.com.

Most experts agree that bringing in executives who represent the business side at the outset is critical for ERP upgrade success.

Organizations preparing for an upgrade should also create a plan with an outline of specific tasks, according to AMR's Shepherd. The plan will include such items as data conversion, database loading, identifying needed testing, creating the test scripts, creating a test system, getting users to do the testing and, eventually, performing the cutover activities. The upgrade plan should also include a timeline and the resources required to accomplish each milestone. Changes always occur, but the upgrade should be kept as close as possible to the timeline.

This was first published in September 2009

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