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What key components help ensure SAP APO upgrade success?

If an SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization upgrade is in your company's future, you'll want to make sure you incorporate these key elements of project success.

SAP APO is a forecasting and planning tool and belongs to the SAP Supply Chain Management, or SCM, line of business....

It completely integrates with Business Warehouse as well as the SAP ERP system for data transfer to ensure effective materials and resources planning. If an SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization upgrade is in your company's future, know that project problems lurk at every turn, ranging from cost overruns to lowered ROI to worse. But by paying heed to important key components of the upgrade, CIOs and other leaders can help foster success.

Here are eight key components your SAP APO upgrade project needs:

Evaluation of the existing system. Depending on the SAP APO system that your company uses now, the timeline to upgrade may vary. For example, if your company is still on an old version of APO such as 3.0, then it will need to first upgrade to 4.1 or higher, then eventually to the latest SCM 7.0 or above. Knowing this key component of your SAP APO upgrade is critical to effectively planning the time and effort involved.

Assessment of the project's scope. The APO system consists of several elements such as Demand Planning, Supply Network Planning and Production Planning, and Detailed Scheduling, among others. To come up with a workable timeline and a realistic assessment of the effort and costs involved, be sure to critically evaluate all these that require upgrading.

A testing and training phase. Upgrading the APO system is far from the final step -- it still requires comprehensive functional and technical testing, as well as training for business users to ensure the greatest ROI possible.

Data integration. The data transfer from and to APO to SAP and non-SAP systems takes place using Core Interface. CIF is a data transfer engine that talks to different systems through data. The effort that will be required to set up CIF connections depends on SAP and non-SAP systems and should be taken into consideration.

Custom-object migration. Be sure to plan for and ensure the transport of custom-developed objects such as ABAP programs, user exits and Business Add-Ins to the upgraded APO system.

Change management. Creating and carrying out a change management plan is a step you definitely don't want to skip. Business users need to learn how to use the new and improved features, tools, and functionalities of the upgraded APO to ensure a greater ROI and improved business efficiencies. And don't forget the cultural elements as well; change management is also about getting users to welcome the system.

SAP support. Other than working with a system integrator for a SAP APO upgrade, you can also get help directly from SAP's own in-house team. A representative can guide your company on systems patches, fixes and SAP Notes to make the APO upgrade as smooth as possible. This is especially helpful for companies that have older SAP APO versions whose support has already ended.

System backup. The data from the SAP ERP system is transferred to SAP APO for in-depth planning followed by APO data sent back to the SAP ERP system for execution. The ERP Central Component data is transferred to APO for detailed planning. That is what APO is for -- a planning engine used for in-depth planning that the ECC cannot do. Once APO is done with its planning, it sends the planning data back to ECC. During this back-and-forth data transfer, there's a possibility of data loss or data overwrite when the company has gone through a SAP APO upgrade. Hence, it makes sense keep a backup in case of such data loss or data overwrite. Indeed, maintaining an up-to-date backup copy of the APO system ensures that in case there's a data loss during APO upgrade, your team will still have access to its valuable planning data.

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