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In upgrade to SAP ECC 6.0, customers finding value in third-party upgrade tools

Some SAP customers are turning to third-party tools from vendors like Panaya and Intellicorp to help with the upgrade to SAP ECC 6.0, and they're finding they're glad they did.

Bob Oldrati didn't go looking for a tool to help Powell Electronics upgrade from SAP R/3 4.7 to ECC 6.0 enhancement package 4. In fact, on a trip to Sapphire, the Controller and IT director walked over to the Panaya booth and told them to stop emailing his CEO about their SaaS-based upgrade assistance tools.

Panaya instead offered to do an analysis of the longtime SAP customer's system, showing them what changes they would need to make and how much time it would take to fix everything for the upgrade.

Powell ended up buying the tool. Panaya saved the company from having to determine what didn't work, determine why it didn't work, and how to fix it. It eliminated one complete testing cycle and a lot of risk, SAP project manager Mike Ayars said. Powell started pre-upgrade activities on Sept. 8, 2009 and went live on Nov. 21. Without Panaya, Ayars estimates they wouldn't have been able to complete the upgrade until mid to late January 2010.

"It took the drudgery of an upgrade away," Oldrati said.

For more on upgrading to SAP ECC 6.0
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Check our SAP ECC 6.0 upgrade tutorial

In upgrading to SAP ECC 6.0, customers like Powell Electronics are finding tools such as Panaya to be a big help. Instead of upgrading in a traditional sandbox environment and following what can seem like the endless test-fix-repeat cycle, Panaya's SaaS tool simulates the upgrade and finds the code problems -- and can even fix them.

Customers don't have too many choices when looking for these tools, however. Along with Panaya, there's Intellicorp, which has been doing this the longest and IBIS RBE Plus according to Gartner vice president and research fellow Jim Shepherd. Hayes also does this. Intellicorp has since expanded to full application lifecycle management. All provide reports on what code will work, what doesn't, and what to test, minimizing the time, cost and -- to some extent -- risk of doing the upgrade, Shepherd said. It's helpful to go in ahead of time and understand what's going to be affected and why, in order to better plan in terms of time, resources and activities when performing the upgrade.

Longtime SAP customer McCormick upgraded from 4.6 c to ECC 6.0 with the help of Intellicorp in 2006. It took six months to go from SAP R/3 4.6 to 6.0. Because the third-party SAP upgrade tool shaved a week off the upgrade, McCormick was able to roll the cost of the software into the upgrade project. That extra week was critical because it allowed McCormick to meet its deadline of upgrading during the last week in December, when its offices are closed for the holidays.

"If it even shaved off a few days to a week, the payback was well worth it," said Terry DellaVecchia, director of global enterprise system technologies at the spice company. "It saved the functional testing, it saved the business users time and effort. Any time we could get back was necessary on our part."

McCormick was able to send the necessary code changes offshore and tell consultants to "call us when it's fixed," DellaVecchia said. Being able to outsource code changes let the IT folks keep their focus on the business instead, those interviewed said.

That was the case with Newell Rubbermaid, which used Panaya to help it complete an upgrade at one of its units from ECC 5.0 to ECC 6.0 in two months, when the original timeframe was six, according to Glenn Griffin, director of application development. Panaya showed exactly what changes needed to be made and where the areas of concern were. It also showed the old code, the new code and what Griffin needed to put in the new code, he said.

"The upgrade became a non-event from a business perspective and a non-event from the SAP project perspective," Griffin said. "Without a doubt, there was no way that I could have met the timeline and done it without hiring an outside firm if it wasn't for Panaya."

That said, he noted that if he had been going from an R/3 version to 6.0, he probably would have hired outside help.

"I knew my development team was good enough on site and offshore to handle it," he said. "But if I [had been] in a different scenario, I might have looked for outside help."

Can't we use Solution Manager for this?

In theory, customers should be able to use the Business Process Change Analyzer within Solution Manager to help with the upgrade to ECC 6.0, Shepherd said. If all the information about the SAP landscape and configurations and so forth is already in Solution Manager, it should work the same way as the third-party tools.

But for the earlier customers, Solution Manager didn't exist, and therefore they don't have this information available.

"You get a lot of argument about how good it is and how much stuff you have to put into Solution Manager in order for this to work," Shepherd said.

For this reason, McCormick didn't use Solution Manager for the upgrade.

Because the company is an early adopter of certain technologies, it had to have Solution Manager up years ago. But McCormick needed only to be live on the tool. It didn't have all the functionality it does now, and all the data and information that would have helped with the upgrade wasn't in there, DellaVecchia said. All of their business information wasn't in there.

"It would have been a project in and of itself to get it ready in order to use it for the upgrade," she said. McCormick is currently looking at using a tool to get business functionality into Solution Manager. IBIS and Intellicorp are among the vendors that have tools that can help populate Solution Manager.

Problems justifying the tools

The payback on tools like Panaya and Intellicorp is huge, Shepherd said. They can be used every time there's an upgrade, when doing patches or any major landscape change. It can save a huge amount of money and time, he said.

Despite that, the percentage of customers that use this is remarkably low, he said.

"It's kind of the shoemaker's children problem," Shepherd said. "IT departments don't really get to spend money on themselves, even though all of the analysis says the payback on these is great."

When discussing the tools with the CEO and CFOs, it sometimes helps to frame the purchase as something that will ensure compliance or mitigate risk.

"These guys don't understand the technical details but are very attuned to risk to the business," Shepherd said. "To the extent that you can tie testing and regulatory compliance to this, then they become a little freer with their wallets."

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