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SAP Business Suite bids adieu to major ERP releases, enhancement packs

SAP announced on Tuesday that they’re moving away from periodic major enhancement packages and upgrades to their SAP Business Suite in favor of smaller, quarterly improvements. The company is also extending standard support for ECC 6.0 applications to 2020.

SAP’s decision to go with smaller, more frequent modifications to its Business Suite every three months means the end of major new ERP releases in the coming years, according to one analyst.

“[ECC] 6.0 is going to be the last major release they’ll be making,” said Albert Pang, CEO of Apps Run the World, an IT market research company that focuses on software.

And that’s a good thing, according to SAP, which said Tuesday that it will offer Business Suite enhancements on a quarterly basis beginning next year as a way to both deliver new technologies faster and minimize technological disruptions for its customers, many of whom have been asking for the new format for years.

“In the past, we have delivered innovation with enhancement packages or releases in a bundle, but our customers gave us clear feedback that they want easy, more digestible pieces which they can implement in a non-disruptive way,” said Berndt Leukert, executive vice president for SAP Business Suite applications.

The German software maker announced that it is also extending standard support for ECC 6.0 and Business Suite 7 applications until 2020.

While many who want to stay on top of the technology curve will applaud the quarterly updates, the announcement means less for more traditional businesses like Seneca Foods Corp., according to a Roy Orosz, a senior ABAP programmer with the Marion, N.Y.-based company. 

Orosz explained that they typically only adopt something after it’s been out for a while and they’ve had the chance to evaluate it.

“We do them at our own pace,” Orosz said, adding that Seneca Foods typically doesn’t stay up on the “latest trends.”

While the German software maker provided few specifics on the kinds of innovations or changes that might be included in those upgrades, it has said that customers will be able to choose from a “menu” of enhancements to Business Suite applications, some of which will be industry-specific in nature. 

However, it did say that some of the coming enhancements will include improvements to the user interface (UI) such as with “chips,” widget-like features that will allow users to tailor the UI to their liking.

 “These chips can contain any information that’s a part of the SAP Business Suite; it could be analytics, it could be reporting, it could be master data management. It could be a simple search field for enterprise search,” Leukert said. “Any context related information you can imagine that users usually have to navigate to.” 

The quarterly enhancements will also be the vehicle by which SAP delivers new functionality around mobile technology, analytics and in-memory computing, according to SAP. Either way, SAP contends that users will be able to pick and choose what they want to implement.

“We can innovate and modernize existing applications within the ERP without disrupting the [system] the customer is running on. With HANA, we will over time improve [existing] applications, in some areas even radically change the way they work,” Leukert said. “But it’s the choice of the customer to do so.”

SAP also announced that it is extending regular maintenance for core ECC 6.0 applications from 2015 to December 2020. The longer maintenance also applies to the SAP NetWeaver platform and for all current enhancement packages for the SAP Business Suite.

SAP’s decision to extend standard maintenance was smart because it gives customers the much needed sense of stability that was evaporating as 2015 grew closer, Pang said. 

Alan Bowling, chairman of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group agreed, adding that he expects to see more companies upgrade to the latest versions of those applications as a result of that perceived stability. “They can now see a clear long-term future for the product.”   

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