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As SAP R/3 support fades, upgrades to ECC 6.0 accelerate

With the clock ticking on the end of SAP R/3 support and maintenance, the pace of customers upgrading to SAP ECC 6.0 is picking up, according to a survey of readers.

A growing number of SAP R/3 customers are planning to upgrade to SAP ECC 6.0 as the deadline for support and maintenance for those older ERP versions runs out next year, according to a new survey. 

In the survey, roughly 18% of of the more than 580 respondents said they were still on older R/3 releases, a significant change from last year’s survey, in which 48% of respondents said they were still on one of the older SAP ERP versions. Extended support for all R/3 versions is slated to expire in March next year, after which those customers can opt for more limited “customer-specific” maintenance and support, or perhaps move to a third-party vendor such as Rimini Street.

Of the survey respondents who said they won’t be upgrading to SAP ECC 6.0 , half said they were content with their current versions. Another 9% said they were in the process of switching to another ERP vendor. And roughly 6% said they weren’t upgrading because it was too expensive.

All of consultant Eric Kimberling’s customers are making sure they understand the impact an upgrade will have their operations as well as their bottom line.

“It’s not that they’re deciding not to [upgrade to ECC 6.0]. Some of them are putting it off and delaying it just because the budget requirement or the resources and time involved, risk and all that,” said Kimberling, president of the Denver-based Panorama Consulting Solutions, which specializes in ERP implementations.

“Most see the value of ECC, some of the benefits it provides and some of the new functionality. They just want to get their ducks in a row before they move forward,” he said. “As with any upgrade, it’s a big deal.”

Kimberling said he always advises his clients to stay on top of their upgrades, despite the time and cost involved.

“The technology’s changing so quickly and the functionality is improving so much, with dollars being sunk into making the product better,” he said. “Every release that you fall behind on an upgrade you’re kind of creating a misalignment with what the software could be doing versus what it is doing.”

Kimberling added that it’s also a lot easier to keep up with incremental upgrades and enhancement packs along the way than put it off and try to do too much at once.

‘We didn’t really see any need to upgrade’
Despite that advice, some wait to upgrade until it’s no longer feasible or prohibitively expensive to stay on an older release. Like many others, it was the specter of paying higher extended maintenance and support fees that finally convinced the county of Sacramento to move.

For years, the county had stuck with its stable 4.6c release, forgoing upgrades along the way.

“We didn’t want to [upgrade] unless we had a good business reason,” said Mark Musser, the county’s principal business systems analyst. “Since 4.6c was meeting our needs on the business side, we just decided to wait.”

The county passed on upgrading to SAP R/3 4.7 and SAP ERP 5.0 before deciding in 2007 that it was worth upgrading to avoid eventually having to pay for SAP extended maintenance and support, which would have cost an additional 6%.

Musser said the county had originally planned on doing a straight “technical upgrade” without adding any new functionality, but eventually decided to deploy the ESS (Employee Self-Service) portal as a part of the move, instead of sticking with their older, non-portal version.  

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