Upgrading SAP


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Upgrading SAP
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Looking to Upgrade?

Upgrading SAP is something that all companies have to face on a periodic basis.  Whether you're looking to 'just' do a technical upgrade, or a full functional upgrade, getting the right people to support you is imperative to the success of your project.

Given the complexity of SAP - and the relative freedom allowed in expanding the system via userexits -  upgrading SAP remains a daunting task.  In addition to that, the recent changes and upgrades to SAP's functionality and landscape make the range of aspects to be considered during upgrade complex and somewhat daunting:

Examples are:

  • unicode conversion

  • ABAP Objects vs "traditional ABAP"

  • Technical upgrade vs functional upgrade

  • Replacing legacy userexits code with new (standard) functionality

To top that, there still are areas in SAP that traditionally have hiccups during upgrades (example: text determination in SD) - knowing about these areas up front is a considerable help.

Technical- vs Functional-upgrades

In addition to all the foregoing, you also have to make the decision to do either a 'technical' upgrade or a 'functional' upgrade. 

In a technical upgrade, you merely upgrade the SAP system and adjust any existing userexits and configuration only as necessary (e.g.  the introduction of Lean WM - warehouse management - gave Business Sponsors the choice to implement Lean WM with it's relatively minor changes or use the old configuration without any negative impact).

In a functional upgrade, new functionality is used which expands the scope of the system configuration.  The new configuration may merely be new functionality provided by SAP (e.g. Revenue Recognition), the replacement of a userexit with configuration functions.

Technical Upgrade vs Functional:  How to decide?

Typically, I have usually seen most companies elect to do only technical upgrades, forestalling the eventual functional upgrade and the additional expense in support it implies.

There are trade-offs, though:

  • Multiple Technical upgrades may eventually force you into a position where you have to do a major functional upgrade - this probably applies more to 46 customers, but applies nevertheless!

  • Functional upgrades typically cost more due to the expertise required

  • Even technical upgrades involve ABAP changes, configuration changes and the usual mandatory testing

  • Business disruption needs to be minimized - so upgrading typically can't be an annual event

  • Sometimes upgrading is an SAP requirement - a good example here is Revenue Recognition

  • The incremental cost of a functional upgrade may just well be justified!

Arguably, selecting specific functions for functional upgrades - as long as their is a solid business case for including them - is an approach to seriously consider.