The number of SAP customers now tops 345,000 in 180 countries, with many continuing to expand and upgrade their SAP environments to keep pace with new innovations.
One of the phenomena that keeps the momentum going is the willingness of SAP experts to share their firsthand knowledge of SAP solutions with their counterparts in other organizations – whether on stage at SAPPHIRE NOW, in the online forums of the SAP Community, in peer-to-peer exchanges at international SAP User Group events, or in success stories like the one that follows here.
Preparation is the Key
Dr. Ali Sbai, SAP System Architect at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), is the lead SAP expert for his organization of 1,200 SAP users. Working with a small in-house team, Sbai recently managed his organization’s successful upgrade from SAP ERP 6.0 enhancement package (EHP) 5/NW 7.02 to SAP ERP 6.0 EHP7/NW 7.40. The project was accomplished cost efficiently, on schedule, with zero escalations, and no disruptions to daily business operations.
After three months of post-go-live activities, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Sbai attributes the success to careful preparation. “The upgrade is a challenge,” says Sbai frankly. “You may have success, but you may also face a lot of problems. Preparation is the key.”
Preparation is the key, says Dr. Sbai about ITU’s recent upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0 EHP 7
Holistic View on Human Resources Data
As the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), ITU is a noted forerunner in implementing new technologies among UN agencies. Thus, ITU was the first among its peers to upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0 EHP 7 following an organizational directive from The International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) at the end of 2015 to implement a new UN common system compensation package, developed by SAP for the UN. The new software package, the Entitlement Validation Engine (EVE) for NPO organizations, runs on SAP ERP 6.0 EHP 7. Therefore, as a prerequisite to implementing the EVE package, UN agencies upgraded their SAP ERP software ahead of the December 31, 2016 project deadline.
For ITU, this entailed upgrading to SAP ERP 6.0 EHP7/NW 7.40 and fulfilling all new functions in ERP – mainly in the modules SAP Financial Accounting (FI), SAP Controlling (CO), and SAP Human Capital Management (HCM) – as well as ensuring the smooth integration of multiple other applications, such as SAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM), SAP Supplier Relationship Management (SRM), SAP Business Intelligence (BI) and SAP Enterprise Portal (EP). Sbai explains, “Our challenge was to prepare the configuration to upgrade to EHP 7 and then to implement the new package.”
ITU decided to keep the project in-house to defray the costs associated with hiring external consultants. “Frankly, for ITU, I think we saved a minimum 100 man days, and about 200 thousand Euros,” says Sbai. “For us, most important is that we upgraded with no issues.”
7 Steps to Upgrade Success
With more than 100 new functions, EHP 7 is the first enhancement package to be optimized for both the SAP HANA database and traditional databases. For SAP ERP 6.0 customers, enhancement packages offer the advantage of reducing the adjustment effort required for later migration to SAP HANA (Read more).
Read on to find out how careful preparation can make the difference for your EHP 7 upgrade. Expert tips from Sbai are highlighted. For detailed technical information about the project, read the case study in the upcoming issue of the SAP Professional Journal, due out at the end of April.
1. Upgrade the operating system-database (OS-DB).
Following the project kick off in March 2016, the first step Sbai and his team undertook was to prepare an OS-DB migration for 13 servers from Microsoft SQL 2005 to Microsoft SQL 2012.
Tip: It is recommended that you read all relevant documentation before you start. Also, establish all technical prerequisites.
2. Setup and configure SAP Solution Manager for upgrade and SAP systems management.
During this critical phase, the team prepared the necessary documentation, downloaded relevant tools, and configured the SAP Solution Manager. Sbai recalled this as a complex but necessary step because of the importance of the information and tools gathered, which included an analysis of the Source system. “It was a really important phase,” says Sbai. “The result is the XML file. It’s really the main input for the upgrade. It will check everything – that includes what you missed to download for the target system.” Tip: Configuring the SAP Solution Manager is a mandatory step, because you cannot do the upgrade without it.
3. Build the Sandbox (SBX) landscape with the full SAP system.
Sbai and his team built a Sandbox landscape that comprised the ITU’s full SAP environment with all satellite systems – including ERP, CRM, BI, EP, SRM, Master Data Management (MDM), and Web Channel. Their aim was to uncover all issues that may be encountered during the Production (PRD) upgrade. “We did all of this on Sandbox,” Ali says. “This was the key, because we had two challenges: 1. Upgrade to ERP and 2. Ensure the integration with all satellite systems. Upgrading is one thing. Integrating is another issue.”
Tip: Build the Sandbox landscape with synchronized copies from all of your PRD systems, including ERP and satellite systems such as SRM, CRM, BI, and so on.
The Sandbox upgrade took Sbai and his team three months, stretching from April 15 to June 24, but he says it was absolutely critical to the project’s success. His team tested and fixed all issues related to both the upgrade and the integration in the Sandbox landscape before moving on to the Development (DEV) landscape. Although this took additional time, Sbai says doing this is very useful, “We got all issues and we fixed them. Some were related to the tool; some were related to some new configuration with the system, and so on.”
Tip: Solve all issues in the Sandbox landscape. Do this again in DEV and Quality (QAS) to systematically reduce the number of issues you may eventually encounter in PRD. “The main mission of this Sandbox configuration is to get all issues that may be encountered in the PRD Go-Live prior to the Upgrade,” emphasizes Sbai.
4. Upgrade in the DEV landscape.
Again, Sbai and his team built a full SAP environment with all connectivity – this time in the DEV landscape. They set about solving all issues, although there were far fewer than in the previous phase. “With Sandbox, for example, we had 50 important issues,” recalls Dr. Sbai. “In DEV, we had only 20 issues because we already fixed a lot. In QAS, we had 4 issues – all of them fixed. In PRD, we had zero.” This phase took the entire month of July and did not involve testing.
5. Upgrade in the QAS landscape.
In the QAS landscape, the team again built the full SAP environment with all connectivity to perform the upgrade. The QAS upgrade phase took two months (August and September), including testing.
Tip: Perform the QAS upgrade on fresh copy of PRD.
One of the SAP tools the team used for the upgrade was the Software Update Manager (SUM), a multi-purpose tool that supports various processes of the upgrade. Development of the tool was still evolving at the time of this project, however, so that with each new release the tool got noticeably faster, minimizing the run time.
Tip: SUM is used in each of the SAP landscapes. It has six phases:
1. Extraction: SUM checks that you have downloaded everything from SAP, and checks relevant tools and system parameters. This step also involves provisioning of the path to the download directory and stack.xml, as well as the passwords for DDIC and database in the source system. This phase takes 1-2 hours.
2. Configuration: The tool checks all integration among components, and configures processes and performance relevant parameters, including the shadow instance parameter. “This has to be green, successfully handled, no issues,” notes Sbai.
3. Check: The tool checks that the source system is valid to be upgraded. It also calculates the space for the shadow system.
4. Preprocessing: The tool builds a shadow instance with the new target system to check that all components are well integrated and functioning. This step also includes a check for locked objects, ABAP Workbench locking, and SPDD adjustments. It takes two to three hours, and may require you to fix some issues. “We did this on Sandbox, DEV, and QAS,” says Sbai. “In preprocessing, we also logged everything. This may take 15-24 hours. After that, if you succeed in preprocessing, your system is ready to be upgraded without problem.”
5. Execution: In this step, you will execute the upgrade to the new release. Everything will be copied from the shadow to the main instance. It will however require downtime of the system, during which the system will be blocked for development or user activity. By some estimates, the upgrade can take 15 to 30 hours. “In our case, the PRD system took about 20 hours for preprocessing and about 10-12 hours in execution,” says Sbai, adding that at the end of this step, “We got a nice image: Your upgrade is complete.”
6. Post-processing: The tool performs cleanups and checks if your upgraded system can run on the application side. It also includes the transaction SPAU and transport unlock. “This phase will fix a lot of things to have a valid, functioning system,” says Sbai, who notes that the time needed may vary from two hours to 10 days.
6. Test with Key Users in the QAS landscape.
In QAS, the team provided the upgrade of the system to key users for testing with business process checklists. This phase ran for one month from October to mid-November.
“After we validated the QAS system, it was okay, almost no issues” says Sbai. “Then we planned the Go-Live for one week.”
Tip: Conduct intensive testing with key business users working with a dedicated checklist to test each business scenario. Your target should be to have zero issues. Based on the results of the tests, prepare precise checklist for the PRD upgrade. Evaluate system performance and time parameters with the goal of achieving the Go-Live upgrade within one weekend.
7. Upgrade in the PRD landscape.
The team ran the upgrade over the weekend from December 2-5, 2016. It lasted exactly 37 hours and resulted in no issues or messages sent to SAP. Following the post-processing by SUM, Sbai advises that you open your system and check that it displays the new release information; next, run tests, which may take 1-2 hours; and if everything is okay, then you can release the system to your colleagues. “We tested the applications. There were zero issues,” says Sbai. “On Monday, we released the new system to the business. We started with key users. We validated it around 10:00. No issues.”
The new compensation software component was implemented following the upgrade and tested by the Human Resources team. It went live on January 1, 2017 as planned. Additionally, the Information Services team installed and configured SAP Fiori to enable mobile services for employee self-serve applications, including leave request and travel management.
For more information about how to ensure a successful upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0 EHP 7, visit the SAP Community: Quick Guide for Enhancement Pack 7 Upgrade and Upgrade from ERP 6.0 to ERP 6.0 EhP7. You may also be interested in the SAP News Center article: SAP EHP 7 for SAP ERP 6.0.
Top image via Shutterstock; other images via ITU
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