The newest recommended version of SAP ERP is ECC 6.0 (Enterprise Central Component), with Enhancement Package 4. In order to avail of the recent version of the system, first you need to upgrade the system. Anyone who has upgraded their system or application package on their home computer knows that it is very labor-intensive and that there are so many things you need to remember. No wonder an upgrade of the most important business application in a company takes a form of an individual project which is scheduled, assigned a team, a manager and methodology, and allocated a budget.

Usually a professional and experienced consulting company which has suitable qualifications to do the majority of technical tasks is employed to upgrade the SAP system. However, similarly to other kinds of SAP projects, a considerable amount of work has to be done by the company, that is the system user. Since mid-2006, when SAP AG made SAP ECC 6.0 version available, BCC has been supporting numerous projects of that kind. In the overview below we present experiences of project managers and upgrade participants of companies which have already carried out such upgrades. We hope this will be interesting and informative reading for anyone who is about to upgrade their systems. There are ready-to-use ideas, pieces of advice and suggestions for the planned upgrade to ECC 6.0 to go smoothly and with no unpleasant surprises.


Friday the 13th at Kulczyk Tradex

First ever SAP system installation at Kulczyk Tradex took place in June 2003. Over 6 months before Going live, BCC Consultants created on our servers a two-system landscape based on version 4.6c, recommended at the time. According to the “Schedule of version support” announced by SAP, we should be able to use it for the following 5-6 years, at least. Indeed, the system passed the GoLive, the post-implementation modifications and supplements, and even the update with subsequent Support Packages. Since the beginning of 2004, the SAP system has supported the whole of processes in relation to sales, distribution and car warehouse management (SD, MM, WM) as well as all processes in FI, AA, TR i CO.

We began with ordering a new server for the production system, upgrading the database and SAP test system and launching a new system of quality assurance.

Another key business area still remained to be implemented into SAP, though, namely, sales, distribution and spare parts and car accessories warehouse management. The SAP implementation in this area was only planned after a few years of the GoLive of ‘cars’ due to considerable complexity of the processes in the area, restrictive requirements for data processing time (there are ca. 10,000 warehouse items given out daily) and some organizational issues.

Taking into account functions available in the system, we didn’t expect that the new version of SAP would offer ready-to-use solutions, customized to our specific character. We expected a big, even huge increase in the system load after the ‘spare parts’ GoLive and we were apprehensive of the system performance issues. That, together with the ending support period for both SAP 4.6c and Microsoft SQL 2000 database, made us take a decision that an upgrade project, i.e. hardware replacement, database upgrade and the SAP system upgrade will be a stage ‘zero’ of SAP implementation for spare parts.

Numerous discussions with BCC Consultants resulted in drawing up a detailed work schedule for 7 months. To begin with, we ordered a new server for the production system, upgraded the database and SAP test system, and launched a new system of quality assurance which started as a copy of the production system. All adjustments and modifications were tested on this system.

The tests were conducted predominantly by the work group members – refreshed after a few years since the GoLive and supplemented by ‘new blood’ that perfectly understood business processes. Careful selection and efficient management of work groups together with their effective co-operation with BCC Consultants and KT programmers were one of key factors in the success of the undertaking. At the same time, we achieved the effect of ‘being closer to the SAP’ for many people who had not been too fond of the system.

Among the solutions working with SAP, Business Connector and Internet Transaction Server were of key importance for our business activity. Both ran in the same versions they were installed in 2003 and they were not officially supported any more. We did not want to risk simultaneous changes in several systems and we could not upgrade them to SAP XI or Enterprise Portal before upgrading the SAP. The conducted tests proved that communication mechanisms used by them still run in ECC 6.0, though, and that we could bear with the old versions. We had to facilitate continuous and proper communications with data warehouses, but as there was SAP – SAP communications, we did not anticipate any major issues.

The system upgrade on users’ workstations was visible mainly in a form of a new SAP GUI 7.10. Since all systems, in spite of undergoing changes, kept their names and addresses, no changes in the configuration of GUI had to be made.

The majority of available literature and presentations suggested that, unlike the 4.6c, the ECC 6.0 version of SAP may run in Unicode version only. Apart from an undesired effect of a ‘bloated’ database, the change would require a time-consuming review of all programs developed by our programmers – string operations are very frequent, after all. Fortunately, it turned out that it was not an absolute requirement and the system upgrade was possible without conversion to Unicode. We went with this solution.

The tests ended conclusively and allowed us to keep the planned date for commencing the upgrade of the production system, and it was a Friday, June the 13th, 13:00 hours… Contrary to popular opinion, the day turned out to be very lucky. Both the technical upgrade and the adjustments upload were smoothly performed by BCC Consultants and already on Sunday morning the work groups could get down to checking the correctness of business processes operation in the new system reality.

Taking into consideration the complexity of the undertaking, it needs to be said that the upgrade was an overall success. Few minor issues that soon came to light after starting production work in the new system were quite quickly troubleshot. Not for a moment was the usual operations of the company in danger. There was one issue seemingly trivial, though, sending emails via Exchange Connector to multiple recipients during creating a purchase order, which turned out to be totally resistant to any attempts to solve it, by BCC or by SAP. To one recipient – go ahead, but too many spoil the broth, apparently.

It was not the end of the project yet – after a few weeks designated for stabilization of the system and potential corrections, we started its last phase – migration to version x64. The new hardware was equipped with a large amount of RAM memory but its handling in the 32-byte Microsoft Windows left a great deal to be desired. It reached a point where, in order to ensure effective running of the production system, we had to remove 4 GB of memory out of it and it genuinely helped. The migrations of subsequent systems to the 64-byte version, which we carried out in July and August, solved the problems. The memory in servers was topped up and their operation remained fairly stable.

Wojciech Czombik, Coordinator for Software, Kulczyk Tradex, KPI Business Services

The project of SAP systems upgrade, carried out in joint effort of Kulczyk Tradex and BCC, covered various elements and was a complex undertaking that lasted for months . Its success is owed mainly to thorough planning, huge involvement of people partaking on both parts and BCC’ experience and competence in performing such operations. On that account the project ended with three ‘conformances’: with the scope, with the schedule and with the budget.

Wojciech Czombik
Coordinator for Software, Kulczyk Tradex, KPI Business Services

With surgical precision at GSK

On February the 2nd, 2010 at 6 am at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals SA in Poznań the GoLive of a new version of SAP ERP ECC 6.0 took place. The upgrade activities were done as a part of adjusting the Poznań factory to GSK’s global strategic priorities published in 2008. New system solutions are to translate into saving money and improving processes in the company.

It was one of the biggest IT projects carried out at GlaxoSmithKline in Poland in recent years. The first stage began in January 2009. As a result of undertaken actions, SAP R/3 4.6c used to date was replaced with SAP ECC 6.0.

The introduced changes concerned the technical kernel and all system modules, including finance, material management, sales, quality management and production planning. The project also aimed at system conversion to Unicode – the international standard of character encoding. Together with external consultants, over 90 people were engaged in the project.

In my opinion, the following factors were a key to success in this project:

  • A big enough time buffer in the project – additional 10% of time initially planned for the project.
  • Full involvement of project team members, creating a very positive atmosphere of cooperation in the team.
  • Handling challenges with calm – focusing on solving one issue at a time, from the most serious to the less important ones.
  • Set strict deadline for Going live, stemming from local business circumstances and the time slot available for the upgrade of the production system.
  • Motivating project team members in a suitable way.
  • Professionalism of SAP Basis specialists, ensuring effective and timely upgrade works, which is particularly important at the critical moment when the company does not operate for a few days due to no access to the key system.
  • Additional, trial upgrade of the production system in a 24-hour mode – enabling precise estimation of the time that is needed for the actual upgrade of the production system.
  • Decisive Steering Committee to which one can always turn for help.
  • Complete, trust-based cooperation with the Project Manager on the part of the provider.
  • Informal tests of DEV instance, performed by experienced system users, drastically limiting errors encountered during formal QA acceptance tests.

I recommend “Managing SAP ERP 6.0 Upgrade Project” to project managers who are engaged in this type of undertaking for the first time.

  • Professional competence of people involved in tests – owing to that testing was carried out smoothly and the system was tested thoroughly, which limited the number of occurrences after the GoLive (in our case the incidents were very scarce).
  • A 100% engagement of the project manager on the part of GSK.
I recommend ‘Managing SAP ERP 6.0 Upgrade Project”, published by SAP Press, to project managers who are engaged in this type of undertaking for the first time.

Leaving the coordination of communication activities outside the company to the Public Relations department.

Finally, I will let myself quote the words of one of the project participants, a GSK employee: “Writing and performing testing cases was an opportunity to perform daily duties step by step. A better understanding of our connections and mutual dependencies as partakers of the project is a huge advantage of the project. Working at such a project is a good opportunity to share knowledge, which in my opinion has been efficiently applied”.

Damian Dominiak
SAP Upgrade Project Manager, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals

Żabka first in Poland

Żabka Polska is the first company in Poland to upgrade SAP to the ECC 6.0 version, only a few months after the version was made available.

Personnel movements in companies are a natural consequence of passage of time and a SAP upgrade project requires broad expert knowledge in the field for each of the updated modules. Thus, before getting down to project works, revising personnel resources within particular SAP modules and training new key users effectively are both worthwhile, especially if the system implementation project was carried out many years before.

As a part of preparation to the project, a sizing of the hardware-software platform should be done towards the upgrade of the SAP system to the ECC version. At Żabka, the reorganization and modernization covered moving the database onto a more efficient matrix and adding an extra server to the existing SAP server constellation. Apart from the SAP system upgrade, we updated the Oracle database to the 10g version, on account of which all components of our most important system have now long-standing support.

The methodology behind upgrading recommends ‘freezing” the development works for the duration of the project, however, in our case, it was impossible due to business circumstances. That is why we established a special response procedure in the event of the production system modification during the project.

The most important element of an upgrade project is an appropriate preparation and due carrying out of the technical upgrade. Planning and reliable performance of business tests and technical check-ups in SAP after upgrade allows to detect and troubleshoot potential irregularities.

Maciej Kląskała, IT Department Director, Żabka Polska SA

In the upgrade, the small ‘time slot’ allowed by the company’s business processes implemented in SAP is usually a difficulty. The same story was at our company. We only had one weekend to upgrade the production system. That is why precise estimation of all worksand planning procedures in the event of emergency situations is so important.

Maciej Kląskała
IT Department Director, Żabka Polska SA

A description of all technical activities and of handling situations that may occur during the upgrade should be included in the upgrade handbook. Our handbook was a compilation of the system producer’s requirements, experience of BCC Consultants from other projects and experience gathered during upgrades of the development and test systems included in the SAP landscape at Żabka Polska.

It is good to have an emergency plan. Although we did not have to use it, we had a ready-to-use scenario of No GoLive – a set of steps and necessary resources to restore the source version of the system (from before the upgrade) in the event of system rejection in the tests.

Mutual trust, close cooperation and sharing information among project team members, coordinated by key users and lead consultants in SAP modules and by project managers, are as important as technical activities. These determine the success of the project for the most part.

BCC experts advise on how to get the company, IT infrastructure and users prepared for the SAP upgrade.
BCC project managers point out a few activities and actions that are worth doing before the upgrade and in the course of it, which we present in brief below.

  • Sizing of hardware for the purposes of the system in the new SAP version.
  • Creating a precise, detailed list of functionalities that do not function before the upgrade. Please do not forget that the aim of the project is upgrading the system and not fixing implementation errors.
  • Selection of experienced and competent project partner.
  • Assigning duties among project participants in detail, preferably with description for each position.
  • Implementing as many SAP standard solutions as possible.
  • Implementing the highest available version of SAP enhancement package.
  • Performing a test upgrade of a copy of the production system.
  • Developing a detailed plan for upgrading the production system.
  • Freezing the development works between the test and the production upgrade of the production system.
  • ImplementingSAP Solution Manager.
  • Ordering SAP GoingLive Functional Upgrade Check service, available with SAP Support.
  • Updating SAP system documentation.

Upgrade in the Petroleum Refinery

Rafineria Nafty Jedlicze SA has been using the SAP system since1999. GoLive of 3.0F version was performed on January 1, 1999. We carried out the first system upgrade to 4.6C version in the 3rd quarter of 2001. It was an important experience for everyone who works in the system as well as for the IT staff in the company. Long-term operation of the SAP system, changing conditions of the economic environment and a specific character of the business activity forced a lot of changes – it is a continuous process of ‘tailoring the system to the needs’ and its development.

Good news is that it is SAP, because it provides tools that allow to adjust it to even very sophisticated requirements. That is why, before the upgrade, it was very important to make a list of all system modifications, including ABAP Reports, Batch Input programs, dialog programs, user-exits, modifications of standard, SAPScript forms, etc. It was also necessary to draw up a list of critical business processes with reference to the company’s business activity. It was a base for creating a list of tests.

Since 2002 tele-information services are provided to the refinery by RAF-BIT, which personnel is comprised of former staff of an IT Organizational Unit at the refinery. The company carried out programming works on the project and coordinated the cooperation with BCC Consultants.

The hardware infrastructure was modernized in 2006, based on the performed sizing. Servers complying with the requirements of ECC 6.0 and allowing for a potential increase of users and further system development were bought.

In 2008 a decision on performing a SAP system upgrade to the ECC 6.0 version was taken and it was decided to cooperate with BCC. The plan made by Rafineria Nafty Jedlicze was to perform the technical upgrade and fully complete the project within budget. The Unicode implementation was not given a green light because it was not an indispensable functionality. The project began in June 2008 and lasted to October of the said year.

A very significant tactics of works on the system upgrade was to mobilize the users to work systematically in the module teams. Key users, who carried out functions of module team managers, were responsible for testing works and approving the functionalities of modules.

In its first version, the schedule of performance was quite busy and demanding due to the short term of project completion. It was to be completed before summer holidays. The holiday period actually loosened the schedule a bit. As it turned out in consequence, it was a good decision, owing to which the time pressure on project completion was lower, and the participants could stick to their holiday plans.

Development works were limited to only necessary tasks for business operations. All changes in the system made during the project were registered and entered simultaneously in the test system ECC 6.0 and production system of 4.6C. Despite the relatively long duration of the project, the changes did not have any major influence on the production system upgrade.

Due to the fact that sales and purchase units usually do not work on Saturdays and Sundays, performing the production system upgrade was planned for a weekend, while the Go Live phase was carried out with the supervision of BCC Consultants. Problems that were not detected during tests were troubleshot ad hoc by BCC Consultants and RAF-BIT employees.

Please note that the implementation methodology used by BCC and the commitment of all project participants allowed for the completion of all phases of the project on time and budget. We also did some additional work consisting of replacing a part of SAPScript forms with Smart Forms.

Mirosław Uliasz
Head Specialist for Raf-Bit Integrated Systems, a company responsible for IT support at Rafineria Nafty Jedlicze