How to prepare an upgrade of SAP, so it bothers least other projects, your users and customers

To prepare an upgrade of a SAP system, is very often a huge challenge for an IT department. Any chosen period always falls inconvenient for all users, customers and other project owners as all interactive systems with the upgrade system are affected of the down time. You need to be aware of:
  • no immediate benefit - as all other maintenance, there is only costs involved, and the immediate value is difficult to measure. Of that reason these upgrades are very often put off for too long
  • development stops - the upgrade demands a long time of freeze period, meaning that other development projects and roll outs are stalled. And it is the development of new and optimized processes that creates the value, for any company.
  • demand of down time - the upgrade demands several hours of down time of your Production environment on the day the production environment is upgraded, which some times can be more than 12 -24 hours

Milestones to hit before you enter the freeze period
  • Agree on the down time date(s) of the P environment with the business and the majority of the user and project groups, so any respect to high seasons, huge user activity, other go live dates, month end closing, etc. can be taken as it will be very much more expensive and time consuming to move the date(s) later during the upgrade
  • The Project Plan must be known and cleared off by all stakeholders, so you don't have to change it during the project, which increase the costs.
  • A contingency plan MUST be prepared, ready and communicated to all affected users, business personal and others, before the planned down time, so they know what to do and how to act, if the down time expire during the upgrade, and this is normal and happens from time to time, because it is often not possible to calculate exact total down time as the D and Q environments very seldom is a mirror of the P environment
  • Clean up of transports in all queues of the environments of Development and  Quality is very often the most time consuming activity, as this assumes that all transports are either moved to the Production environment or deleted, and all these activities demands discussion and knowledge of other go lives and project plans. This information can take a lot of time to gather and act on. It is not unusual with several hundreds of transports that have to be moved to Production or deleted.
  • Prepare test cases within all functionalities long before the freeze period, so it immediate can be executed. Normally these test cases can be collected from earlier tests, but you need to ensure that all is in place and ensure that all functionalities are covered in the test cases
  • Competencies within ABAP and Basis is an assumption for an upgrade, and it helps a lot if the ABAP personal also are identic with the developers of the all ABAP customized programs, as it will make the SPAU customizing later in the process faster

Activities in the freeze period
  • Preparation of the Cut Over Plan can be a copy work from last upgrade, but it is recommendable to check mark every activity along the upgrade of the Development and Quality environments and maybe also Sand box environments, and it is important to note how long time (in hours and minutes) every activity last, as you need this information when you plan the down time for the Production environment during upgrade
  • Prepare a 'cook book' for the SPAU list on a Sand box environment, is a very good idea if that is possible at all, as the time needed for doing the corrections to ABAP programmed development can be unpredictable, and can take longer than anyone can expect. And the cook book will prepare you
  • Avoid any development during freeze the freeze period - this should be obvious, but it is seen more often that development are allowed in minor scale during the upgrade, because of a lot of reasons. These developments demands very often longer freeze periods, because of more intensive tests, especially if the development is framed outside SAP standard.
  • Executing of a complete test of all functionalities has to be done between Q and P upgrade and it is mandatory to ensure that all are completed with a satisfactory result. If any test cannot be completed, then make sure there is a work around agreed and implemented in the user groups before go live. You will need a team of test personal that are dedicated full time, so the test can be executed according to plan, even if any obstacles appear
  • If possible and relevant, complete a regression test before and after the upgrade of the Quality environment, the result of both will give you a good advice and indication of the impact on the response times and execution times on certain runs before and after
  • The day of the down time can be organized in different ways, but have the team prepared on the day (and night), meaning align all activities in the Cut Over Plan with all participants, and ensure to have replacements if possible, as one missing person. If all participants are not situated in the same war room, then make sure that a virtual war room is established so it is possible to communicate during the cut over. Follow up on the cut over plan with appropriate status meetings along the down time, it is important that all participants are updated on any situation.
  • Have a communication plan prepared, to inform the business and users involved during and after the down time. It is easier to accept an extension of the down time, if you have been adviced and is able to take appropriate actions to avoid misunderstandings
  • Prepare a support team to cover at least 24 hours after end of down time and the support team must include process and owners and involved developers, to ensure fast and save solutions of matter that appears
  • Assess your risks around the down time, according to earlier issued newsletters about risk assesments
    The success criterias in any project are,
  • Communication about the project, is important to all stakeholders in any project. What is the impact when and where, and who will be involved
  • Constructive attitude is necessary, even if the situations are under huge pressure
  • Commitment and ownership is a MUST from all stakeholders. Make the necessary moves to make it happen
  • Common understanding of the goal and the scope is necessary to meet milestones and deadlines
  • Clear escalation route(s) is necessary to ensure immediate actions and decisions when required
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