Are you one of those early adopters who implemented SAP S/4HANA and are now starting to reap its benefits in terms of lower TCO, improved processes and performance, and increased business productivity? Or are you among those who are currently in the process of adopting SAP S/4HANA (whether it’s a short sharp few months system conversion, or a multi-year business transformation program)? Regardless of the phase of SAP S/4HANA journey you are in, you will have thought about what happens during an upgrade for one reason or another.
You recognize that having upgrades in the roadmap will position your organization to continue to get the most from its SAP S/4HANA investments. This blog article offers resources to help you define an upgrade strategy for your organization, including:
- Why upgrade – driving factors for business and technical upgrades
- Which target version
- When to upgrade
- How to upgrade
You will find a list of further related resources at the end of this blog post.
The need to upgrade an SAP S/4HANA platform can stem either from your Business or IT departments or both. Those identified needs will determine the scope as well as the approach to the upgrade namely – functional and technical upgrades. You will find it helpful for upgrade planning to understand the key driving factors for both types of upgrade.
Driving factors for functional upgrades
Innovations, new features and improvements that help realize business value by demonstrating return on investment is usually what drives the business need for an upgrade. As a result, there is also significant functional rework that happens in this type of upgrade with redesign of business processes. This approach enables customers to take advantage of latest innovations using intelligent technologies such predictive analytics, AI, machine learning and robotic process automation. This is typically called a functional upgrade.
The SAP S/4HANA What’s New Viewer is a great resource to explore the new, changed and deleted features and functions at a high level of all versions and feature packages of SAP S/4HANA when evaluating the upgrade potential.
You can review the video series: The Power of SAP S/4HANA for some examples of the latest new value of SAP S/4HANA 1909 in action.
You can also get some great starting points for discussion with business stakeholders via the SAP Fiori lighthouse scenarios (regularly updated), which highlights apps with the best new business value for specific lines of business.
With more and more solutions and functionalities being embedded and enhanced with each release of SAP S/4HANA, upgrade provides the option to activate such functions for customers who can benefit from them. For example: the embedded SAP TM solution was made available in SAP S/4HANA 1709 and enhanced in subsequent releases, see this blog article for details.
This means that alongside the new possibilities of your target SAP S/4HANA version are new process simplifications that need to be assessed. So, you will need to factor the time for assessing the simplifications into your upgrade planning.
Simplification Item Catalog provides descriptions of all relevant changes that helps analyze and mitigate the impact of an upgrade.
NOTE: Over time, as more areas are simplified, the number of additional simplifications to be assessed in each new SAP S/4HANA version will reduce. However, for those currently on lower releases such as SAP S/4HANA 1511, the number of simplifications to assess between source release (1511) and target release (1909) is already considerable.
Driving factors for technical upgrades
The key driving factors for the IT department are to stay current with corrections and security patches and to simply stay at a supported version dictated by SAP S/4HANA maintenance schedule. This technical upgrade approach can help improve performance, reduce data and application footprint, and simplify the architecture.
Upgrading also provides significant improvements in SAP S/4HANA User Experience in:
- Increased SAP Fiori coverage (new apps, new features in existing apps)
- New SAP Fiori features (new launchpad options, new automatic features in floorplans, such as export to spreadsheet in many SAP Fiori elements apps)
- New classic UI capabilities when launched from SAP Fiori (touch-enabled user interfaces for Web Dynpro ABAP applications and GUI for HTML transactions)
- Performance (improvements in both SAP Fiori and classic user interface technologies).
This blog post from my colleague Hannes Defloo at the S/4HANA RIG explains SAP Fiori upgrade scenarios in detail
IMPORTANT – understanding SAP S/4HANA Maintenance Schedule:
SAP S/4HANA releases follow the yearly innovation cycle and have a five-year Mainstream Maintenance phase after which they enter into Customer Specific Maintenance phase.
This year, 2020, marks the first year where an SAP S/4HANA release will fall out of support with S/4HANA 1511 mainstream maintenance expiring on the 31st December of 2020, reference – SAP Product Availability Matrix (PAM). Customers who are still running S/4HANA 1511 are strongly advised to start planning the upgrade sooner than later.
Mainstream maintenance for every subsequent release will end the years following 2020.
Usually, there is a direct upgrade path available from one release to any other subsequent release as long as the releases are in mainstream maintenance. Depending on technological constraints, an upgrade to a release that is several releases beyond a customer’s current release may have to be performed in more than one step.
SAP recommends that you always upgrade to the latest SAP S/4HANA version whenever possible, which is 1909 at the time of writing this article.
In addition to achieving the upgrade objectives, getting to the latest release helps ensure supportability and reduces maintenance costs. Occasionally an upgrade to the latest version may not be possible when pre-requisites are not met. For example, due to a partner add-on that is not yet certified with the latest version (see footnote for link to SAP certified solutions directory), or due to the timing of the overall project.
The Feature Package Stacks (FPS) and Support Package Stacks (SPS) should also be considered when putting together the upgrade strategy. FPS is similar to SPS but may come with non-disruptive, non-mandatory features that you may be interested in. FPS/SPS upgrade on the same base version is usually of lower impact compared to the release upgrade.
A general recommendation is to aim for FPS01 or higher on any SAP S/4HANA release, for the simple reason that SAP aims FPS01 at the long-term maintenance SAPUI5 version, e.g. SAP S/4HANA 1909 is aimed at SAPUI5 1.71. SAPUI5 is the underlying technology for SAP Fiori for S/4HANA components. So, aiming for FPS01 or higher minimizes the need for upgrading of these SAP Fiori components prior to your next SAP S/4HANA upgrade.
The other important point to keep in mind when planning the upgrade is the version interoperability within the SAP S/4HANA solution landscape. Upgrade dependencies with individual systems connected to the SAP S/4HANA and the underlying SAP HANA database version should be carefully analyzed. Certain application components deployed in the central hub mode such as SAP Fiori for S/4HANA, SAP MDG on S/4HANA should always be simultaneously upgraded to the same version as the S/4HANA system. Other SAP NetWeaver systems used as central hubs in the landscape, for example, SAP NetWeaver PI and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse are not required to be upgraded if the underlying SAP NetWeaver release is at least 7.3 (SAP note 2251604).
Once the justification and approach for the upgrade is established, the next logical questions are when and how.
Putting a maintenance schedule in place to upgrade the SAP S/4HANA platform on a regular basis is essential because of the business upgrade and technical upgrade reasons mentioned above. Determining the right timing to upgrade is important, as waiting too long can increase support costs, future upgrade costs, and effort to assess both new simplications and new opportunities.
A good starting point to prepare is by going through the SAP S/4HANA upgrade guide – link available in footnotes. There are two phases to the SAP S/4HANA upgrade process, the prepare phase and the realize phase applicable for all target release and feature packages. Some important checks are performed in the prepare phase to ensure a smooth execution of the upgrade procedure in the realize phase. These include checks on source system requirements, business functions and add-ons status checks, and simplification item checks.
PLEASE NOTE: If you need to minimize your upgrade window, near-Zero Downtime Maintenance (nZDM) and Zero Downtime Option (ZDO) for SUM are available for SAP S/4HANA upgrades but with some restrictions and limitations – see the footnote at the end of this blog post for more information.
Execution of the upgrade is only half the work in an upgrade project. A testing strategy that covers regression, system integration, and UAT scenarios depending on the scope of the upgrade needs to be put in place to ensure project success.
As a best practice, it is always recommended to run the first full cycle of upgrade on a Sandbox environment that is a recent copy of the Production system.
Upgrading SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA
SAP Fiori is the way business users consume the new value of SAP S/4HANA. At the time of writing this article, there are over 1700 SAP Fiori apps delivered out of the box, plus many 1000s of classic UIs (GUI transactions, ABAP Web Dynpro applications, and Web Client UIs) that can be launched from SAP Fiori launchpad.
For this reason, if you did not deploy SAP Fiori in your initial implementation of SAP S/4HANA, you are strongly recommended to deploy SAP Fiori with your first SAP S/4HANA upgrade.
If you are already using SAP Fiori, you can assess the delta of new apps between your target and source SAP S/4HANA releases using the SAP Fiori apps reference library, and/or search on keyword Fiori in the SAP S/4HANA What’s New Viewer. In addition, you can still use the SAP Fiori Apps recommendation report to discover and deploy apps relevant to your current GUI transaction usage.
If SAP Fiori is already being used and your SAP Fiori frontend server is deployed in hub mode, it is advisable to consider moving to the recommended embedded mode of SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA as part of the upgrade. Useful links to blog articles is provided in the footnotes section.
With mainstream maintenance phase for older SAP S/4HANA releases ending and innovations being delivered on a regular basis through releases and feature packages, now is the time for customers to plan ahead and create an upgrade strategy to move to a newer release of SAP S/4HANA. The upgrade should be viewed as an opportunity for getting one step closer to becoming an intelligent enterprise rather than a necessary inconvenience.
S/4HANA 1909 upgrade guide – https://help.sap.com/doc/760ce610a2af4174a329d2d8315378e2/latest/en-US/UPGR_OP1909.pdf
SAP Maintenance Strategy – https://support.sap.com/en/release-upgrade-maintenance/maintenance-information/maintenance-strategy.html
SAP Certified Solutions Directory – http://www.sap.com/sapcertifiedsolutions
2214409 – SAP S/4HANA: Compatible Add-Ons – https://launchpad.support.sap.com/#/notes/2214409
SAP S/4HANA What’s New Viewer – https://help.sap.com/doc/474a13c5e9964c849c3a14d6c04339b5/100/en-US/8880de6dbfb94ea3b0de1f26b40816dc.html
SAP S/4HANA On-Premise 1809 Upgrade Guide – https://blogs.sap.com/2018/12/17/sap-s4hana-on-premise-1809-upgrade-guide/
Review the video series: The Power of SAP S/4HANA for some examples of the new value – https://blogs.sap.com/2019/09/20/video-series-the-power-of-sap-s4hana/
Simplification Item Catalog – https://launchpad.support.sap.com/#sic
How and why to upgrade SAP Fiori for your SAP S/4HANA solution – https://blogs.sap.com/2020/03/13/how-and-why-to-upgrade-sap-fiori-for-your-sap-s-4hana-solution/
SAP Fiori Frontend Server transitioning from standalone to embedded mode – https://blogs.sap.com/2019/10/25/sap-fiori-transition-from-standalone-to-embedded-deployment-in-sap-s4hana/
2251604 – Version Interoperability between SAP S/4HANA On Premise Edition and SAP NetWeaver Systems – https://launchpad.support.sap.com/#/notes/2251604
Finding the Delta of new apps between SAP S/4HANA versions – https://blogs.sap.com/2019/01/08/fiori-for-s4hana-finding-the-delta-of-new-apps-between-sap-s4hana-versions/
SAP Fiori Apps Recommendation Report – gives recommendations based on past GUI transaction usage – https://sap.com/far
1678565 – Prerequisites, Terms and Conditions for nZDM/SUM – https://launchpad.support.sap.com/#/notes/1678565
2163060 – Prerequisites and Restrictions of Zero Downtime Option of SUM – https://launchpad.support.sap.com/#/notes/2163060
Brought to you by the S/4HANA RIG