Change isn’t easy in SAP. But automation can help.
Worried about SAP upgrades? Our webinar explores how to upgrade SAP faster, at a lower cost, and with less risk.
Last year SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner estimated “the average [SAP] customer is probably at least six years behind, in terms of upgrading their systems.” With complex, interconnected systems like SAP, it’s no surprise that safely and effectively updating to new versions is a huge challenge.
However, while upgrades can be costly, time-consuming and fraught with risk, newer versions of SAP offer important updates. They can help the business to work more efficiently, and perhaps even in new ways that increase competitive advantage. SAP updates also offer important security enhancements that help protect businesses against an ever-increasing range of cyber threats.
And of course, with the end of ECC support coming in 2027, S/4HANA is also looming on the horizon. Perhaps counter-intuitively, it seems SAP’s push towards S/4 might actually increase the need for upgrades. Many SAP users are updating legacy systems to make the transition to S/4 easier, while others are updating to increase the longevity of their current SAP systems so they can avoid moving to S/4 altogether.
Even those that make the move to S/4 will find the topic doesn’t disappear. As long as SAP continues to release annual updates that will each be supported for just five years, the upgrade challenge is here to stay.
With this in mind, we hosted a webinar about how automation can help to deliver SAP upgrades at a lower cost and with lower risk. In this blog, I’ll summarize some of the key points from the webinar, but you can watch the whole thing on demand here to learn more.
Upgrades aren’t easy
I’m sure we can agree that making major changes safely and efficiently in complex, large, opaque and interconnected systems like SAP isn’t easy.
Even if there’s a desire to upgrade and an understanding of why you should, the answer to the question ‘can we invest the time, effort, and money required?’ is often no. That’s because, unlike a normal development project, you don’t get to choose what changes you make when upgrading. Instead lots of changes are effectively forced on you simultaneously. It’s not always easy to determine what benefit they will bring, and it can take a lot of effort to confidently predict their impact on production systems.
And then there’s the practical challenge of executing a major project without either creating unacceptable levels of risk, or putting a freeze on business as usual (BAU) changes and delaying innovation.
So, how can you address these challenges and get the benefits of SAP upgrades without unnecessary costs and risk?
How automation can help
One of the most effective ways to overcome these upgrade challenges is to use automation. By shifting the technical requirements and effort from your people to an automated process, you can reduce the risk of things going wrong – and accelerate your upgrade projects.
Automation can help across many parts of the upgrade process, including:
- Analysis and quality: by automating code analysis and quality checks, you can quickly understand if new changes can be safely deployed. And if they can’t, you can find out how to resolve any issues.
- Testing: when you’re orchestrating changes across systems, rigorous testing is essential. Automated testing can make this process faster and more thorough.
- Release orchestration: manually orchestrating change can be fraught with risk. But automation can help reduce that risk and accelerate code releases.
- Incremental delivery: automation can help you deliver smaller changes as soon as they’re ready. This allows you to deliver important changes like bug fixes and security patches faster, and run BAU changes while you continue upgrading other parts of your project.
In our webinar we considered a couple of specific examples where automation can have a big impact.
Automation in practice: multi-track (N+n) development
To avoid the risk of code conflicts and developer ‘tugs of war’ over who can change what in a single development environment, many businesses will run a multi-track (also known as N+n or N+1) configuration when implementing SAP upgrades. That way, developers can isolate the project changes and work on them without impacting BAU work.
This reduces the risk that project work will limit or delay BAU operations, but manually managing a multi-track environment can be challenging. How do you identify when developers are changing the same things in multiple systems across different development tracks? And how do you efficiently resolve conflicts so they don’t cause issues in production?
Although it’s possible to track conflicts manually, in practice it’s an onerous task that creates a significant amount of work for your team. Automation can help, highlighting potential conflicts between development tracks as changes are made, and keeping all other changes in sync automatically. The best automation ensures that no matter how many development systems you may have in your N+n environment, over 90% of changes will automatically be merged across them without user intervention.
Reduce risk with automated regression testing
Automation also plays an important part in delivering another vital element of any major project: regression testing. Effective regression testing helps to ensure that project changes don’t interfere with operational business processes – especially when the project is something like an upgrade, full of code you didn’t write in-house.
However, traditional regression testing is highly impractical. A normal script-based approach requires significant front-loaded effort - the likely impact of the upgrade must be assessed, then business processes defined and scripts written before you can even start, for example. That adds significant cost and duration to the project, and there’s no guarantee that the investment needed to maintain your test library until the next upgrade cycle will be available.
Robotic Test Automation takes a different approach that can help to accelerate and de-risk SAP upgrade regression tests. It completely removes the need to create and maintain test scripts by using actual user behavior to create a highly accurate test pack with far greater coverage. That means you can test faster – with fewer people and less upfront effort. And because it sees every server-side interaction, Robotic Test Automation helps you test against real user behavior rather than assumptions.
Watch the webinar to learn more
Automation can significantly accelerate and de-risk SAP upgrade projects, in many different ways, and I’ve only scratched the surface of these two key examples in this blog.
To learn more about how SAP automation solutions can help to run multi-track development and effective regression testing, and other ways they can help you enhance business agility, security and continuity, take a look at our on-demand webinar: A guide to faster, safer SAP upgrades.