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Monday, June 25, 2012

R/3 to ECC - Benefits of not upgrading anything?

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This is a question that will probably be asked by many IT persons over the coming months, as SAP draws to a close support for the SAP R/3 4.7 system.
(see the SAP production availability matrix http://service.sap.com/pam).
Whilst upgrading to ECC will mean a SAP supported system, what other options are out there?
Let's look at just a few so that you may have some ideas that you maybe hadn't considered.

- Stay where you are and pay for extended support.
This is an interesting option.  Let's face it, if you use SAP as a basic product e.g. for accounting or sales transactions, then exactly what else will you need from a product in the future?  Why not save the upgrade costs and simply pay for extended support, and keep paying each time it expires.
Whilst the initial support costs may be known, the future costs are not and SAP could hike these.  Also, there may be a fairly straight upgrade path to a newer product at the moment, but in the future you may have to follow that path, plus the additional paths and intricacies of upgrades to later versions in order to reach something more modern (UNICODE anyone!).
Things like OS support may bite you eventually, and those of you on HP-UX Itanium are already seeing what happens to non-x86 based operating systems when companies like Oracle decide to stop supporting you.  Your future upgrade path could involve skill-sets no longer available/costly, or even more lengthy processes because you're moving from older hardware.
On the positive side, the future could hold hope in the form of faster systems, smarter tools and cheaper processes that could make future upgrades/migrations faster and cheaper than doing it now.  A big database in the future may not be so big in relational terms.

- Stay where you are and don't pay for extended support.
You will loose all access to standard SAP support sites and tools, plus you will not benefit from any DB updates or DB vendor support.
This could be very problematic if your business needs to apply SAP legal patches for changes to HR related functions within the SAP modules.
I'm not entirely sure if you will still be able to request SCCR keys for modifying SAP objects or even be able to develop your own ABAP code in your own system.  Maybe someone can let me know on that one.
Some of the words in Oracle Database support contracts state that you may have to back-pay for support if you decide to re-enable support at a later date.  I'm not sure if SAP would be the same.
You would potentially suffer during external audits if additional security related legislation comes along (SOX for example) and you are not able to apply the updates/functionality to provide that security.

There are some common issues with both options above.  These mainly centre around the IT resources that are supporting those systems.  Nobody likes to stay still in IT.  Not unless they are happy in the knowledge that retirement is looming and they just need to keep rolling in the meantime.
The constant need to keep abreast of the latest technical enhancements/changes is one of the most difficult aspects of the IT profession.
However, with the advent of off-shore IT resources, it should be possible to secure long-term support resources even if you can't secure them on-shore.  Having said that, I don't yet know of any off-shore company that has a high retention level.  Maybe this is coming...

In summary, there are some cost advantages in the short term for not upgrading an SAP system.  But unfortunately those costs may hit you in the end in some form or another.

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