Is it time for an SAP S/4HANA Upgrade? And is it really necessary?

Latest Update October 2020: Added two new meet-the-expert (MTE) sessions taking place in November: Key SAP Fiori consideration Part 2 – Architecture and Hub to Embedded migration (November 3, 2020) and Key SAP Fiori consideration Part 3 – Known impacts and custom code remediation (November 5, 2020); and also added the following SAP Notes:
SAP Note 2943206 – SAP S/4HANA 2020: Restriction Note
SAP Note 2912919 – SAP S/4HANA FOUNDATION 2020: Release Information Note
SAP Note 2912253 – SAP S/4HANA 2020 Feature Package Stack 00: Additional Release Information
SAP Note 2925123 – ABAP Platform 2020 – Restrictions

Think time flies? Well, it certainly feels that way in our industry! In November 2020 it will be a whole decade since SAP shipped the first version of the SAP HANA database. Since then thousands of companies around the world have benefited from using our revolutionary in-memory database technology.

At the same time, in Q4 this year we will celebrate five years since SAP released the first version of our new generation ERP solution – SAP S/4HANA (version 1511). While some customers are still evaluating and planning their transition to SAP S/4HANA, many have been using it for some years already.  For those customers on one of the earlier releases (e.g. 1511, 1610), the question of upgrade is becoming increasingly important.

There is huge interest in this topic, reflected in the heavy stream of questions that we are receiving from SAP Enterprise Support customers from around the world in the value map for SAP S/4HANA**. Therefore, our SAP Enterprise Support team have put together this blog post to share information which we hope will enable you to make an informed decision and prepare for your SAP S/4HANA upgrade project.

Below, we would like to draw your attention to some important topics, tools and knowledge resources which should help you to upgrade your SAP S/4HANA system successfully. However, there may be additional aspects you need to consider. SAP has just released the document Upgrading SAP S/4HANA: Why, How, and Best Practices which complements the Upgrade Guide and explains in more detail some topics already mentioned in this blog post and many additional topics related to SAP S/4HANA upgrade that will be of interest to you.


Release strategy and Maintenance cycles

To understand the reasons why you may need to update your SAP S/4HANA system, it makes sense to start with a reminder about the SAP S/4HANA release strategy. As it is stated in the SAP Release and Maintenance Strategy document:

  • SAP S/4HANA generally provides innovations on a regular basis through releases and feature packages.
  • The last feature package stack (FPS) for a given release before a new release is shipped is usually the starting point of the maintenance-only phase.
  • During a maintenance-only phase, SAP generally provides corrections but no new innovations for the release within support package stacks (SPS).
  • After the end of mainstream maintenance, the release usually enters customer-specific maintenance.

Timewise, SAP currently intends to make available:

  • One major release a year.
  • Mainstream maintenance of about 5 years for each release.

You can see a picture illustrating these principles below.

It means that if an SAP S/4HANA 1511 customer wants to keep the system under mainstream maintenance, it must be upgraded to a higher release before 2021. Note, that if the SAP S/4HANA starting release is already in customer-specific maintenance, a two-step or multistep upgrade may be required; for more information on this scenario, see the Product Availability Matrix (PAM).

The end of mainstream maintenance dates for every release can be found in PAM as well.

Important reminder: on February 4, 2020, SAP announced a maintenance commitment for SAP S/4HANA until the end of 2040. See related press release and SAP Note 2900388.

Landscape simplification

With the evolution of SAP S/4HANA, some of the products, or part of products of the old SAP Business Suite (such as SAP CRM or SAP SRM) are now available in SAP S/4HANA.

If you are using those products as standalone systems, you may want to take the opportunity of simplifying your current landscape. This could be another driving factor behind your decision to upgrade to a newer SAP S/4HANA release.

Of course, you need to investigate the pros and cons of doing this within or outside of your SAP S/4HANA upgrade project. You also need to check the availability of all the features you need in the embedded products, since there may be some gaps between them and the standalone products.

As an example, you can consider using SAP EWM or SAP TM functionalities embedded in SAP S/4HANA. You can find more details about this in our value map blog posts below:

To access these blog posts, registration to the SAP Enterprise Support value maps is required. A detailed step-by step guide to registration can be found here.


Or you may want to stop using a standalone SAP Fiori front-end server and move to an embedded deployment which is, as it happens, the option recommended by SAP. You can find more details in SAP Fiori Deployment Options and System Landscape Recommendations document or other resources mentioned in ‘SAP Fiori upgrade’ chapter of this post below.

New features and functions

The other reason why you may want to upgrade your SAP S/4HANA system is, of course, to fulfil new business requirements by utilizing innovations, new features and functions available in newer product versions.

Let’s see what tools are available to help you in answering the following important questions:

  • What new features and changes are introduced in a new SAP S/4HANA version?
  • What new features are relevant for you?

What’s New Viewer

If you want to get a complete overview of the new, changed and deleted features and functions in recent versions of SAP S/4HANA, your tool of choice is What’s New Viewer at SAP Help Portal. It allows you to select specific SAP S/4HANA versions and view the changes therein, as well as filter by line of business, solution area, and change type.

If you need the list of changes in PDF format you can download it for each particular product version using the links available in SAP Note 2911040.

Simplification Item Catalog

Delta simplifications between SAP S/4HANA source and target versions can be found in the Simplification Item Catalog. You can use additional filters to see only those items you are interested in. For example, you can filter by simplification item category.

Business value assessment

Another useful tool is the SAP Innovation and Optimization Pathfinder. This interactive PDF report is available for all customers on SAP maintenance and provides recommendations that are based on the way you are using your SAP S/4HANA system today. Besides tailor-made recommendations on areas of business process improvements and IT optimization potentials for your SAP S/4HANA system, it also shows relevant SAP innovations available in newer releases.

In the example below you can see the innovations in the Finance area recommended for an SAP S/4HANA 1610 customer.

More information about this report you can find in this presentation and in the example report. To understand how you can order the Pathfinder 2.0 report, please have a look at the how-to guide.

In case you are interested to look deeper into your existing business processes and get to know how to improve their efficiency and hence reduce costs, you can find guidance and relevant knowledge resources in the SAP Enterprise Support value map for Business Process Improvement.

To know what SAP Fiori apps available in newer SAP S/4HANA releases are relevant for you, you can benefit from the SAP Fiori Apps Recommendation report for SAP S/4HANA.

This report is created by SAP upon your request and available free of charge for all customers on SAP maintenance. It will use your current SAP S/4HANA usage information to help you identify the most valuable SAP Fiori apps for your enterprise. Most importantly, it shows the list of relevant business roles and apps (for each of 8 lines of business) both for your current and the latest releases of SAP S/4HANA, based on your current SAP GUI transaction usage. You can see below an example for an SAP S/4HANA 1709 customer.

An alternative option to get recommendations for relevant SAP Fiori apps could be the self-service available in the SAP Fiori App Library. It contains a list view with filtering feature but no results document or presentation as you can get with SAP Fiori Apps Recommendation report.

You should also review the SAP Fiori lighthouse scenarios to be inspired by the SAP Fiori apps that bring the best new business value.

If you would like to dig further into the SAP Fiori topic you can find guidance and relevant knowledge resources in corresponding section of SAP Enterprise Support value map for Digital Innovation.


Now it is clear why you need to upgrade your SAP S/4HANA system, it is key to prepare for the upgrade properly.

First of all we recommend you to explore the SAP S/4HANA Upgrade and Product Integration Roadmap in the Roadmap Viewer, especially if you don’t have much experience in upgrading SAP systems. This gives you a comprehensive view of an upgrade projects’ associated activities, tasks, and deliverables.

You can also view roadmap content in workable sections, as content is assigned to different phases, workstreams, and other criteria. You can filter a variety of tags to display content relevant for your current activities and landscape.

In addition, you can find a project plan there which is built based on this roadmap. It can be, for example, uploaded into SAP Solution Manager for project management. You can use the provided project plan as a starting point for your upgrade project.

In the roadmap you can find a detailed description of each project step.

An upgrade of SAP S/4HANA is often combined with the implementation of additional functionalities. This is the reason why the same roadmap also covers the implementation of additional products which can run embedded in SAP S/4HANA:

  • SAP Extended Warehouse Management (SAP EWM)
  • SAP Transportation Management (SAP TM)
  • SAP S/4HANA Service
  • Production Planning and Detailed Scheduling (PP/DS)

You can find links to additional information about Roadmap Viewer in ‘Start with an overview’ section of the PREPARE Learning Journey in our value map (access required).

Of course, a mandatory document to read in your SAP S/4HANA upgrade project is the Upgrade Guide. You can easily find the link to it on the SAP S/4HANA product page at SAP Help Portal. See how to navigate there on the picture below:

The other important topic which you cannot skip in an SAP S/4HANA upgrade project is the Simplification Item Check.

The Simplification Item Check performs the relevancy and consistency checks based on the content in the Simplification Item Catalog. It analyzes your system with respect to what functionality you use, what transactions you call, what customizing you have etc. And based on this information it shows which functionality you are currently using has been changed in your target SAP S/4HANA release.

The Simplification Item Check is a mandatory check which will be called by Software Update Manager (SUM) when you start the upgrade process. And if there is any error, SUM will stop the process right before the technical downtime until all the issues are fixed. Therefore, it is critical to get Simplification Item Check results on early stages of your project and resolve all identified issues before the upgrade of your productive SAP S/4HANA system.

The Simplification Item Check is done by executing the report /SDF/RC_START_CHECK in your productive SAP S/4HANA system (client 000). You can run it as many times as you need. We recommend you to watch the recording of the meet-the-expert session SAP S/4HANA Simplification Item Check Explained (Course ID: SUP_EBW_1280_1910) to get familiar with the Simplification Item Check.

Before you can access the MTE session, a one-time registration in SAP Learning Hub, edition for SAP Enterprise Support, is required. A detailed step-by step guide to registration can be found here.


See other useful resources about Simplification Item Check at the end of this blog post.

Custom code adaptation

When looking for information about resources and tools which can help you in preparing your custom code for newer SAP S/4HANA releases, it is good to know that for upgrades within the SAP S/4HANA product family, the process and tools are the same as for the SAP S/4HANA system conversion.

Therefore, for example, the following very good SAP Community blog post of Olga Dolinskaja is relevant and recommended to read:

You can also find useful information in the Custom Code Migration Guide available on the SAP S/4HANA product page at SAP Help Portal (go to ‘Implement’ -> ‘Conversion & Upgrade Assets’ section).

It is important to understand that the custom code adaptation process is not a “one-time procedure” and must be carried out on a regular basis before and after an SAP S/4HANA upgrade project. It should be considered as the regular best practice for SAP S/4HANA as well as for SAP Business Suite and in general all other ABAP-based products.

To find guidance and more knowledge resources on custom code topic you can refer to Custom Code Management section of SAP Enterprise Support value map for Application Lifecycle Management.

SAP HANA upgrade

It is possible that the current version of the SAP HANA database used in your SAP S/4HANA system is not supported by your target SAP S/4HANA version. Therefore, you need to check and ensure that SAP HANA is upgraded to a relevant release/revision before upgrading SAP S/4HANA.

For example:

  • Starting from release 1709 SAP S/4HANA is supported only on SAP HANA 2.0.
  • For SAP S/4HANA 1909 FPS02 the minimum SAP HANA revision is 2.0 SPS04 revision 44 (See SAP Note 2896748).

It also makes sense to know about coming end of maintenance of SAP HANA 2.0 SPS03 in July 2020. So, even if your target SAP S/4HANA release (e.g. 1809) supports this SAP HANA version right now, you may need to consider upgrading to a higher SPS to ensure you are always under maintenance.

Useful resources:

  • SAP HANA Server Installation and Update Guide
  • SAP Note 2378962 – SAP HANA 2.0 Revision and Maintenance Strategy
  • SAP Note 2655761 – restrictions and recommendations regarding specific revisions of SAP HANA database for use in SAP S/4HANA
  • SAP Note 2469025 – How-To: Upgrading to SAP HANA 2.0
  • SAP Note 2372809 – Mandatory Preparation Steps for Upgrading a SAP HANA 1 System to SAP HANA 2

SAP Fiori upgrade

SAP S/4HANA upgrade often goes together with update of the following components:

  • SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA
  • SAP Fiori Frontend Server (FES)

It is important to understand that there is a strict dependency between the SAP S/4HANA backend version and the SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA version that contains the SAP Fiori apps. There is also a required minimum version of the SAP Fiori front-end server (FES), although higher versions of the FES are usually possible as explained in this blog post.

Also, if you are currently using a standalone SAP FES system as a frontend for SAP S/4HANA (hub deployment) you should consider migrating it to an embedded deployment which is the recommended option since December 2017.

You can find more information in the resources below:


Continuous Quality Check (CQC) remote services

There are two continuous quality check services which can help you minimize risks of unforeseen technical issues during the upgrade of your productive SAP S/4HANA system. Both services are delivered for your productive SAP S/4HANA system.

  • CQC for Upgrade service focuses on the following topics:
    • Preparing your SAP solution to run with optimal data consistency, availability, and maintainability
    • Identifying areas that could benefit from optimization
    • Finding best utilization of hardware
    • Upgrading sizing verification
    • Increasing the throughput of your SAP solution and performance tuning

The service consists of 2 sessions:

  1. Analysis session is typically performed 6 weeks before the upgrade of productive system
  2. Verification session – 6 weeks after the upgrade of productive system.
  • CQC Going Live Support service helps your team in minimizing the risks of unforeseen issues during the most critical week after the productive upgrade. Usually the delivery starts next working day after business downtime is over.

These CQC services can be requested by:

If you have any questions about these services, you can ask them in our value map (use ‘Ask Questions’ button).

Meet-the-expert sessions

There was a special workstream dedicated to the SAP S/4HANA upgrade topic in our co-innovation program SAP Enterprise Support Advisory Council (ESAC) this year. One of the outcomes of the workstream is a curriculum of the meet-the-expert (MTE) sessions. The sessions will take place in October and November 2020 according to the schedule below.

Before you can access the MTE session, a one-time registration in SAP Learning Hub, edition for SAP Enterprise Support, is required. A detailed step-by step guide to registration can be found here.

In case you cannot attend the live sessions, you will still be able to access the sessions replay later on via the Learning Hub using the registration links provided above.

And of course, feel free to ask your questions related to SAP S/4HANA upgrade in our value map. We will be happy to help you. 


Let’s talk SAP S/4HANA AnyPremise Upgrade (SAP Community post)

What’s New Viewer

Simplification Item Catalog

SAP Innovation and Optimization Pathfinder:
Main page , Overview presentation, How-To Guide, Sample report 

SAP Fiori Apps Recommendations Report:
Main page, Presentation, Sample report

SAP Fiori Apps Library

SAP Fiori lighthouse scenarios

SAP Fiori for SAP S/4HANA wiki

Roadmap Viewer -> SAP S/4HANA Upgrade and Product Integration Roadmap

Upgrade Guide for SAP S/4HANA (Latest version)

Important notes for upgrade to SAP S/4HANA 1909 and 2020:

Simplification Item Check:

*This is the current state of planning and may be changed by SAP at any time without notice.

Interested in similar blog posts?

For more content like this, and the opportunity to ask questions directly of our SAP S/4HANA experts, join the SAP Enterprise Support value map for SAP S/4HANA today! The SAP Enterprise Support Value Maps powered by SAP Enterprise Support Academy are like a navigation system that guide you to the right SAP support services, tools, and offerings to achieve your SAP S/4HANA goals. We are all set to engage with you!

**Join the value map for SAP S/4HANA

If you are an SAP Enterprise Support, SAP Enterprise Support Cloud Edition or SAP Product Support for Large Enterprises (PSLE) customer, then value map access is already included in your contract.

Register for the value map here.

So, don’t miss out! Join the value map, read our blogs, ask questions, start collaborating today and enjoy SAP S/4HANA!

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