SAP customers who have transitioned to SAP S/4HANA Cloud, Private Edition, are on the journey to digital transformation, data and visualization accessibility. Demand for innovation, customization and transparent real-time analysis is increasing at an unprecedented pace within these organizations. It is therefore important if not vital to ensure the SAP S/4HANA solution is up to its latest release version, enabling customers to roll out continuous innovation and improvement projects or initiatives to keep up with the pace of innovation.
Recently, SAP announced an upcoming change in the release and maintenance strategy for SAP S/4HANA which benefits the customers with more opportunities from ongoing innovation and flexibility in its adoption. The upcoming change includes SAP moving to a 2-year release cycle, longer mainstream maintenance per release, and easier-to-adapt feature packs. At times, SAP’s rapid improvements in its technologies can somewhat be overwhelming for some.
In the following blog, I have described the SAP Cloud Application Services(CAS) Release Version Upgrade service package, offered as a subscription service by SAP. This service can be embedded in the customer’s continuous innovation or improvement projects portfolio, and implies a continuous focus on adoption and embracing a culture of constant change to gain maximum value and benefit for their organizations. The CAS Release Version Upgrade Service takes away the worry/ concern, after-hours and reduces if not eliminates the pain and risk of upgrade and ensures:
- Improve and increase value
Enable new versions to release capabilities, functions, features, and innovation that will directly contribute to the innovation strategy
- Maintenance and Technical Improvements
SAP ensures the customer’s S/4HANA and technology platform stays on the latest supported release, achieves significant performance benefits e.g. SAP Fiori, mobile capabilities, analytics, and leverages innovation scenarios (by industry)
Customers who sign up for the SAP S/4HANA Cloud, Private Edition contract, can immediately subscribe to the CAS Release Version Upgrade(RVU) service package. To support this effort, as part of RISE with SAP, the Enterprise Cloud Services (ECS), a business in the Product Engineering board area, with a portfolio comprising of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) and SAP Cloud Application Services (CAS) is strategically positioned to be an innovative and trusted partner for our customers. This enables Enterprise Cloud Services (ECS) the unique advantage to provide thought leadership and influence the narrative to transcend beyond functionality and platform while focusing on delivering predictable business value and outcomes to our customers.
SAP CAS Release Version Upgrade services can be deployed through as a collaborative joint initiative or directly by SAP.
SAP Cloud Application Services – Release Version Upgrade Overview
Why would you subscribe to SAP CAS Release Version?
A lot has been written and published on SAP S/4HANA release upgrades and why it is essential for organizations to keep their SAP S/4HANA system up to date with the latest versions. Our experience in SAP has shown that there are customers, who are efficient in ensuring that they have a consistent and regular upgrade plan, but there are customers leading to significant gaps between the release versions, which then become roadblocks e.g performance, functional issues etc. in achieving their continuous innovation objectives and goals.
Customer works on their innovation strategy outlining how they will use their resources to achieve their business goals of innovation, value creation and achieving a distinct competitive advantage, the strategy is dependent if not underpinned by the technology environment. By subscribing to the SAP CAS Release Version Upgrade service, the customer benefits include:
- Up-to-date latest release version enabling early adoption of emerging technology to innovate
- Deep insights into future-proofing SAP Investments in line with long-term strategic goals
- Seamless and efficient upgrade experience
- Best-in-class upgrade paths – by industry
- Access to S/4HANA product and industry experts
- Impact and readiness details assessment to enable upgrade planning and funding effectively
SAP works to achieve a trusted partnership with the customer through its delivery approach, sharing thought leadership in new innovations, new business process improvements, and lessons learned (by industry), enabling a streamlined test cycle, deep insight into all custom developments and an impact assessment from the target release version including managing the customer’s landscape complexity, touchpoints, integrations and best practices to accelerate successful outcomes.
What is included in the SAP CAS Release Version Upgrade package?
Figure 1 SAP Cloud Application Services – Release Version Upgrade Service Overview
The process of activating the CAS Release Version Upgrade service is seamless and straightforward through the creation of a service request. SAP recommends as part of the S/4HANA upgrade, the customers execute the SAP Innovation and Optimization Pathfinder for S/4HANA which provides tailor-made recommendations on areas of relevant SAP Innovations, business improvements and IT optimization potentials that contribute directly to the customer’s continuous innovation or improvement projects. The Pathfinder report describes how the customer can get the most from their current SAP S/4HANA solution by taking an in-depth look at the current system usage and process performance and comparing that to what is available in the latest SAP S/4HANA Cloud, Private Edition, produce business process industry benchmarking etc. SAP recognises that customers need to adapt to the changing demands of the market, and the majority of the customers have adopted continuous change as the primary strategy.
Figure 2 SAP Upgrade System Landscape Approach Overview
The SAP S/4HANA upgrade includes the evaluation of the system landscape approach that will be adopted during the upgrade. Minimizing or eliminating business impact is a primary requirement during the SAP S/4HANA upgrade to achieve that it is imperative to discuss in collaboration with the customer the system landscape approach best suited for the customer. E.g. as depicted in Figure 2, the overview is an example of the system landscape approach, N + 1 that enables a level of separation between the project upgrade activities and the business-as-usual activities, minimizing conflict, avoiding the need for a change freeze, etc. We acknowledge that every SAP Customer is different and so their SAP landscape will be different, and during the CAS Release Upgrade process, there will be varying levels of complexity that will need to be managed, in accordance with the approach depicted in Figure 2. However, the one thing that is common, is the SAP Landscape and its configuration.
SAP has a set of tools in addition to CAS Release Version Upgrade service, and are recommended during an upgrade e.g. SAP Innovation and
In compliance with the SAP S/4HANA upgrade global best practice, the CAS Release Version Upgrade service is initiated with the Preparation Phase ensuring that the preparation and planning is done in advance and comprehensively. SAP appoints an upgrade Project Lead, who is responsible for the delivery of the upgrade, and a series of workshops are scheduled as part of the Preparation Phase, to engage the appropriate stakeholders, gather key drivers and customers’ requirements/demands for the upgrade, determine business continuity risks, appetite for business downtime, ascertain the right resources and appropriate effort estimates for the upgrade project plan, agree and decide on the scope, roles and responsibility, obtain customer’s S/4HANA solution and technology landscape details, perform comprehensive impact analysis to minimize risks and surprises.
A lean upgrade project governance is established and in collaboration with the customer, the change control process structures are agreed to help remove obstacles, drive quick decisions and issue resolution and manage the scope effectively. The establishment of lean project governance is imperative for SAP to ensure the elimination or minimization of lingering issues or risks, decisions, actions, roles and responsibilities and keeps the team’s focus on ensuring that goals are front and centre throughout the project. The communication plan produced will contain the regular cadence e.g. daily progress catch-ups, weekly Upgrade project progress meetings, Upgrade executive meetings, etc., as per agreed period frequencies. All the details gathered are assessed, evaluated and reviewed thoroughly at times with the customer, and the final outcome is included in the upgrade planning charter/workshop. The upgrade planning workshop is scheduled in collaboration with the customer to achieve final consensus and endorsement prior to the commencement of the upgrade execution.
The Realization Phase follows through with a series of incremental upgrade executions (based on the agreed sequence of systems e.g. DEV, QAD, PROD), data management, test management and validation of upgrade scenarios and system processes. The customer has to ensure that the testing e.g. functional testing, and end-to-end integration testing, will include the validation of data, in terms of correctness and completeness which will ensure smoother, error-free transactions and business processes in the target SAP S/4HANA version. During the upgrade execution, the time lapse between systems is considered based on a standard lead time that is included as part of the overall S/4HANA upgrade details project plan. Depending on the customer circumstances e.g. system or landscape complexity, the standard lead time can be reviewed and adjusted accordingly.
The completion of the realization phase includes system upgrade stabilization by ensuring all issues, errors, etc., are addressed and a proper handshake and handover are agreed upon with the customer.
Business Impact of SAP S/4HANA Upgrade
The SAP Release Version Upgrade service ensures that the impact on ongoing business operations in terms of managing application changes during the course of an SAP S/4HANA upgrade is minimized if not eliminated.
In conclusion, upgrading to SAP S/4HANA is a crucial step for businesses to ensure their SAP system landscape is up-to-date to support their innovation strategy and enable the continuous focus on adoption and embracing a culture of constant change to gain maximum value and benefit for their organizations.
The CAS Release Version Upgrade service eliminates the worries, concerns and complexity for the customer and by partnering with SAP businesses can navigate the upgrade process seamlessly and on a continued basis. Globally by region, there are architects and experts that work with customers or partners in ensuring a seamless and successful transition to the target version of SAP S/4HANA. Details of the SAP Cloud Application Services Release Version upgrade services are published on the SAP portal – SAP Cloud Application Services.