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I have been on a number of issue escalations with customers recently and a great many of these related to their recently upgrading to the new 720 client.  For those of you not aware of this topic, see notes 147519 and 66971 on the SAP GUI release and platform availability.

SAP GUI for Windows is "downward compatible" so theoretically at least, you can use, for example, SAP GUI for Windows 7.20 with SAP R/3 3.1, 4.0, 4.5, 4.6 or other pre-existing SAP products starting with SAP R/3. Be aware that while connectivity to older SAP releases is possible, official support from SAP  is limited to those SAP releases which are still within their respective maintenance period (including extended maintenance and for products newer than or equal to SAP R/3 3.1i customer-specific maintenance). The standard caveats therefore apply.

Upgrading to 720 seems to make particular sense to those customers who want to take advantage of new capabilities afforded by the NetWeaver 7.x stack or who have concerns about using the GUI on Windows7desktops. 720 is supposedly optimized for use with Windows7 and SAP GUI for Windows 7.10 support ends on April 12, 2011 so if you are planning to do the upgrade before official support ends, there are only a couple of months left.

 

To my mind, the escalations would have been largely avoidable if there had been a little more planning involved in the deployment of the SAP GUI client. Of course  it easy to criticize software companies for being slow to respond to changes in technology but to my mind it is more unforgivable when customers inadvertently break their own systems due to incomplete or inadequate project planning and more importantly regression testing.

 

I am sure we have all, at one time or another discovered that what we initially thought to be a relatively straightforward, upgrade or cross-grade, ultimately became a little bit of a nightmare. When your business processes rely heavily on some neglected component that you failed to test this is even more true. While risking a quick preach to the converted, I thought I would jot down a quick list of things for project managers, especially SAP greenhorns, to commit to memory and perhaps incorporate in their project plans when considering their GUI client upgrade. There are probably more but this can be a starting point for your project WBS.

 

Have you taken Inventory and checked compatibility for:

  • Operating System Interoperability
  • Memory Requirements at the desktop especially laptops
  • Microsoft Office Compatibility
  • Bolt-Ons or add-ons to the SAP GUI like UI extenders
  • Any 3rd party tools that may have been implemented for mass data loading or changing of data
  • Any SAP components that rely heavily on the SAP GUI but are not installed as part of the SAP GUI
  • Any terminal services or CITRIX scenarios and the applicable dependencies
           

When you look at your implementation plan, have you taken into consideration the implications of GUI change for:

  • Full Regression Testing of all key business processes 
  • Full Regression Testing of all customizations or Z programs that are used or launched with the SAP GUI
  • Any business process monitoring components that rely on SAP GUI
  • Any system performance and reliability monitoring that relies on the SAP GUI
  • Any customized automations that rely on the SAP GUI
         

Consider whether you will do a pilot phase with a mix of workgroups and business processes, evaluate the deployment strategy and determine whether it is to be fully automated or phased and just how you plan to do that. Make sure you have a good communication plan for the business users and a clearly articulated set of escalation or problem reporting strategies and refresh old or existing ones, even if they are encompassed by your standard helpdesk approach. Consider, for example, a crisis line for users who want to accelerate attention to problems they encounter.

 

Taking a full inventory of what you have running in your SAP environment is time consuming and often laborious work, especially if you have a distributed workforce and large scale operations but taking the time to prepare the organization and all those involved in the SAP dependent processes up front will save you some heartache and fire drills post implementation  

 

Few plans will be absolutely exhaustive so prepare yourself for some unexpected outcomes but help yourself by doing as much regression testing up front (at least three cycles). Be aware that there are a number of releases of 720 available and that you should probably consider installing the latest one and not the first one. Finally, good luck!

Some additional references you might want to take a look at:

SAP GUI Family

SAP GUI

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