Is the Upgrade Factory outdated and outmoded?

26 June 2012

John Appleby

John Appleby

Global Head of Sales

I've been involved with SAP upgrades with Bluefin Solutions for nearly ten  years now, and during that time, we have seen significant  changes in the ways in which they are approached. There have been huge improvements to the standard technical tools, reduced cost due to the offshore factory model and the number of upgrades completed in the market means that the amount of IP that exists out there is huge. In addition to this business pressures mean they have to be done more quickly, more reliably and with less business change impact.

But there are two trends that I have seen in the last year that are incredibly interesting.

  1. The first - and I won't be dwelling on this in this blog - the SAP standard IP and tools have improved so much that the IP and tools that partners bring to the table has been devalued. The SAP Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) toolkit, including SAP Solution Manager, means that all the IP that partners have developed has been rolled into the standard SAP toolkit.
  2. The second trend is even more interesting. I have an "upgrade factory" based out of our Kuala Lumpur office in South East Asia and I had originally envisioned that we would ship upgrades out to it and get back completed systems. It turns out that what this team has actually been doing is accelerating the time to complete upgrades (our global team works 24/7 as a result) but has been working in collaboration with the customer.


Let's dig a bit more into the  word collaboration by considering what a partner like Bluefin Solutions brings to the table and what a typical customer can bring:

Bluefin Solutions

  • IP including detailed run books, plans
  • Experience in managing upgrade projects and customers
  • Experience in how to apply SAP Best Practice in technology
  • Knowledge of potential benefits including new functionality
  • Knowledge of a myriad of technical architectures
  • Knowledge of how code changes are applied in different releases
  • War stories and battle scars from other customers
  • Knowledge of upgrade test management
  • Knowledge and relationship of how to get support and escalation from SAP.


  • Knowledge of process and customer project management methodology
  • Deep functional knowledge of as-is system
  • Deep technical programming knowledge of as-is
  • Knowledge of customer test management and strategy.

In short - we bring knowledge of other customers and many upgrades, and you bring knowledge of yourselves.

What's really interesting that whilst as a customer, you don't really need to know how to do an upgrade (you won't do another one to the same release, so your IP will get outdated), you still bring huge value to the table because of your knowledge of your process,  methodology, systems and technology. Also note that there is almost no overlap in what the two parties bring to the table - which means it is ripe for collaboration.

So if you think about it, why would you let someone take your system off you and deliver it back to you upgraded? If you do this, you immediately lose some potential benefits:

  • Control of the timeline, downtime and change freeze
  • Any potential benefits that can be done at the same time as the upgrade
  • Ability to manage parallel projects and work streams
  • Collaboration during the project that allows constant handover
  • Knowledge on the ground of what other customers are doing with the new system.

This is borne out but the types of upgrade that I am seeing - we are providing experienced project managers and technical resources, plus the leverage of our off-shore team to speed up the process. It is rolled up with a twist of business consulting to find benefits of the upgraded system and a sprinkling of functional resource to bring domain expertise when required.

And for me this is the crux of it - a collaborative approach adds much more value and reduces risk and because you require relatively less effort from the partner, it doesn't increase the cost.

Does this signal the death of the upgrade factory? Let me know what you think.

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About the author

John Appleby

Global Head of Sales

I've always been passionate about new technology. I cut my teeth helping global financial services and consumer goods companies build data warehouses to manage their business - especially when they wanted to run faster.

These days, I travel weekly across continents, helping clients differentiate themselves using analytics technologies. This then involved building a team to design the solution, make it work and lead it through to successful completion.

I believe that in-memory computing is radically changing the face of business so you can ask me about SAP HANA, or about any other data platform like DB2 BLU, Hadoop or MongoDB for that matter.

I'm passionate that giving back to the community reaps long-term rewards and this has shaped the last few years of my career - being a contributor to knowledge sharing websites as an SAP Mentor; and a sometime advisor to Wall Street investors on emerging technologies and those companies bringing to market new innovations.

When I'm not busy designing in-memory apps, you may find me pounding the pavement to the beat of music in the hilly suburbs of Philadelphia, or traveling the world to meet new people and new cultures.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race

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