Powell Brings SAP Upgrades Down to Size
Powell's SAP team knew they needed to upgrade. They'd been running on 4.7 since 2003; now they wanted access to new ERP 6.0 functionality. But cost was an issue. They needed to find an affordable way to upgrade SAP, minimizing the testing cycle and controlling consulting costs.
Using Panaya's Upgrade Automation, Powell was able to cut 35% off its upgrade duration, realize significant consulting savings, and reduce 98% of its upgrade issues, compared to previous upgrades. The upgrade was accomplished ahead of time, on budget, with the team "home for the holidays."
Powell Electronics, based in Swedesboro, New Jersey, moved to SAP R/3 just prior to Y2K. Since that time, Powell has been a leader in the SAP SME space, frequently presenting at ASUG events. Most of Powell's SAP talent is homegrown, upskilled from mainframe backgrounds. SME does not mean local: Powell uses SAP to support ten sales offices in the U.S. and two in Europe. Employee loyalty is a hallmark at Powell. Their SAP Project Manager, Mike "Dr. SAP" Ayars, has forty years at Powell. Dave McGuire, Powell's technical lead, has 33 years. Bob Oldrati, Powell's Controller and IT Director, (a.k.a. "Mr. Network," for his ASUG activism) is considered a newcomer with "only" ten years at Powell.
Powell's SAP team knew they needed to upgrade. They'd been running on 4.7 since 2003; now they wanted access to new ERP 6.0 functionality. But cost was an issue. They needed to find an affordable way to upgrade SAP, minimizing the testing cycle and controlling consulting costs. Timing was also a big challenge: Powell's fiscal year ends in December, which meant the ERP 6.0 upgrade had a no excuses, "drop dead" deadline prior to year end close. Ayars and Oldrati were determined to bring SAP's Wholesale Distribution functionality to their users in 2010. They could do that by installing SAP's Business Suite 7 Enhancement Packs. But that meant one thing: they had to get the technical upgrade done in 2009.
In the spring of 2009, Powell began evaluating tools that could make their SAP upgrade easier. For Oldrati, that meant ASUG. He puts a premium on the advice he gets from fellow SAP users. "Customers don't lie to customers," says Oldrati. "Salespeople will tell you anything you want to hear, but customers don't lie." To get those customer viewpoints, the Powell team headed to the ASUG annual conference in Orlando. And that's where Powell learned about Panaya.
"When Mike and I were down in ASUG/Sapphire this last spring, we asked people about products or services that would enable us to ease the pain of upgrading SAP," recalls Oldrati. "That's how we found out about Panaya. Once we saw the Panaya automated service, we realized: 'This is something that can save us weeks, maybe even longer in terms of time, energy, and effort.' And you know what? It did."
Powell checked some Panaya references from their peers and took advantage of the free trial. Panaya's ability to hone in on the exact issues that required testing was especially promising. Their only hesitation: Panaya's marketing message sounded pretty amazing – but how would it really do in action? Would it get Powell's SME stamp of approval?
The Panaya phase of the implementation moved quickly. Training on Panaya was quick, supported by follow up calls on an as needed basis. "When we walked out of the training, it was pretty darn clear what we needed to do," says Ayars. Bob Oldrati liked the responsiveness. "Panaya was very flexible in what we needed in order to meet our goal and our deadline," says ldrati. "We were working with a global team, but everybody had a common understanding and a common Panaya platform to work from."
The process of addressing the fixes flagged by Panaya took only two weeks. Using Panaya, Powell took the fixes needed and sent them to the ABAP team in Morocco. The off site team applied the fixes; Dave McGuire, the technical lead in New Jersey, reviewed and approved the work. The Panaya dashboard was easy for the team to use, further simplifying the process. "It was so easy I could use it, and I'm not a technical guy at all, I'm a functional guy," says Ayars.
Being able to anticipate upgrade problems made all the difference. As Oldrati put it: "To have a product that can actually tell you: 'these code lines won't work, these are critical, these you've never used' - you can see right away the value of that much time and effort. Not to mention the consulting dollars you can save."
Powell hit their December deadline. Even better – they wrapped the upgrade up before Thanksgiving. The project took eleven weeks in total. Without Panaya, Ayars estimates the project would have taken at least another six weeks, and they would have missed their December deadline. "Panaya's marketing materials said 'Hey, we're going to save you so much time on the upgrade' – and it's true," Ayars says. "I was a little skeptical, but once we got into this, I realized all the testing we didn't have to do. We didn't have to see what was broken, Panaya discovered pretty much all of it." With Panaya, there were a "half dozen" issues Powell had to deal with. Without Panaya? Ayars estimates several hundreds.
Putting on his Controller hat, Bob Oldrati sees the benefits from another viewpoint: money saved. "Without Panaya, we would have had to have done a lot of this on our own and hired consultants to help us," says Oldrati. "The money that we spent with Panaya was more than justified."
Powell's SAP team still has work to do: now that the technical upgrade is complete, it's time to evaluate the functional possibilities of Business Suite 7 and the Wholesale Distribution capabilities in particular. But for now, the technical upgrade is done, with plenty of time for holiday shopping.
Powell's upgrade-tested veterans offered this advice: sell the upgrade to management in smaller pieces, choose the right implementation partner for your industry, and keep your eyes open for "SME friendly" tools. Also: don't be afraid to look beyond SAP for the right solution. Even though Powell runs Solution Manager, that doesn't stop them from incorporating third party solutions where they can have an impact. "We're using Solution Manager for many functions, and I don't see a conflict between using Solution Manager and using Panaya," says Ayars.
The final piece of advice from Powell couldn't be simpler. From "Dr. SAP" himself: "Do a technical upgrade, and use Panaya."
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"We plan to use Panaya for all our future upgrade and support package projects."
Grégory Cagin, SAP upgrade programs Manager, SAP Competence Center
PSA Peugeot Citroën
"Eighty to ninety percent of our potential problems were taken care of by Panaya."
Sanjeev Sharma, SAP Regional Support Manager
"I don't think the users noticed an upgrade had even happened"
Barry Finn, IS Applications Project Manager
"How does anyone implement support packages without Panaya?!"
Shelly Hendee, SAP Support Team Manager
Central Vermont Public Service
"It's not just the time saved, it's the results."
Jeff Obrzut, Manager of SAP Development
Travel Centers of America
"Panaya was our one-stop shop for the project's analysis and task management."
Michael Eckert, General Manager of SAP Applications
"Whether you’re doing your upgrade in-house or outsourcing it, Panaya allows you to hone in on the areas of SAP you need to be paying attention to."
David Wascom, CIO, Summit Electric Supply
"No exaggerations, Panaya saved us 80 percent of our project time."
Syed Yaseen, SAP Programmer
Minneapolis Public Schools
"We saved around 73 percent of what was originally budgeted for ABAP development."
Carlos Gomez, SAP Manger
"Without Panaya, I wouldn't have had a good idea of what to change; I wouldn't have known what was going to break."
Joan Waddell, ABAP Programmer
"We even had some senior managers asking us whether we actually went live – several of them expressed their amazement at how quiet it was."
Mike Kemp, SAP Operations Manager, Centrica
"Panaya looks too good to be true – but it really is that good!"
Marie-Claude Alary, Manager of Business Process Systems Improvement
"Panaya enabled us to spend much less time in the testing cycle than what we have done in the past."
Francisco Flores, SAP Project Manager
"Thanks to Panaya, our upgrade was a non-event."
Gerhard Mitton, Senior Department Manager
The Foschini Group
"We were not only on time, we slipped the upgrade in a year early."
Glen Griffin, Global Director of Application Development
"The money that we spent with Panaya was more than justified."
Bob Oldrati, Controller and IT Director
"It was like we were floundering around in the forest, and when we got Panaya, it was like all of a sudden we were given night vision goggles."
Rose Clark, Senior Project Manager, Coldwater Creek
"Panaya gave us a crystal clear idea of what we would have to change."
Rune Skovsgaard, IT Director