Upgrading from one version of SAP R/3 to the next poses challenges for any IT organization, but when you leap-frog versions – and have users all over the world relying on it – going live successfully depends not only on flawless technical execution but on the human element as well.
When Symbol Technologies, Inc. – a global leader in enterprise mobility solutions that integrate advanced data capture technology, ruggedized mobile computers and wireless infrastructure – was planning to upgrade to SAP R/3 Enterprise 4.7, it wanted to make sure that users were well-prepared for the change.
Training was critical
“We were moving up from SAP R/3 3.1 (i) which had been in place since January 1998,” explains Adrienne Commins, Senior Manager with the branch of Symbol University in charge of SAP training for Symbol. “That version had a much different look and feel than the new release. Even though this was considered a technical, not a functional upgrade, the upgrade would make a big difference in what users would see on the screen,” she adds.
Fellow training manager David Schnupp likens the change to taking users comfortable with Windows 3.1 and moving them directly to Windows XP – without their having experienced the evolution in operating system conventions that occurred over Windows 95, 98 and 2000. “Training was critical so that users wouldn’t be confused and frustrated by the differences.”
No ‘one size fits all’ solution
While Symbol’s SAP Basis group, ABAP programmers, functional experts and consultants prepared to implement the system upgrade, Commins and her training group faced their own challenge of getting users up to speed with the new version. Introductory training – essentially an orientation to SAP R/3 Enterprise 4.7 – kicked off in June, 2003 – two months before the upgrade was set to go live last August. The show & tell sessions provided a first look at the new user interface.
The next step was to give users a test drive. But preparing hands-on demonstrations was no simple task. Symbol has 1,600 SAP R/3 users with a half dozen SAP modules in place: SD – sales and distribution, MM – materials management and purchasing, FICO – finance and control, PP – product planning, and Quality. A ‘one size fits all’ solution would not work: different users draw on different data and see different screens. A test drive in an SUV wouldn’t be too helpful for those driving a pick-up, a convertible, an earth-mover or a motorcycle.
In fact, a variety of training clients were needed, not just one. But while the prospect of manually entering data to create just one training client was daunting, building different training clients by manually entering relevant data and transactions, piece by piece, simply wasn’t possible. “We just didn’t have the time or the resources to manually create and populate different training scenarios, ” Commins explains.
Selecting and replicating data quickly
That’s when a fellow IT Senior Director suggested Commins investigate InfoShuttle, a selective data transfer tool for SAP. Developed by Gamma Enterprise Technologies, InfoShuttle enables SAP R/3 specialists to quickly select and replicate relevant data from one system to another, with appropriate SAP components and dependent data moved automatically.
“InfoShuttle was just what we needed, especially since we were facing a tight deadline,” Commins says. “The Gamma people were very responsive – we were able to get InfoShuttle installed and operational in a matter of days,” she adds. Working from one SAP R/3 client copy of production data, Symbol’s training group used InfoShuttle to specify a series of data extracts, each customized to a particular type or group of Symbol’s SAP users. “With InfoShuttle, any functional expert or skilled user can build a specialized dataset simply by dragging and dropping desired data objects, and transaction types and ranges, to a ‘shuttle’ screen,” she explains. After the profile is saved as a ‘shuttle’ it can be modified, or run to copy the latest data available.
Considerable savings of time
“With InfoShuttle we were able to specify and build data extracts for eight different training clients in much less time than it would have taken us to create even one training client if we had to manually populate it with data,” Commins reports.
That allowed Commins and her colleagues to focus on delivering the training without having to worry about the data underlying it. Using a mix of on-location and remote sessions via the online meeting Service WebEx, she reports, they conducted over 40 training sessions with Symbol groups in New York, Texas, San Jose, Europe, Singapore, Australia and Mexico.
“InfoShuttle enabled us to not only meet our schedule, but it allowed our users to train with much richer, more extensive datasets than would have been possible otherwise,” she says. As a result, Symbol’s SAP specialists are now looking at using InfoShuttle in other areas such as development and QA. “There’s no question that InfoShuttle’s ability to selectively move SAP R/3 data across environments makes it a very useful tool for developing, testing and implementing SAP enhancements more quickly and cost-effectively – without jeopardizing the integrity of data on production systems,” Commins says.