But SourceGas, a U.S. natural gas utility, had only one issue when installing the enhancement packs, specifically a problem with the "flexible real estate" functionality in SAP, said Michael Catterall, director of enterprise solutions. The company uses that module to manage information regarding the many property easements and right-of-ways it maintains for its infrastructure around the country.
"When we brought up enhancement pack 4, because of how we had it configured, we kind of broke it a little bit," he said.
SourceGas plans to "keep watching the enhancement packs as they are coming out," Catterall said. "First, we're looking at where we can improve and get more out of modules we put in."
Meanwhile, there is the substantial task of getting to ECC 6.0 in the first place. Upgrade expenses can amount to 50 percent to 85 percent of the original implementation costs, with the price tag varying depending on factors like the number of integration points and customizations, according to analyst Ray Wang, partner with Altimeter Group.
Some vendors are in the business of making SAP upgrades easier. Manufacturer Newell Rubbermaid recently performed an upgrade from version 5.0 to 6.0 under a tight deadline. For an assist it used a tool from Panaya, said Glenn Griffin, director of application development in the global IT division.
Panaya's software can scan a customer's current SAP system and determine what changes need to be made to avoid problems once the upgrade occurs.
The tool did not spot every issue, but after the upgrade Rubbermaid came up with far fewer TPRs (testing problem reports) than in a previous upgrade, Griffin said.
Ultimately, upgrading makes sense for R/3 customers who are still committed to SAP and want new functionality provided in the packs, Wang said. But those customers potentially have other options these days, in the form of third-party maintenance from companies such as Rimini Street, as well as SaaS applications.
Rimini Street promises SAP customers will save at least 50 percent on their vendor support bills. But the company's future, as well as that of third-party maintenance in general, is uncertain, as it was recently sued by Oracle for alleged intellectual property violations. Oracle has filed a similar suit against SAP and its former subsidiary TomorrowNow, which was co-founded by Rimini Street's CEO.
Meanwhile, on-demand products from vendors such as Workday, which makes human-resources software, and CRM (customer relationship management) specialist Salesforce.com are being used by some legacy SAP customers, who are finding that integrating them back to the core ERP system isn't overly difficult, Wang said.
The enhancement pack strategy "was designed to buy [SAP] some time, but some customers have already moved on," he said.