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Author's profile photo Frank Schuler

How to decide between a Greenfield and Brownfield S/4HANA transition

For transitioning to S/4HANA there are two fundamental options. You could either implement S/4HANA from scratch and migrate your existing data in a greenfield approach, or alternatively you could transition your existing ECC to S/4HANA including all of its customizations and data in a brownfield approach.

To make this decision, in my experience, the following dimensions have to be evaluated:


Data Quality / Unicode / Archive

When transitioning to S/4HANA, data matters big time.


To start with, S/4HANA does only support Unicode. If your ECC system was on multiple code pages (MDMP) a Unicode conversion would have to be included into the transition. Technically, the SAP S/4HANA transition tools (SUM DMO option) support this conversion, but more importantly, your business would have to provide the respective vocabularies, which could be integrated into a data migration approach.


While the reorganization and column store compression of an S/4HANA transition regularly shrinks your data footprint considerably, it remains important that you only take relevant data in-memory due to the huge price difference between memory and disk capacity. Therefore, you would either have to implement a data retention strategy upfront a technical transition to S/4HANA or integrate it into your data migration approach.

Data Quality

With S/4HANA, operational reporting could be run real-time on your transactional data without the need to load it into a data warehouse environment. However this implies, that there is no transformation step as it was in a traditional ETL approach any longer, so that the data quality has to be given in the system itself. To achieve this, there are two steps required.

Passive Data Governance

Either prior to your transition to S/4HANA or as part of the data migration, your data foundation has to be cleansed. Whichever you find easier or is more feasible will drive your decision.

Active Data Governance

Once cleansed, your data foundation has to be maintained clean, regardless a greenfield or brownfield approach.

Integration / Interfaces

In a real-time environment like S/4HANA, integration makes a bigger difference than ever, since real-time information on batched data has no benefit. Therefore any interface into S/4HANA or out of it would either have to be revisited prior to the transition or re-implemented with real-time in mind as part of the migration.

Versions / Patches

Simple Finance, on-premise edition 1503

Technically Simple Finance, on-premise edition 1503, is based on EhP 7 for ERP 6.0, which runs on SAP NetWeaver 7.40 and HANA as the database. Therefore a transition from an earlier release is very similar to a respective upgrade and a data migration less likely the preferred alternative.

S/4HANA, on-premise edition 1511

Technically S/4HANA, on-premise edition 1511, is based on S/4HANA core components that run on SAP NetWeaver 7.50 and SAP HANA as the database database. Therefore a lot of components have started to be changed and a transition would have more the character of a migration.

Modifications / Enhancements

Your modifications and enhancements would have to be checked for S/4HANA compliance. SAP provide a tool for this, that I described in my earlier blog: Make the S/4HANA Custom Code Analyser work for you and some of the corrective measures might be automatable, but there remains effort. Therefore, if you had a lot of custom code that is of no value any longer, a migration and S/4HANA compliant re-implementation of the still required enhancements might be an opportunity for further simplification.

Configuration / Features

Please be aware, that S/4HANA is work in progress and that not all the functionality that had been available in ECC 6.0 is available in S/4HANA, on-premise edition 1511 yet. Please check the User Assistance for SAP S/4HANA, on-premise edition 1511 for what functionality has already been made available. Also not all industry solutions and add-ons, whether from SAP or 3rd parties, are S/4HANA compliant yet. For SAP products the SAP HANA readiness can be checked in the PAM. For 3rd party software you would however contact the respective vendor. Missing functionality, a non S/4HANA compliant industry solution or add-on would of course prevent you from a transition whereas you might still be able migrate, if you could provide the respective functionality in another way.

User Experience / Mobility

The strategic S/4HANA user interface is Fiori, but in SAP S/4HANA, on-premise edition 1511 quite a few transactions are still rendered in SAPGUI for HTML leveraging Screen Personas. Therefore, regardless the approach, I would recommend that you make yourself familiar with those UI technologies and get the technical foundation for Fiori in place.


If you had a streamlined system in terms of code, data and integration or could get to one without too much pain, a brownfield transition to S/4HANA would be the recommended option. However, if you had a lot of technical debt in your system, a greenfield migration would be the more feasible option that would reward you with a clean and simplified result.

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      Author's profile photo Bijay Kumar Barik
      Bijay Kumar Barik

      Hi Frank,

      Thank you for sharing wonderful information on  implementation of S/4HANA from scratch and migration prospective.


      Biju K

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Thank you for sharing the information. Great Blog

      Author's profile photo Frank Schuler
      Frank Schuler
      Blog Post Author

      Thank you Venkata,

      I also wrote a follow on blog at SAPPHIRE in case you are interested how to Prepare your journey onto S/4HANA.

      Finally, if you could express your opinion about my blog by rating it (the stars at the bottom) that would be very much appreciated.

      Best regards


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Frank,

      This is very informative.

      Appreciate for sharing your thoughts!

      I have question though, how does SAP HCM is considered for Green/Brown field implementations. Having this been said, payroll data (cluster data) is critical to move forward in new S/4HANA box.



      Author's profile photo Frank Schuler
      Frank Schuler
      Blog Post Author

      Hello Babu,

      for me, the S/4HANA architecture and roadmap, suggests, that SuccessFactors is SAP's strategic HCM solution. Therefore, the strategic solution for payroll seems to be SuccessFactors Cloud Payroll. However, at least in S/4HANA Enterprise 1511, there is still a complete ECC 6.0 EhP8 HR module awailable.

      Best regards


      Author's profile photo Michelle Crapo
      Michelle Crapo

      Excellent blog.    I just finished week 3 in an Open SAP course.   That was of course very good.    But then I went searching for some more information and found this blog.     It re-enforced the course, and added details.    I'm my way to your SAPHIRE blog from the link above.

      Thank you for writing it,



      Author's profile photo Guillem Oña
      Guillem Oña

      Great blog!

      Very helpful to analyse the pros and cons of both scenarios




      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Great article Frank,

      I would probably add a summary section with some of the other business drivers (business) that can drive that decision as per example:

      • Are the processes designed and implemented in the past aligned with my current needs? Should I reengineer some of this processes?
      • It's my organization ready to embrace a change in this direction. How can get familiar with this environment?
      • Do I have the necessary skills within my organization?

      In summary, which intermediate steps can I trigger in my organization in order to have a smooth transition embrace the change broadly?


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member


      I will recommend in order to evaluate in terms of features implemented and main changes in the S/4 HANA system to be evaluated to check out this blog 


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member


      Hi Frank, really good articule. Do you have anything on Dev Ops in an SAP environment?


      Author's profile photo Ashish Sahu
      Ashish Sahu

      Hi Frank,

      The blog has useful information for S4 HANA. Looking forward to more such blogs from your end.


      Best Regards,

      Ashish Sahu