S/4HANA migration crowd wisdom

Greenfield vs Brownfield Approach on Your Move to SAP S/4HANA

Over the past few years, SAP has changed its recommended S/4HANA deployment strategy from Brownfield to Greenfield and back again to Brownfield. These changes were based on facts on the ground, customer sentiment, available risk analysis utilities, and conversion tool quality.

A recent Panaya crowd wisdom survey revealed that organizations are choosing one S/4HANA implementation methodology over the other, based on short and mid-term goals and ROI factors, rather than vendor recommendations. Panaya’s survey noted that most companies prefer a gradual implementation methodology that helps secure existing investments (aka a Brownfield approach). 14% Greenfield vs. 31% Brownfield, with another 35% undecided.

An additional survey conducted during DSAG Technology Days in February confirmed this trend for the DACH region. Indeed, only 25.7% of implementations were completely new (Greenfield implementation) vs. 55.7% conversions or transformations (Brownfield). 18.6% of the DACH organizations surveyed were undecided.

green field and brown field guide



A new implementation of SAP S/4HANA, also known as a ‘Greenfield’ migration, enables complete re-engineering and process simplification.

The Greenfield approach lets organizations predefine migration objects and best practices. It lowers Time-to-Value and TCO and facilitates faster adoption of innovation.



System conversion, also known as the ‘Brownfield’ approach, enables migration to SAP S/4HANA without re-implementation and without disruption to existing business processes.

At the same time, it enables reevaluation of customization and existing process flows.

The Brownfield preference trend also makes sense considering the implications of a Greenfield migration on testing

SAP S/4HANA Move: The Change Management Perspective

An SAP S/4HANA migration is not only a technical challenge. It also impacts nearly every business unit. A Greenfield implementation project is therefore a significant undertaking from a change management perspective as it introduces more initial changes to business users. This approach is more transformative and therefore more disruptive to the status quo. These transformations of business processes and\or user interfaces require stakeholder validation before the changes can be deployed into production. This validation comes in the form of User Acceptance Testing.

Despite a greater level of initial disruption, a Greenfield S/4HANA implementation methodology offers compelling ROI – but in different ways:

  • Preferred approach for landscape consolidations and for rationalizations of legacy systems into SAP S/4HANA
  • Operational efficiencies gained by re-engineered processes
  • Promotes the adoption of standard, best practices wherever feasible
  • Removes technical debt

As opposed to a complete Greenfield re-implementation, a Brownfield S/4HANA deployment strategy offers a different value proposition. IT professionals and users can opt to follow a more gradual SAP S/4HANA journey by leveraging existing elements of their SAP ECC environment, as well as the existing interfaces to their supplier and partner systems. Once S/4HANA is live, with a minimum of process transformation, a more gradual process innovation stream can be scheduled. During the conversion, a Brownfield approach minimizes delays and disruption caused by the testing of changed mission-critical applications. The initial UAT load on business stakeholders is similarly minimized.

Change managers can adjust the process reengineering pace based on available post-conversion budget and market conditions (e.g., development freeze during busy season). Additionally, a step-by-step reengineering initiative allows for more practical leverage of business user resources to help design and validate transformational changes.

Taking the Brownfield Approach? Here’s How

A Brownfield system conversion can also be broken into several distinct phases, some offering quantifiable ROI. This phased approach enables companies to keep a clear view of the project scope and continuously optimize their project management. For example, consider the steps below:

  • Optimize Your Custom ECC Code
  • Implement SAP Business Suite on HANA
  • Move your operations to a private cloud infrastructure
  • Prepare your Move to SAP S/4HANA
  • Convert to S/4HANA with minimal process disruption
  • Once running S/4HANA, reengineer the business processes that offer the most compelling ROI

This approach offers a more staged, risk-averse S/4HANA deployment strategy that some companies find preferable to the ‘Bigger Bang” Greenfield methodology.

Greendfield vs Brownfield Approach

The migration phases towards SAP S/4HANA


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Greenfield approach?

A Greenfield approach is a brand-new, vanilla implementation of SAP S/4HANA, where companies then add their needed configurations and customizations. This approach provides a clean slate to start from, does not carry over needless customizations and technical debt, and provides a solid foundation for business process re-engineering.

What is a Brownfield approach?

A Brownfield implementation involves upgrading an existing SAP ECC landscape to S/4HANA.
This approach carries over as much custom components as possible from the source system and minimizes initial reengineering efforts.  It preserves past customization investments and mimics ECC-based processes as much as possible.

What are the advantages of an SAP Greenfield implementation?

The advantage of the greenfield implementation is that because you’re starting with a clean slate, you won’t necessarily be limited by the constraints imposed by your existing SAP system. The Greenfield strategy lets you start fresh and allows you to design the systems to best serve your needs. It is a catalyst for immediate innovation and transformation.

What are the advantages of an SAP Brownfield implementation?

The brownfield approach makes practical sense for companies looking to preserve their existing business processes, similar to how they were in ECC. The migration process is more automated than with a Greenfield implementation. This approach is usually faster and at less initial cost. Process transformation, if any, occurs within separate initiatives after go-live.


 Brownfield vs Greenfield guide

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