The SAP implementation methodology: Greenfield vs Brownfield SAP

SAP implementation

What is the SAP implementation methodology?

Navigating an SAP implementation can be a complex task, but it’s crucial for driving digital transformation. Businesses must decide between adopting either a “greenfield” or a “brownfield” approach, carefully considering the advantages and disadvantages of each option in relation to their processes, needs, goals, financial resources, and deadlines. Opting a greenfield approach involves a comprehensive overhaul of your SAP ERP system, while a brownfield approach resembles more of an upgrade process.

Getting into SAP Implementation

Business are striving to ensure that the process is as thorough as possible while minimizing disruption to business operations. There is a well-proven and effective SAP implementation process that can be adopted to help businesses optimize the cost, quality, and time involved in the SAP ERP implementation right from the preparatory stage through to the go-live stage.

The implementation methodology involves dividing the SAP implementation into five standardized phases. Each of these phases is crucial to ensuring successful SAP implementation:

1. Greenfield vs Brownfield SAP Project Preparation

The first step is to identify your project’s objectives and business requirements. What improvements do you expect for your business operations? This involves a detailed understanding of the company’s goals, the expected benefits from the implementation, and a comprehensive knowledge of the existing business processes.

It’s important to comprehend and share a complete understanding of the current SAP processes in production, such as financial reporting, to better analyze SAP systems. Creating a solid business case and value mapping are vital parts of this stage. The process ensures that everyone understands the desired outcome of the implementation and its effect on different departments within the organization.

Organizations need to choose between a “greenfield” or a “brownfield” approach, weighing the pros and cons of each option in light of their processes, requirements, business needs, budget, and timelines.

Greenfield vs Brownfield SAP

Both the greenfield and brownfield approaches have their unique benefits and limitations, and the choice between the two would largely depend on the specific needs and circumstances of the implementing organization.

The Greenfield Approach

The term “greenfield” in the context of SAP S/4HANA refers to a migration strategy where a new SAP S/4HANA system is implemented from scratch, without directly considering or migrating any existing system’s data, configurations, or customizations.

In a greenfield approach, organizations start with a clean slate and build a new SAP S/4HANA system based on their business requirements and industry best practices. This approach allows for a fresh start, enabling organizations to reevaluate their business processes, optimize system configurations, and take advantage of the latest features and functionalities offered by S/4HANA.

The Brownfield Approach

The term “brownfield” in the context of SAP S/4HANA refers to a migration strategy where an existing SAP system is transformed and migrated to the S/4HANA platform. The term “brownfield” is used to indicate that the existing system has been in use for some time and may have customizations, modifications, or specific configurations that need to be considered during the migration process.

In a brownfield approach, the existing system’s data, configurations, and customizations are analyzed and converted to the corresponding S/4HANA equivalents. This approach aims to minimize disruptions to ongoing business processes and leverage the investments made in the existing SAP system.


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 Migration Phases towards SAP HANA

During the first phase of the SAP implementation process, you also define the scope and priorities of your project. This involves the operations that are to be migrated or modernized, the project schedule, and the implementation sequence. Considerations on how the timing will affect business continuity is also a key factor at this stage. Additionally, the proposed budget for the implementation is drafted at this stage. Organizational aspects such as which personnel to involve, and the assignment of requisite resources, are decided upon.

The successful laying down of these foundations is critical for a successful SAP implementation.

2.Business Blueprint

Creation of a blueprint of your business processes and organizational structure in the SAP system you are about to implement. The blueprint serves as a map of the business processes, highlighting the gaps between your pre and post implementation business processes. Equally important is the indication of programs and processes that do not need to be changed even after you go live. At this stage, the project’s finer details and timeline can be further refined based on the information revealed by the blueprint creation process.

3. Realization- Bringing Your SAP Implementation to Life

After carefully crafting the blueprint for your SAP implementation, it’s time to move forward to the realization phase. This crucial step involves laying the foundation for the new system by performing baseline configurations. This includes making essential infrastructure changes and streamlining non-productive processes. Furthermore, fine-tuning and customization are undertaken to ensure that the final SAP system meets your specific business and process requirements.

During the realization phase, thorough unit and integration tests are conducted to ensure that the desired outcomes are achieved. As these tasks unfold, documentation is diligently drafted for end users, incorporating valuable lessons learned during the realization process.

4. Final Preparation – Setting the Stage for Go-Live Success

The final Preparation phase plays a crucial role in ensuring a smooth and successful go-live of your SAP implementation. This phase encompasses all the necessary cutover activities to prepare your organization for the SAP S/4HANA migration

One important aspect of the Final Preparation phase is providing training to your employees. This training aims to familiarize them with the new SAP software and help them adapt to any unfamiliar workflows or processes. By ensuring that your employees are well-prepared, you can minimize potential disruptions and ensure a seamless transition to the new system.

Simultaneously the SAP system itself undergoes rigorous testing during this phase. Testing is conducted to assess the system’s performance under peak volume and daily load conditions. Integration and functional tests are also carried out to verify the system’s stability and ensure that all interconnected components are functioning properly.

These comprehensive tests aim to identify any potential issues or bottlenecks. This helps to minimize risks and ensure that the system is ready for go-live, providing a solid foundation for a successful implementation.

5. Go-Live and Support – Embracing the New SAP System

It’s finally time to migrate all your data to the new SAP system’s production environment, closely monitoring system transactions, and optimizing performance whenever necessary. Regular maintenance checks are conducted to ensure that the SAP implementation methodology has been successful and that everything is progressing as expected.

During this phase, it is important to establish a production support system with a dedicated team responsible for troubleshooting any issues, assisting end users, and sharing documentation. This support system can then transition into long-term ongoing support, maintenance, and the management of a knowledge base for future reference.

A Few (More) General Tips

  • Testing is a critical aspect of each phase of the SAP implementation methodology outlined here. Whether it’s testing the system, its components, or the changes introduced, thorough testing is essential. Early introduction of user acceptance testing allows business users to engage more actively with the process.
  • It’s important to follow the prescribed order of the phases, as each phase builds upon the previous one and seamlessly flows into the next. Rushing through the process can lead to mistakes, so allocate dedicated time and appropriate resources for each step.
  • Take a holistic view of your SAP implementation. Consider the project as a whole, as this perspective provides valuable insights into interdependencies and ensures synchronization before and after implementation. Maintaining a 360-degree view will help you stay on top of the tasks that need to be accomplished at every stage.

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.

What is SAP implementation in ERP?

SAP implementation in ERP refers to the process of integrating and deploying SAP software within an organization’s existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. It involves configuring and customizing SAP modules to align with the organization’s specific business requirements and processes. The implementation typically follows a structured methodology, including phases such as planning, realization, final preparation, and go-live and support.

 SAP implementation Brownfield vs Greenfield guide

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