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S/4HANA Migration: Brownfield, Greenfield or Bluefield?

With SAP’s end-of-support deadline for Business Suite 7 software coming in 2027, a vast majority of businesses have a migration to SAP S/4HANA on their radar. Some are still planning, some in proof of concept, and some are in the process of implementing. But, wherever a business is on along this road, the fundamental changes in technology that come with S/4HANA mean any migration is going to be a major undertaking. Equally, it’s clear that each customer’s situation is unique, which means there is no one-size-fits-all migration path.

At Velocity, we see three overall migration patterns among the organizations we talk to, support and advise:

  • Brownfield: These customers are likely more recent adopters of SAP (past 3-5 years), and they can keep the structure they already have in place and upgrade it to run under S/4HANA. This is a more straightforward concept, with SAP providing tools such as DMO and SUM. These give customers considering a Brownfield implementation an updated platform that they can use as the foundation for their future business.

  • Greenfield: These companies are either new to SAP (never implemented before) or have probably been running SAP for quite a while. For them, S/4HANA represents a fundamental change, both functional and technical, from whichever version of SAP that they implemented. A “fresh” S/4HANA installation gives these businesses an opportunity to rationalize their rambling software platforms into a coherent new whole, adopting new and proven business practices as they do so. This is a complex operation, but it offers significant improvements in business efficiency and flexibility in the future. At a recent ASUG Carolina event, for example, BMW discussed their plans and current achievements utilizing a Greenfield approach as they move to S/4HANA.

  • Bluefield: This is the best option for very large corporations with highly complex structures. The migration requires some specialized tools (available from SAP and other tools vendors) to extract their current configuration—without the data—and move it over into S/4HANA, followed by selectively picking data to move forward with. This is clearly a huge endeavor, but one that gives the opportunity to re-evaluate data and customizations that have been carried along for years or even decades. It also gives businesses the opportunity to restructure their system along the lines of S/4HANA’s proven, modern business practices.

“Whichever approach an organization takes to its migration, it must at all times proceed with the end in mind.”

This is a broad brush assessment—each individual company has to go through a cost-benefit-risk analysis to select their exact cloud migration path. Part of the analysis might be to factor in longer-term future benefits rather than simply looking for short term payback. These benefits might be in the form of being able to easily implement new business practices or exploit new technologies, such as machine learning or the Internet of Things; or they might accrue from archiving older data to rationalize the amount of storage used and thereby save hardware or hosting costs.

There are some important things that any organization considering the migration to S/4HANA should bear in mind:

  • The most important area to start with, particularly for levels of data around or over the 1TB mark, is data management—what to archive, what to retain, what to take along the migration and why? (For example: GDPR, anyone?)

  • Linked to data management is functionality. Identify, and if possible, eliminate anywhere data is being replicated to multiple places and thereby prejudicing a “single version of the truth.”

  • Next is future functionality. Is the company looking to make a strategic leap but is being held back by its current systems? Be ready to factor this future capability into TCO calculations.

  • Finally, speed, both in terms of solution implementation and system performance, is likely to be a key issue.

Related Reading: Is Data Archiving a Part of Your SAP HANA Implementation?

Whichever approach an organization takes to its migration, it must at all times proceed with the end in mind. It’s almost certain that working with a cloud migration services partner who can provide support your will be a critical part of the journey at all stages—analysis, planning, and implementation. 

Looking for more information on S/4HANA? Try our guide: SAP S/4HANA Migration Patterns

SAP S/4 HANA Migration

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SAP S/4HANA Migration Patterns

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